A wine bottle is always a tricky subject to photograph. The highly reflective nature of the glass makes it hard to use frontal lighting, while backlighting will not reach the label.
In short, the perfect light for the glass will usually not work for the label and vice-versa, often leading to the capture of various images that are later on composited in post-production, creating the final image in this manner.
In this article, I will show you step-by-step, how this image was photographed and composited using Photoshop.
This image was photographed with a full frame DSLR, a 100mm macro lens, and two speedlights.
One of the speedlights was fitted with a yellow filter, this provided the background light. The other speedlight was fitted on a stripbox and provided the light on the bottle in different positions for different shots.
Planning ahead and deciding which areas to light are key factors for the success of the final image composite.
In this particular image, the areas that were lit for each image were as follows:
- The label
- Gold logo
- The embossed letters
- Light side light
- The background
None of these images look good by themselves, but each adds its own contribution for the final result.
Raw image development
This is the stage where the Raw images are processed and the basic adjustments are applied. I start by adjusting the “background” image which will be the base for the composite.
Even though the yellow filter used on the speedlight created a nice warm tone on the image background, I decided to make that tone even warmer, adjusting the yellow and green hue to orange, giving it a vintage ambiance.
The compositing process
After developing the RAW images, it’s now time to start merging all of the different images.
I start by opening the “Background” image and giving it some basic corrections, like completing the right edge reflection with the clone stamp.
Next, I load the “Embossed Letters” image as a new layer that will stay on top of the “Background” layer and start the compositing process. For this process to work, it is imperative that all the images have the same framing and neither the camera or the object is displaced between shots.
Layers and masking
Even though there are many ways to create a composite in Adobe Photoshop, my favorite, and the one that allows more control, is the layer mask function.
This masking process hides parts of the image while revealing the information that exists on the underlying layer. Just click on the layer mask icon in the layer panel, and a mask will be added to the selected layer. It might look complicated but it is, in fact, a simple process.
White areas of the mask show what is on that layer, black areas show what is on the underlying layer (think of it as a hole you look through to see the layer below).
In this particular case, it is easier to invert the mask from white to black (Image>Adjustments>Invert) and paint in the areas you want to reveal from that layer by using a white brush.
The exact same process was applied to the “label” and “gold Logo” layers. The “Left Side Light” layer was used to create just a fine rim light on the left edge of the bottle and give it a better separation from the background.
Now that it all starts to look much better, with all the bits and pieces that were used from each layer to form the composited image. So it is time to pay attention to the small details like small imperfections on the bottle, smudges or dust specs that may need to be fixed.
A higher zoom (100% or 1:1) will likely reveal problems that need to be solved.
The icing on the cake
Even though I could consider the image editing process finished by now, there is still a small but really important detail in my opinion – the table’s smooth wooden texture was not the right fit for the look I was trying to achieve.
So, the right thing to do was to photograph an old beat up piece of wood that would fit the look of the overall image and replace the existing tabletop.
Now I load it as a layer on the final image and use the perspective command (Edit>Transform>Perspective) to adjust the flat wood image to match the perspective of the tabletop.
And for the final touch, I changed the blending mode of the “Wood” layer to darken, in order to make it blend smoothly with rest of the scene.
Even though I always try to get things as right as possible during the photography process, and leave as little as possible for the post-processing phase, the truth is that this compositing technique amazes me every time I try it. It is incredible the amount of detail control it offers.
Give it a try, I am sure you will be amazed too.