How To Photograph And Composite A Commercial Beverage Image In Photoshop

I recently teamed up with the crew at Fstoppers to create a video tutorial that focuses on the foundations of creating a standalone product hero shot for advertising. What’s a standalone product hero shot you ask? It’s a standalone image of a product that’s generally well lit, super crisp, super clean, and essentially aids in selling a company's product. 

An Intro To Standalone Hero Shot Images

Standalone product hero shots are very common in advertising and are used by just about every company who manufactures and/or sells products these days. These types of images are multi-faceted, serve many purposes, and have a ton of value for any client. You’ll see standalone hero shots on websites, digital display advertising, billboards, and even the sides of delivery trucks. Next time you open your favorite magazine, be cognizant of these shots. Just look at some of the ads. A really common advertising layout that I often see displays a standalone hero shot at the bottom corner of the ad. In some cases, it even serves as the focal point.

Product Photography Compositing

Whether you’re new or unfamiliar with the genre of product photography, you may not realize that when you see a great looking product image in an advertisement, you are more than likely looking at the result of a composite image. It’s no accident that great product images have perfect lighting in all the right places. What you may not realize, is that it’s very likely that what you’re seeing, couldn’t have ever happened all in one shot. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with composite imagery, the concept is actually pretty simple. Essentially you are combining and blending several images, frames, or exposures together in order to create one cohesive composite image. Composite imagery can be relatively simple or extremely complex depending on the end goal of the final image. In any case, the art of compositing should become an extension of your creative repertoire as it gives you the artist, total control over every aspect of how your images looks and feels. 

The More You Know

The more you know about the product you’re about to photograph, the better. Don’t always take a product at face value. Before you get it on set and start photographing it, be sure to touch it, feel it, and study it. Look at the shape and design that make up that product. Look at the surfaces and textures of the product you’re about to photograph. Think about the properties of those surfaces and how they react to light. Is it reflective? Is it matte? Is it transparent or opaque? Look at the colors. How does the product make you feel? See where I’m going with this? 

Breaking It Down

When photographing a product, break it down into pieces. Not literally…break it down visually. When you’re on set photographing a product, focus on one area of that product at a time. Even the simplest product can present many unique challenges. In the case of the liqueur bottle that I’m photographing for a client in the tutorial video, it presents it’s own unique set of challenges because of the cylindrical shape, the translucent yet reflective surface of the glass bottle, the matte finish of the printed label and the fact that there’s also a thick somewhat opaque liquid inside of it. As you’ll see in the video, I take on each challenge, one step at a time and build the shot.

My Approach

In this video tutorial, I demonstrate my approach to creating a standalone hero shot composite image by photographing a client’s liqueur bottle. To make things a little more interesting and also prove that you can create an amazing product shot with minimal gear, I used only one light. The takeaway here, is that I’m breaking it down and building the shot in pieces. Though I’m only using one light, I’m crafting the light with various light shaping tools, and putting emphasis on one area of the product at a time. Once I have all the frames I need to make a successful composite image, I use my post production process to build the final standalone hero shot.

The Larger Picture

While this standalone hero shot serves as a great image for advertising on websites, digital display advertising, billboards etc.,this kind of image can also serve as the base to a much larger and intricate composite image (as seen below in the before/after). I’m not going to go into detail on how I put the entire composite image together, I simply wanted to demonstrate the creative direction that an image like this can take on. Hopefully this video helps inspire you to think about product photography in a new and creative way.

Full Tutorial

Fstoppers and I plan on collaborating on a larger tutorial project on commercial product photography and post processing. If you'd like to stay updated on this project, add your info to the subscription link below. 

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26 Comments

Chad D's picture

fun to watch how other guys get the end look :)

and great stuff in your portfolio !

composite & retouching how it should be done !!

the two bright refraction spots near the base are bugging me :)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Hey Chad,

Thanks for checking it out! I actually like the specular highlights at the bottom, so I left them in ;)

Chad D's picture

trying to be careful to say bugging me with a smile ;) hahahahahahahah
cause figure based on your other work ya had your reasons :)

don't do grammar so well either so sometimes hate typing things out as they come off wrong :)

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

LOL, no worries :)

Great job! Excited this is finally released

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks man, same here!

Fernando Faixa Andrade's picture

I loved the video man, but now I wanna see part 2 ! :D

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks Fernando! Be sure to sign up for the email list right at the end of the article for more info :)

Simon Patterson's picture

Yep: Liked. Subscribed. Now commented. I look forward to updates.

Thanks for a great tutorial and write up.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Awesome! Thanks for checking it out Simon! Stay tuned

Jonathon Rose's picture

Fantastic tutorial Brian! Great job!

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks for checking it out Jonathon!

Matt Donovan's picture

Such a great video, Brian! What size is the softbox you're using for the edge light?

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks Matt! Honestly, I'm not sure what size that softbox is because I was just using the Profoto gear that the Fstoppers crew had on set in their studio. In my studio, I use Paul C Buff equipment and I use this technique all the time with the Paul C Buff 32" by 40" softbox. It's considered to be a "large" softbox. I think it's a pretty descent size without being too big.

Cheers!

What sort of modifier do you use on your Buff strobe when you handhold it?

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

It depends on what I'm trying to accomplish. Sometimes I'm just hand holding a Buff strobe with a parabolic reflector w/a grid, other times I may hold a stripbox or large softbox. Obviously bigger modifiers may require two hands instead of one. But it can be done

Dude, that was amazing. I'm just getting into photography and I was wondering how to turn it into money. Any tips on where to start? Or how you started? On a scale of 1 to 10 of how good I am at photoshop, photoshop is my enemy. Nice one

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks Logan! There are so many paths to a career in photography.....so it's hard to give you a direct answer.

From my experience, turning your photography into a career and making a living does not happen overnight. It took me years of hard work, working for large fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike to learn how businesses function at multiple levels. Years determination, resilience, patience, practice and experimenting to put together a really nice professional portfolio. And literally years before I started my own business as a commercial photographer.

But I think it really all boils down to setting goals for yourself, working really really hard, learning as much as you can about running a solid business, creating great work, networking and just being a genuine person to other people. If you do those things, you will have a great chance of doing this full time; if that's your goal. If you're just looking to make some extra money, you can always create work and try licensing your work on stock photography sites.

Hopefully that helps, cheers!

Jean-Marc Legentil's picture

WOW, a new world for me, Thanks

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Awesome to hear!

Really fantastic work, Brian–the final image and the tutorial. Thanks so much for sharing!

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks for checking it out Jared! I appreciate it man!

it was really great to see this. how beautifully composition can be done. will like to see more like this.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

Thanks Rajiv! Fstoppers and I will be working on a full length tutorial. For updates, be sure to sign up for the mailing list (right at the bottom of the article).

For sure i will subscribe it. i do clicks for students which can also be checked at http://www.sirtbhopal.ac.in though it is in under going few changes at the moment.

Tim Pacan's picture

How To Photograph And COMPOSE A Commercial Beverage Image In Photoshop
Product Photography COMPOSITION
and so on

Writing skills go a long way in article credibility.

Very good article though, but my anal side can't get over the writing errors.