Liquor bottle photography photoshop retouch process video

Excerpt from the Blog @

Every month, as part of the Concepts in Photography class that I help teach at Full Sail, we photograph a bottle of liquor to teach our still life imaging workflow to the class. Over time we have shot a great many bottles and improved upon the technique a little bit each time.

I got into the habit of posting the final image from each month’s bottle shoot on Facebook. After a while, I noticed that colleagues and friends of mine who I didn’t see often would remember the photos of the bottles. Some of them were curious – Were these all of the bottles that I had conquered? Was I professing my un-dying love of liquor?

Well… yes and no.

*** Photo gallery can be viewed at ***
Some of my favorite bottle shots so far
Click for detail

We choose liquor bottles to photograph in CIP mostly because the packaging is well-designed and quite beautiful when light shines through the liquid from behind. Also, I won’t lie… I do enjoy trying a different liquor every month. It certainly has expanded my palate. Our photography set up is low-budget DIY-style. Home Depot work lights, foam core panels, an inexpensive pop-up diffuser from a 5-in-1, plastic clamps and plexiglass round out our modest setup. Most of the magic of these shots comes from the technique that we use to shoot them. We have been calling it: Exposure Stacking.

First, we lock down our tripod, camera and our bottle so nothing moves between shots. Then we change the lighting around the bottle, either by turning lights on or off, or shining a single light on different parts of the bottle. Then we take multiple shots, adjusting the lighting for each one and making each part of the bottle look as good as it can. The cap, the labels, the liquid in the bottle and the reflection all get a separate picture taken.

Then, the photos are masked together in Photoshop and some retouching is done to remove dust and debris, color-correct and make the bottle look more perfect. The results always looks better than anything that we could capture in one shot.

Below is a video showing the entire retouching process that goes into one of these bottle shots. It features a 16-year old bottle of Glen Moray Scotch and its decorative tin.

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