First and foremost, I am not a product photographer. I'm a photojournalist, corporate portrait photographer, and architectural photographer. So if you are a product photographer, I wouldn't have a problem saying that I could learn a thing or two from your opinions about this image. Now that its out in the open, I wanted to state that I did my homework before attempting this shoot by watching various lighting workshops and YouTube videos on how to photograph bottles of wine. There's only one problem with what I learned from the almighty internet, and its that most of the tutorials and workshops out there were focused on red wine. And guess what, red wine isn't nearly as transparent as white wine or hard apple cider. And guess what else, that changes everything. Take a look at the original plan for this shoot:
The photo above was my original plan. Light on left, reflector on right, background light down and behind, and I planned on wrapping in 20 minutes or so. Not exactly how it went down. I wasn't able to cut out all of the ambient light (causing unwanted reflections on the front of the bottle), and since the background was dark, the beverage looked pretty darn dark. Like beer. And while I like beer, the target demographic for hard apple cider chooses cider over beer typically because they don't like beer. After roughly 20 minutes of bouncing light around, I reached the conclusion that my 'Plan A' wasn't going to work. And here's what's great about that - it's OK. I once heard a man smarter than myself say 'if you aren't making mistakes, you're not doing anything'. This is only a failure if I stop here, and that's not what happened. I packed up my stuff, drove home, and used the home-office as a make-shift studio space.
I'm using the Fuji X-T1, an SB-800 (connected via PocketWizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5), and a couple different reflectors. The goal here is to make sure the bottle looks like hard apple cider, not like beer, and to do that we need a clean white background. We can change the background around in post-production if we want, but for now we just need a good looking bottle. The light provides the accent on the left, the reflector on the right provides soft edge-lighting, and the background is illuminating the bottle.
Here's the view looking back at the camera. There are a bunch of shots with the bottle all normal-like (meaning just out of the case), some with a full wine glass of the cider, some where the bottle is sweating (it's just water misted onto the bottle, nothing fancy), and then a few with the apples thrown about. My favorite, obviously, was the last set with the bottle sweating and the apples on the table. Adding those additional elements made the composition more interesting, and I think it engages the viewer more than just a bottle in the middle of the frame.
All told, I think it was a successful shoot. Glad I did my homework, glad the first shoot didn't work out, and glad it all came together in the end.