Live Workshop – Photographing Clear Liquid Bottles (Gin/Vodka)

In this live photography show, Karl shows you how to light and photograph clear bottles such as gin and vodka.

When it comes to photographing clear bottles, the process couldn’t be simpler. Watch as Karl shows you step by step how to photograph clear bottles.

Simple steps for photographing clear bottles:

  • Prepare the bottle – This includes cleaning the bottle and creating controllable condensation
  • Select the background and base surface – These will have a big impact on your overall image
  • Light the product – This can be done using just a few lights with basic modifiers
  • Photograph the bottle – Determine your composition and camera settings

Karl explains how to achieve perfect condensation to create that cold, desirable look, which backgrounds and base surfaces work best, and how to light the product using just two lights. He also shows you how to incorporate additional lights to further enhance your shot, highlighting the label and reducing unwanted shadows.

You’ll learn the best techniques for photographing clear bottles from a professional with more than 20 years in the industry and how you can recreate this setup easily and effectively yourself.

To learn more about bottle photography, take a look at our Live Whisky Photography Workshop and Wine Bottle Product Lighting classes. You can also find more instruction on creating your own perfect condensation in our The Perfect Pint & Condensation Cold Look class.

If you have any questions about this show, please use the comment section below.

Comments

  1. Bonus content we learnt from this live show: Karl is not only an overwhelming light manipulator, also a lovely father and a sweet mentor.
    All these features surely contribute to greatness of his images.
    Ash, you have such a teacher, all of us dreaming to be there with you!
    All the best 🙂

  2. Hi Karl

    I have the Broncolor Siros lights, can you get a projection attachment that fit these that would work?

    Many thanks
    Paul

  3. Hi Karl
    I became addicted to your website, I spend more than 5h sometimes per day, I am really happy that I joined you in time, so thank you very much for the value of the information you give.
    My question is, what background did you use because the results are awesome.
    Many Thaks
    Oussama Mazouz

    1. Hi Oussama, this was acrylic plastic sheet. You can use the opal glossy type but this one was the frosted type so it has a matt finish but is still semi transparent, you can get it from plastic suppliers or sign service companies.

  4. Hello Karl,
    Thank you for this great website.
    How do you get this blue tint in your image ? Is it you white balance ?
    Thank you

    1. Hi, yes it’s a combination of the white balance but also this particular frosted diffusion has a slight blue tint.

  5. Hello Karl, many thanks and appreciation for making these informative sessions available online. I also appreciate the fact that you have taken much-needed pride in providing your students with sensible information.

    I have an engineering background with a keen interest in enhancing my photography skills as well. Looking forward to staying on course as I seek to expand my knowledge in this evolving field.

  6. Hi Karl,

    I have a question about the plexiglas being used; is this clear frosted or opal frosted? My supplier has both and i’m not sure which one to purchase.

    Bart

    1. Hi the background in this one was frosted, I don’t know if it was clear frosted or opal frosted, I’d say it was probably clear frosted as it doesn’t look like the opal, it’s a bit bluer. I use opal not frosted for lots of things too and it could have even been used as the background for this shot as long as no light was going to reflect off the surface as a highlight back into the camera.

  7. Can we use a strip light without a scrim/diffuser in front of it , for the background light ? If not , what could be the complications ?

    1. Hi Jaspreet, if you are talking about the light coming through the background behind the bottle then you will end up with the vertical strip shape of glow and not a round one behind the bottle, so it would really depend on whether that’s what you wanted or not.

  8. Hi Karl,

    Really enjoy these live classes, very insightful, thank you. I have got two questions, first if this was a commissioned job, is it standard practice to hand over all the raw files to the client, or only the selected hero shots. Second, nice tip on your condensation, I’ve been taught at school to spray oil for beer shots. Is that something that you ‘d consider?

    Maggie

    1. Hi Maggie, I’ve not heard of the oil before? In answer to your questions no generally I’d be handling the retouch in house or sending a partially prepared file to the retoucher. I don’t often give a raw file to the client unless I know the retoucher they will be using and that they have a good understanding of the process.

  9. Would you be able to recommend a similar projection attachment for a Bowens-mount monolight?

    1. Hi Enrico, I’m afraid I don’t know of any but there are some independent brands out there that fit other brands.

  10. Hi Karl.

    Hope you are keeping well. I joined the site about three weeks ago and have pretty much lived on it ever since. I am 55 and have spent most of my working career as a photographer living in a world where most top professionals kept their skills and methodology a closely guarded secret. It’s so nice to find a master craftsman who is prepared to share such incredible knowledge, so a big thank you.

