A couple of months ago I got a request for a product photo shoot for a new perfume label, Montecristo by Mille Centum Parfums. It took a whole day of shooting in the studio with two different light setups. Montecristo is also a very well known cigar brand and these are the fragrances that will be released under the same label. We were going to shoot both clean product images as well as images with accessories for the marketing of these perfumes. Therefore i rigged two different light setups in advance to save us a bit of time. The rigging and testing took about three hours.
Transparent glass against both dark and light background comprises a bit of a challenge when lighting because you can’t use the same light setup for both these types of images. The light setup differs a lot depending on what background is used. Glass against dark background means that you want to accentuate the bottle’s contours with highlights while a light background means that you want dark contours of the bottle.
Shooting images of glass against a light background
When setting the lighting for these types of images, with a light background, you really do not light the bottle itself at all, unless you want to add a fill light for a logotype or something else that is NOT transparent. A simple flash against the background behind the bottle gets you a long way. It automatically gets you the dark edges of the bottle you are looking for. The image of the wine glass below is an old one I shot a few years ago, shot with one single Canon Speedlite 580 EXII against the background. The flash was standing on the floor between the table and the background pointing slightly upwards. Easy as that!
The image below shows before and after retouch. The final image is a compositing of three different images. The image on the left is shot with one flash pointed against the background.
Shooting images of glass against a dark background
When it comes to product photography of transparent glass against a dark background I am looking to create nice highlights to emphasize the contours of the bottle. The highlights are created by lighting the bottle from the sides with rather large softboxes to get wide enough highlights. Preferably you can also use an additional layer of diffusion if you want smoother highlights with good looking gradients. If the lighting comes from only a strip light you might get too narrow reflections, so bigger is better.
When lighting the glass bottle and the box together I also used a flash with a snoot and a grid to add a small spot fill light on the bottle logo and the box. The final images are compositings of three different shots where I used different parts of the bottle/box that looked the best. Between these different images I changed the lighting slightly to get the desired result on one specific area of the bottle/box. With the camera fixed in the exact same spot between these different shots, the compositing in Photoshop is made easier.
Retouching glass bottles
Dust on dark surfaces gets VERY visible when adding light from a flash. On an average I spent about two hours per image removing dust particles with the Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp. This was the most time consuming part of the retouching process. To be really sure that you get all the dust you can add a temporary curve layer and brighten the image to make the dust particles more visible. There are a few techniques were you target only the dust particles, for example by using Select Color Range or Channel Masking. But these techniques did not get me the result I wanted so it was back to basics with the Healing Brush and the Clone Stamp. This work requires A LOT of patience, and sometimes you start wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into… But if it’s made thoroughly the result is great!
Other things that are done in the post process is copying the reflection/highlight from one side of the bottle to the other to make the bottle more symmetrical. I also cloned away the plastic tube in some images, raised the surface of the liquid slightly, removed small spot reflection in the glass where I didn’t want them and used the Liquify filter to form the bottle the way I wanted it. I learned that glass bottles, even if they are created in the same way, are not exact copies of each other. The material behaves the way it wants to during the manufacturing process and this creates small differences and blemishes that does not belong in product images like these.
Product photography with accessories
To create the desired impression and sentiment for the brand we used a few different color matched accessories like a cigar case, leather driver gloves, sun glasses etc. These items were placed around the bottle on table with a wooden surface. I would have like to experiment more with the lighting in these images, but after many hours of constant shooting the energy and the patience was failing. We still got a lot of good material.
Btw, my favorite of the three fragrances is Blanc, try it out! 🙂