I’m not your typical product shooter. I’ve shot various products over the years, but I have never considered myself to be a product photographer. I enjoy the process, but it’s not my standard subject matter. This is what I told Yuengling before getting this assignment. The thing about being open and honest (aside from being a good person) is that most of the time people respect your honesty, and in this case, my modesty. The creative team at Yuengling was actually excited that I wasn’t a product photographer because they wanted to see something different than what they had in the past. They wanted to see their flagship brands (Lager and Light Lager) in a new way and from a slightly different perspective.
We agreed to shoot the bottles together on a seamless white background so the bottles could easily be clipped and used in the various design elements with the other images from our day of shooting at the old brewery. This shot was done on a separate day in my home studio. Even though it was one shot of two bottles, it was by far the most challenging shot for me. The other shots were challenging in their own ways, but they are the kinds of subject matter I am used to. This shot presented a whole new set of problems to solve.
I wanted this shot to look like how I see beer bottles in the refrigerator. There is something about opening the fridge and seeing beautifully back lit bottles just waiting to be drunk. It’s really about where the bottle is in relation to the light in the fridge. I knew I had seen it before and really wanted to create the same aesthetic for our shot.
I gave myself a crash course in how to shoot beer bottles. I tried a variety of light setups and ultimately landed on a setup that consisted of a strip box on either side of the bottle, with a fill card in front and a strobe with reflector and grid coming directly from behind through a hole I cut in the background. Since the bottles are two different colors, balancing the light was challenging. The green bottle transmits light much easier than the brown bottle. I built various flags and reflectors to control the light from behind, but ultimately the major light control came in the form of multiple exposures combined in post. This gave me the most control over the final image.
To give the bottles that frosty cool look I would stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes immediately before shooting. I would take them out and spray with a mixture of 50/50 water and glycerin. The glycerin helps keep the beads of water from immediately running. These bottles were specially prepared with waterproof labels so the labels would look good for longer periods of shooting. I had a total of 12 bottles to work with. Six of each brand. And yes, I did drink them when I was finished shooting.
I shot a few different angles and communicated with the creative team remotely during the shoot day and with their approval moved forward with this setup. We all liked the low angle and how it gives the beer a towering, powerful feeling. This was the angle and feeling that Yuengling was hoping I could bring to the product shot.
Part four to this epically long blog post is coming soon so stay tuned. I’ll talk about the final retouching of our select images.