    I would just like to ask a quick question about the liquid glucose / clear artist varnish process for achieving the condensation effect. I went on the internet to try and acquire the artist clear varnish and am given options of matt, satin and gloss finish. Normally as a photographer I would steer away from a gloss finish product and go for the matt, but just wanted to check that this applied here, or doesn’t it matter which I go for? Many thanks – John

    1. Hi Jonny, thank you for your comments and I’m glad you are enjoying the platform. With regards the varnish I just checked the two cans I have in the cupboard one is satin and the other is gloss and they’ve both been used before so I don’t think it matters too much. If you were only going to get one then probably go for satin as it is between the other two. Cheers Karl.

  11. Hi Karl, where do you get those scrim rolls from? I’m assuming it’s essentially tracing paper and can’t seem to find any of a decent length.

    Also, for the 5mm frosted Perspex, will any frosted perspex to it? Or are some suppliers/brands better – I’m thinking in terms of neutrality and potential shifts in colour temp…

    Excellent tutorials BTW!

    1. Hi thanks for your comments. The rolls are photography diffusion material it comes on rolls from Lee Filters, it’s used a lot in the film industry. The perspex comes from Sign Service companies or plastic suppliers. The standard white opal is usually neutral some of the frosted ones look a bit blue to me.

      1. Hi Karl why do you use lee rolls filter 216 instead of 129 heavy frosty?

        Should heavyweight translum get more nice gradient even if the stop of loss is major than other type of scrim?

        Thanks in advance

        1. Actually my favourite is 400Lux but it’s only marginally better than 216 (partially because it’s more durable) but it’s more expensive and I go through a lot of stuff. 129 Heavy frost doesn’t create as nice a gradient and I don’t know about translum as I’ve never used it.

  12. I have a question about Broncolor RF triggers. I frequently find that one or more of my lights won’t fire though I haven’t changed anything between the lights working and then one or more failing. I have never had this problem with ProFoto. More specifically, I have two Siros L lights. If I use the sync cable on one, it always works. If instead I use the RF trigger for both, sometimes they will both fire for awhile, then they won’t, and then they start firing again. As far as I can tell, nothing has changed on my end from them working, not working, then working again.

    Sometimes, I will add a sync cable to one light, then add another light. That requires the RF trigger. I think that it is when one is synced with a cable and the other connected by RF, this happens more often but the reason I do it at all is because I’ve had the RF fail on both, so I add the sync cable to get at least one light functioning.

    Do you have any idea what might cause this behaviour?

    1. Hi, Yes this has happened to me and I’m not sure why, I thought it was the battery running low but when I press the test button it seems to work so I think it is more to do with the signal from the camera to the hot shoe to the trigger but I need to look into this more and speak to them. If I find out I’ll come back to you.

  13. Keylor in this explanation used the same distribution of lighting, but I put two clark panels whose color is white and I did not reach the same result, which caused your opinion, and what is the best way to avoid the pairing of light with the product

  14. Hi Karl,

    I have another question regarding measurements:

    a. Thanks for the answer regarding the thickness, but what are the other measurements of your polished metal sheet? It looks to be about 2ft by 3ft. Also, (19:30 min into the video) you mentioned that the only complaint that you have about the polished metal sheet is that you would like to have it wider. How much wider would you like to have it? I will have my sheets cut that way if I know of a better size.

    b. What are the measurements for the acrylic my guess is 2 1/2 ft by 4 ft. Im I correct?

    Regards, Victor

    1. Hi Victor, Yes I would have preferred 3ft x 3ft for the polished metal for single bottles but on occassion the narrower one is useful if you want to get the lights closer. I have a acrylic in lots of different sizes for this reason. I can’t say there is any one best size as every job is different and we keep lots of sizes, I’d say I’m commonly using 4ft by 4ft thought but I have bigger and smaller and lots of different colours and textures.

  15. Hi Karl,
    Greetings from San Francisco.

    Questions.

