One of my bad photography habits is that I rarely post real setup shots. I can tell you how I took any number of my pictures, but for nearly all of them, I have no documentation. Normally this wouldn't even be an issue, but with photography the way it is nowadays, I like to share how I do my work, since thats how I learned to do it in the first place.
For example, this delicious looking shot of a bottle of Corona has no setup picture, but I can tell you it was taken with one frame, two softboxes on their sides, one on each side of the bottle. You need a large light source to make those nice lines in the bottle, because anything, and I mean anything remotely in view of that bottle will be reflected right back to you. More after the jump.
Bottles seem to be a popular litmus test for commercial photographers. The entire surface can become one giant specular highlight, and if not done right, you can tell. But once you figure it out, theres nothing easier. Until it comes to the post work.
That bottle took 10 minutes to setup for and shoot, and about an hour by itself in photoshop. And before you say that doesn't sound too bad, realize that where most people spend 3 or 4 hours in photoshop, I bang out my first copy in half an hour. I may go back later and fix what I don't like, but thats just how I work. Over an hour on any one photo? It goes to the trash at that point.
Most of the post work on products is spent cleaning up the actual product. First, removing dust from my dust-magnet of a sensor. Then actual dust on the product. Then any seams from shooting on two pieces of foamcore instead of one curved piece like a normal person, and then it gets really fun.
Theres about 4 curves layers in this Corona shot. I did another one with Bombay Sapphire Gin with twice as many. Two for the bottle, one for the label, another one or two for the glass, and a few for the background. Could I do it without using that many curves? To be honest, I don't know. By the time I have it looking the way I want it, condensing those layers would ruin it.
Then there's making everything symmetrical. For bottles, this is very important to me. Copy half the bottle back on to the other half, sometimes just a portion, like the neck in this one, or the entire bottle like I did for the Bombay after I rotated the entire picture. What looks good one way may not with just a simple rotation.
The Corona also required special attention for the foam in the neck of the bottle. 'Real' Corona ads feature a healthy amount of foam, and my bottle lacked it from sitting out for a while. Shaking the bottle would have put my prints all over it, as well as be hard to control. Having just a little bit was all i needed to clone-stamp and heal brush 3/4 of the foam visible in the picture. It's not quite as much as you would normally see, but it was much better than the original.
The lime took a quick touchup to remove some fibers, and some additional color put in. I sampled color off the rind, painted over the insides and put the layer to overlay to give it a little boost in color, backing it off in opacity. This of course gives me the option to come back and adjust it at any point.
After each individual part is fine-tuned, I promptly ruin it all by throwing one more curve layer on top to even everything out. the color background is added in with a 250px feathered oval selection, and a mix of straight fill and gradient. The color is sampled right from the center of the beer, so everything matches quite nicely.
Shooting products isn't nearly as glamorous as shooting models, but when its 4 AM and your girlfriend is sleeping, you don't really want to start moving furniture and inviting people over.
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