One of the easiest and funnest types of photography is product photography. JUST KIDDING! Although it can be fun, it definitely ain't easy. This is how I got one of my very first paid gigs. A good friend of my fathers (therefore a good friend of mine, cause that's how family works for me) who is with the Oregon Pinot Noir Club had attempted to take a simple shot of a new product offering they were about to market and learned the difficulty right away.
Jennifer learned one very particular characteristic about bottles, they are very reflective and curved so it is impossible to avoid having the light you use to light the bottle to not show up as a reflection (aka a specular highlight). Since this happened around the same time as I threw my hat in the ring as a photographer, she decided to give me a shot at it (pun intended). Using my vast (limited) knowledge as a professional (fake pro) photographer, I knew the light was going to reflect in the bottle, so I went for the reflection I wanted. Not owning the exact light modifier I wanted to use, I found a natural substitution to use as a light source, I used natural light from a cloudy sky.
Apparently I did a passable job, because this last weekend when Bob (the Pinot Guy himself) had a customer looking for images to help them decide on a huge order of gift boxes he gave me a call. I could do that image again, taken on a bench at a local park, except this time they wanted the product on all white. White is pretty easy, you just throw a ton of light onto a light colored surface and it will turn white for you, but this meant a studio shot, and then how do you light the bottle and make it look good? The answer is to use a softbox. A softbox is a big square panel mounted on the front of a light that changes the shape and quality of the light to make it similar to the light you would get from a perfect window. Since you are going to see the light reflected in the bottle, a softbox can be aimed in a way that the highlight shows off the shape of the bottle in a way that looks natural and attractive. So it was off to the rental shop at Pro Photo Supply to get a light and softbox.
Sounds simple, and it kind of is. What gets difficult is that when you are using up to 4 lights to light multiple products, if anything changes (move a product, move the camera, move a light, adjust the background, ANYTHING), everything else that you didn't want to change will change as well. This can turn into quite a bit of time until you can even get the picture looking close to what you want. We had 2 set ups for 3 different shots. And a bit of a change with one of the setups that we discovered we needed after we had already taken that setup apart. All in all, the 3 pictures took the entire day to get. I was spent to say the least.
After a tough day of staring at a wine bottle with tedious detail, I needed a drink. When I'm in need of a drink, I'm usually going to fill that need at my favorite watering hole, Bare Bones Bar. It is my favorite bar for a couple of reasons, including being a 30 second walk from my front door. Once I got over the convenience, I also learned to like the bar for the incredibly amazing staff, most of whom I consider friends of mine. My loyalty to Bare Bones is so strong that I was invited to attend their holiday party along with some other customers and all of the employees, and perfect for me it was the same night of the wine shoot.
Once at the party, the necessary libations were flowing to help me unwind. Also everybody that works at the bar was dressed sharp as hell. And I had that Prophoto D1 light with the softbox rented still. And you have that tree set up. Holiday pics anyone?
So all in all, this Monday was a good day. And if you ever want to complain about how difficult it is to light and photograph some bottles that only move when I move them, try to photograph a dozen or so drunk bartenders and now tell me which is harder to do! So a big thank you to Bob and Jennifer with Oregon Pinot Noir Club for giving me some work, and a big thank you to the entire crew at Bare Bones Bar for being simply awesome. If you ever need a drink, let me recommend either of these places.