    1. I just visited a large metal company, who sells the polished metal sheets. But they only sell in 4 x 8 foot sheets and in various thicknesses. They want to know what thickness I want. Customers are not allowed to walk through the warehouse due to safety rules. So, I couldn’t do it by eyesight or feel. (The 4 by 8 sheet is fine) I just need to get the thickness right.

    Can you tell me what thickness are your polished metal sheets?

    2. Regarding the Frosted Acrylic. My local plastic supplier, wants to know if I want 40% or 60% frosted. Can you please recommend which one for me to purchase? My guess is by your video is 60%.

    Regards,
    Vernon

    1. Hi Vernon, hello from the UK.
      1. My sheets are quite thin probably about 2mm, they bend and dent very easily, it won’t matter if you go for thicker it will probably just be more expensive.
      2. Again this doesn’t really matter as long as they diffuse the light into a ball. The 60% will diffuse more quickly so is the best bet.
      Cheers Karl.

  16. Great video! I am struggling to get the opal frosted acrylic and the polished stainless steel sheet in Australia (that isnt a really small size). Just spent 45 minutes on eBay with no luck. Do you know any suppliers or other search terms? I have tried opal frosted acrylic sheet / polished stainless steel sheet .

    1. Hi Anis, any plastic supplier or sign surface company will have frosted acrylic/perspex. Alternatively you can use the normal white gloss opal acrylic and ask the sign company to put window frost sticker on it. For the polished stainless steel you’ll have to try metal work shops if your hardware store doesn’t stock it. The other option can be acrylic mirrors.

  17. Hello Karl, about frosted acrylic i’m wondering if is this sheet Opal Frosted with 60% to 70% light transmission or is Clear Frosted with 80% to 90% light transmission?thanks indeed

  18. Hi Karl,

    I watched two of your tutorials (one on Youtube and the other live) photographing glass bottles.

    The first one (Balvenie whiskey) you used a seamless white background paper lit it up with a flash head fitted with a filter. In the second shoot (Absolut Vodka) you used a frosted acrylic background illuminated from behind using a bare bulb fitted with a frosted dome. So here are my questions:

    1. In the Absolut Vodka shoot, is the acrylic frosted on both sides?
    2. Did the use of frosted acrylic replace the technique of using a seamless background paper for all your shoots of this type, or are there situations where you would use one technique over the other (seamless vs frosted)?

    Thank you for any insight in this respect!

    1. Hi Ed,
      1. Yes
      2. The look of the gradient is different with acrylic and is better for certain shots, especially if I need to create a complete circle. The paper technique can be a problem if the paper has ripples but works well if you use a flat wall or board. I use the flat wall on model/fashion shoots and many whisky shots where I want a coloured wall, like brown etc.

      1. Hello Karl, thank you your reply! I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience on the craft. I truly enjoy how well you present the subject matter and your step by step approach in building the set! Keep up the good work!

      1. Hi Karl. Sorry I forgot you use different lights to myself. I use the Godox AD600 do you know if they will fit these or there are any available. Thanks for your time . Merry xmas to you and your team. Great learning platform

        1. Hi Wayne, here is a link to the broncolor protective domes, I think the ones for their Siros lights are smaller than the others but I’m afraid I don’t know the exact sizes without measuring them, also their would need to be something on the Godox to hold them in place as their is a small spring loaded pin and edge that keeps these domes secured.

  19. Hi Karl

    I agree with you when you said that you should remove any back label of glass bottle so based on that , do you have an idea how to remove the back label for some soft drinks as they are printed hard on the same bottles ?
    I tried to remove it by using a scalpel but without any benefit, it really sounds annoying during shoot

    thanks

    1. Hi if it’s printed directly to the glass, depending on the process you may not be able to remove it. Ask the manufacturer or client to provide you it without it on the back.

  20. I Karl, I’ve seen this workshop and the others of the red wine and whisky. All of them are very nice, thank you.

    Now I have a doubt on one specific situation, which tecnique would you use if you have to shoot a dark bottle with clear liquid, like a champaign bottle or some white wine bottles?

