Beverage Photography for E-commerce

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Beverage Photography for E-commerce

Better is possible!

If you own a beverage company, then you probably realize that beverages and beverage related products are not the easiest things to photograph. The containers are shiny, the bags have lots of wrinkles, the ingredients are tiny, and if you’ve elected to screen print on glass or plastic containers… you might as well just give up now. Beverage photography for E-commerce isn’t that difficult, but it takes a level of understanding, patience, and intentionality to get right.

The problem: Lazy, or inexperienced photographers

You can’t just drop beverage products in a light box, pull out your iPhone, and call it a day; if you do, the images will look like you dropped the products in a light box, pulled out your iPhone, and called it a day… that is to say: they will not look good.

Unfortunately, there are some folks that call themselves professionals and provide this level of service… ugh.

So let’s take a closer look at the common challenges beverage products present, and identify some reasonable solutions:

Beverage Containers are Shiny

Shiny objects do one of two things when they’re put on set – they either reflect the world into the camera, or they reflect the light away from the product. Of the two, the former is more common, so let’s talk about it.

If you go to Amazon or a beverage company’s sub-par website, you frequently see a photography studio (or office, or café, or iPhone) in the reflections on shiny objects. This might be okay in a causal Instagram image created by a barista in their one minute of down-time… but in a product photograph created to help you sell your beverage, it’s distracting.

Distracting is bad. We want consumers to be focused on one thing – your beverage.

Bottle Photograph, created with iPhone 8 plus - of Gentleman's collection Cabernet Sauvignon wine bottle.

BAD: Shot and edited on phone.

 

Bottle photograph of gentleman's collection Cavernet Sauvignon. Bottle photographed against a clean white background with a clear reflection

GOOD: Bottle photographed and retouched in our professional studio.

The key to working with shiny objects, is in the reflections.

Classic bottle photography, for example, uses a handful of specific reflection patterns to reveal a bottle’s form and communicate value. No matter the pattern, the method for creating such reflections is the same:

  1. Point the bottle’s label at the camera.
  2. Place camera at label height so the label hids the camera’s reflection.
  3. Turn off all the house lights in the studio.
  4. Position the product lights so they create the desired reflection pattern.
  5. Check reflections and clean set if random objects are visible.
  6. Take the photo.

There are two key takeaways here:

First, place the camera at label height and make sure the it’s not visible in the reflection.
Second, turn off all the lights except those you’re using to light the container. These two things will take you far far far!

This is an image of a Sweet Bloom coffee bag against a clean white background.

WIN: No Wrinkles!

Packaging with Wrinkles

Coffee beans, loose-leaf tea, hops… they all come in bags made from paper, plastic, or plastic coated foil. These bags are almost never wrinkle or dimple free, so they can be a huge pain to photograph!

I think packaging issues are really an issue of standards. If a client sends us a bag that is a complete dog, we request they send a set of alternates, or some bags that haven’t been filled. A wrinkled bag is nearly impossible to get un-wrinkled, and requires so much time to correct in post that it blows everyone’s budget.

A small wrinkle here or there can be cloned out, no problem. But when it comes to bags, it’s always best to send a set of options, and / or a few perfect, unfilled bags.

A product photograph of a single coffee bean casting a sharp shadow against a clean white background.

Ingredients are tiny

The ingredients used to make the beverages we love are tiny. Hops are the biggest of the bunch, but they aren’t much bigger than a quarter. The key to getting great photographs of tiny products is to use specialized glass, and then just treat them like they’re big products.

Product photography of small objects requires a macro lens – a lens that can project an images at least the size of the object, onto the camera’s sensor. All this does is give us enough resolution to create the crisp, clean, vibrant images consumers expect when looking at images of beverage ingredients.

Once the investment in a macro lens has been made, the small objects should be lit, styled, and photographed just like anything else. The photographer still needs to think about hard vs. soft light, highlights vs. shadows, positive vs. negative space, etc. The ONLY difference is that the camera is MUCH closer to the object.

Screen Printed Bottle Labels

Oh man… screen printed bottles are actually a bit of a pain. They require a lighting and photoshop skills to be on-point. It’s such a process, in fact, that we’ll  put together a casual tutorial on them. Coming soon 🙂

Summary

Shiny objects – Hide the camera in the label (if you can), and turn off the house lights.
Packaging with wrinkles – Get more package options, and get packaging that hasn’t yet been filled.
Tiny objects – Use a macro lens
Screen printed bottles – Tune in next time!

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A paper coffee bean bag is photographed three way - against a clean white background, against a plain wood background, and on a reclaimed wood set with a coffee cup and french press.