Secrets Behind the Photo

So I posted this photo on our brewery’s Facebook page yesterday, announcing our collection of holiday beers to the public with a link to the press release.

As of this writing is has 265 likes, 28 comments and 25 shares. A pretty decent response!

The thing is, there are only a few of us in the marketing department here. And while we get professional, studio product shots for our major release beers, we occasionally need others for occasions such as this. That’s where my ghetto photo studio skills come in handy.

At a previous job I took a lot of product shots using mainly natural light, with one fixed light in the “studio” that was really a corner of a dark warehouse near a south facing window. I got pretty good at it, and combined with learning how to style and subsequently edit product shots, became a somewhat competent one-woman team. That company still uses my product shots to this day, so that says I didn’t wholly suck.

This experience also explains my naive surprise at the elaborate set up at the photo shoot I did earlier this summer. I had never really seen an honest-to-goodness commercial photo shoot that wasn’t at least 80% DIY and improvisation. That is exactly what that photo above entails.

Here’s an unedited photo from early in the day.

They’re on a piece of scrap cardboard, with another piece propped up behind them (notice the lovely touch of packing tape on the left side). There you can also see a smidge of the background beyond the cardboard– that’s our warehouse, and this is taken from our shipping desk. Glamorous!  The normal light source was dead so for these shots I am actually kneeling on the ground, holding the camera with my right hand and a small studio light with my left, over my head, and attempting to not cast any weird shadows or glares on the labels.

Here’s another unedited early shot while I figured out the lighting and angles.

That glare’s a real bitch. Eventually I snagged some little watch battery-powered LED lights that had been abandoned from another project and were sitting in a box at my desk for over a year, and put them behind the bottles to cast a bit of a cool glow on the cardboard behind the scene. That allows the outlines of the bottles to show, which is important here since there are three different bottle shapes featured.

Here’s another crop of the final, edited shot to show you how that worked.

You can see that bluish light from the LEDs poking through the two middle bottles. In editing I patched out the tape, blurred a bit of the cardboard texture, tweaked the levels, darkened and lightened appropriate areas on the labels, and got rid of smudges on the bottle. If I’d had more time I would have done more with this, but it was a day-of project, so a quick turnaround was needed.

People who are far better than I at photography/photo editing/etc. would likely scoff at this attempt, but based upon the above mentioned reactions from our fans (and my completely objective opinion), I’d say it was a successful shoot.


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