    1. Hi Pedro, you would use the same technique as for our live whisky and other whiskey tutorials but with a silver card for the bottle

  21. Thanks Karl for your amazing tutorials, first I’m from Egypt so we speak Arabic and i hope one day you have Arabic subtitles because alot of my friends want to join your school but they can’t understand english for me actually it’s okay. Second can i use white acrylic sheet instead of the frosted one i see u sometimes use white also because i found the frosted one is very rare in my country and also what the difference between the white and the frosted one to know when to use each one… thank you

    1. Hi, and hello to you in Egypt, I have visited many times for diving, love the Red Sea and the Egyptian people are always very helpful. just so you know we have english subtitles if that helps your friends! Yes you can use the white acrylic instead you just have to be careful with light facing it because it is glossy you may get a light reflecting like a mirror, but if your lights are in a good position then no problem.

  22. Thanks Karl, Loving these tutorials and learning lots whilst having fun, I am a newborn photographer and looking at different genres to push me out of my comfort zone. I do enjoy the way you explain everything its easy to follow 🙂

    PS: I love your studio space.

  23. Karl,

    Not relevant to this particular product photography, but is there chance that you would ever do clothing photography with mannequin or models? If not, some pointers would greatly help.

    Thanks,
    Sai

  24. Hi Karl, I noticed in some of the tutorials, that it seems you more often adjust the stops of light versus the aperture on the camera. When I did a short mentor program with a local photographer about 3 years ago, he seemed to have me do the opposite. So I guess my question would be, when do you adjust the aperture to bring in less or more light, versus adjusting the lights? (I hope I am making sense.) I just want to understand this. Thank you so much, and I am learning so much from you. I am glad you are doing all of this! Tamarah

    1. Hi Tamarah, I would always adjust the light if you can. The reason being that the aperture also controls the depth of field and the look and feel of the shot. Therefore we should be deciding what aperture we want to use for a certain look and then adjusting the light to suit the aperture when possible.

  25. Karl,
    I have always had a hard time making myself sit down and watch tutorials, to further my education and knowledge. I have found that since I have started watching yours, my creativity level has increased and I am excited about photography again! Thanks so much for all that you and your team are doing.

    Thanks,
    Sam from Texas

  26. Hi Karl

    Hello from Australia
    Loved this. Product photography is one of the areas i want to get into. this is a great video to show how to light a product and the benefits of great lighting.

    Thank you

  27. Hey Karl,
    I’ve been trying to find an equivalent to the projector attachment for the picolite. From what I gather is that the two specific characteristics are the ability to focus and the vilify to use 4 blades to shape the light pattern.
    Do you know if a version exists for Bowen’s mount or profoto mount strobes? Perhaps from another brand?

    1. Hi Kryn, yes it is a lens system that focus’s the light and before that are a set of 4 blades that you can create shapes with then you can use the lens to focus sharp or defocus as necessary. I’m afraid I don’t know of any other system other than some bigger ones in the broncolor range.

  28. Hi Karl, great tutorial as usual. Would you use this set up for white wine or the red wine set up from that recent tutorial?

    Thanks

    Derek

    1. Hi Derek, yes this can work for white wine. If you used the red wine setup then you would need to use a reflector card as we did in the whisky.

  29. Hi Karl & team!

    I love your knitted pullover, Karl! 😉 Btw: Thx for the great show. As always, it was a pleasure to watch.

    Greetings from Germany
    Dieter

  30. Hi Karl,
    New subscriber and I’m just starting with product photography (desktop, small items), do you have a list of what you would consider necessary items to have in one’s kit.
    I also would like to know the number of strobes (I use Profoto lights) you would recommend as a starting point.
    Thanks, really enjoying the lessons

    1. Hi, if you work your way through our product tutorials you will figure out the key stuff that I use. If after that you have further questions come back to me cheers.

  31. Hi Karl,

    Great show again ?
    You used a frosted bottle in this demonstration and I wondered if you had used a clear cylindrical bottle would the edges of the background have produced hard dark lines in the back of the bottle? And if so how would you eliminate them?

    Cheers

    Chris

  32. Great tutorial thank you. At the end you were talking about possibly making your own projection attachments, and I’ve actually made two different styles of of projection attachments to fit my Paul C. Buff lights. Very inexpensive but extremely effective. One is just simply a cheap third party snoot off amazon that I fixed lens extension tubes on to the end of it and simply attach any spare lens I have to it to focus and defocus the light. I’ve also made a projection attachment very similar to the picolite projection attachment with a lens fixed into a snoot but in between the snoot and the lens I made a section where I have aperture blades to control the shape of the light.

  33. Great tutorial as usual. Thanks Karl for some really cool and enlightening tips in controlling light.

Leave a Comment