Tutorial: Lighting a Whisky Bottle

Once we finished lighting a simple wine bottle, we moved on to something slightly more complex – a bottle of Jack Daniel:)


Brightfield lighting, honecomb & small softbox

Once again, we started off with simple Brightfield lighting – a 70 x 100cm softbox powered by one of our flash heads directly behind the bottle, this passed light through the bottle and illuminated the contents. And, once again, the power was set just high enough for the background to photograph as white, with the camera lens set to f/16.

It’s just a bottle, it isn’t hard to light but it is very different from the nice, easy shape of the wine bottle, and it was impossible to get it perfect without retouching, but this tutorial would be pretty useless if I retouched the faults out of the shot on the left, so apart from a manufacturer’s mark on the rear of the bottle that caught my eye and annoyed me, that will be done later.

I decided to leave the label fixed to the right hand side in place, and to photograph the bottle at an angle that creates a 3 dimensional effect and which shows the label. But, with the light shining through the bottle from the brightfield lighting, we were left with the visible part of the bottle cap, the “Gentleman Jack” label, the label near the bottom of the bottle  and the paper label on the right hand side totally unlit, as you can see from the photo below.


Brightfield lighting only

There are always lots of different ways of achieving different effects, and I opted for a

With honeycombed light added

With honeycombed light added

simple 10 degree honeycomb, fitted to a standard reflector, to light the metalic label “Gentleman Jack” which is in relief. So is the “Jack Daniels” signature, and although the signature is lit to

some extent by the passage of the BrightField Lighting, I used the honeycomb to skim across both the metallic label and the signature. The honeycombed light did the trick, and it was just a simple matter of experimenting with both the angle and the power setting to get it right.

Which left the right hand side of the bottle, and its label, still to be lit.  So, I thought I’d be clever and use a standard 5-in-1 reflector to pick up “spare” light both from the honeycombed light and from the rear softbox, and bounce it back on to the label – did it work? Well, judge for yourself, it sort of works but the light from the reflector is far from even and

With 5-in-1 reflector added to light the label

although I could have got around that by using a sheet of white card instead, I decided to use a small softbox, to put a bit of light on the shoulder of the bottle as well as on the label.

So, what are these problems that can only be dealt with by retouching? Well, when we pass light through glass it behaves predicatably, but not always in the way that we would like it to. You’ll see that in all the photos except the one with just brightfield lighting, there are odd white or light coloured specs – these are where light ‘escapes’ after travelling along a raised ‘tube’ that’s part of the bottle moulding, and it can’t be avoided, so needs to be retouched out. And the same applies to those large ugly streaks of light on the left, and for very similar reasons, and then there’s the area right on the base, where light has bounced around – my suspicion is that the whisky is better than the bottle they put it in:)

I strongly believe that it’s far better to get the shot right in camera whenever possible, and to keep image processing work to a minimum, but with this type of shot, it’s impossible to get it 100% right in camera.



Retouched shot

So, here is the finished result, after a few minutes of simple retouching