This past weekend I ended up with a rather tricky product shot to do for a client. When he had originally explained the job to me he said it was a “water bottle” so I was thinking it was some kind of gym bottle or something, should be a real easy shoot. When he arrives as the studio, its not so much a water bottle as it was a bottle of water….a CLEAR bottle of water with an almost transparent label. This all of a sudden went from what I thought was going to be an easy shoot to one that would actually entail a variety of techniques and post-production skills.
Why Was This Difficult
Generally this may not have been too hard of a shoot but if we look at the first test image here we can see that the label is very transparent and that is wraps around the bottle leaving about a 1″ gap in the back. The gap lets in more light than the rest of the label causing the front of the label to wash out. We can also see the lettering on the back of the bottle which is very distracting to the overall image.
Lighting this wasn’t overly complicated, there were three Blackbelt Lighting BB560 speedlites on either side at about a 45 degree angle with no modifiers. The background was lit with a third BB560 that was flagged to cut down on some of the light from the flash hitting the bottle directly.
The lighting worked, the background went solid white, the colors were accurate, but that label was just going to work.
I Don’t Suck At Photoshop
I made a number of different attempts including cutting the label down and putting it on a new bottle but the label just wasn’t popping the way we wanted it to. It was time to take some more drastic moves in order to make this shot work.
First off we shot a clear bottle of water. Getting this shot would give us a properly lit bottle with enough reference lighting on it to enable us to composite in the label.
Next we used a flatbed scanner to scan the label in. This gave us a nice vibrant label to work with and we can always adjust the transparency of it in Photoshop.
With the label composited in, using a small amount of Warp to get it all lined up on the bottle, we now have an image that looks very flat and pretty well obviously composited. In order to fix this, we need to bring back the lighting from the clear bottle shot and maybe adjust the opacity of the label layer slightly.
Now we are getting somewhere. The extended lines of the lighting help to give it back a rounded look and since they match the clear bottle light lines, we know it should look pretty natural.
The Finishing Touches
Finally, the client wanted a shadow underneath the bottle to make it look like it was floating. To accomplish this I copied the bottom of the bottle, flipped it vertically, and then applied a Gaussian Blur to it.
This should go to show you that a good photographer needs more skills than just being to setup lighting and press the shutter. A good knowledge of Photoshop is essential in order to get the desired result. While I am not saying that you can always just “fix it in Photoshop”, its just that there are times when there really are no options and you need to pull out the stops and do whatever it takes in order to make the shot come out as you intended.