The Hybrid

            Usually when you see a liquor ad in a real location, the bottle was shot in studio and dropped into a stock image.  There are a couple reasons for this.  First, properly lighting a bottle requires 5 to 12 lights, depending on the effect, and at least one diffusion panel.  This takes up space, which real life locations rarely have.  Second, if you have a generic bottle shot on white (or black), you can drop it into many different stock images, giving you some variety. 

            However, you will never be able to reproduce the nuances of how the bottle fits into the environment.  The image will look somewhat fake, maybe not enough for someone to articulate why, but enough for them to feel. 

            In some cases though, the bottle was actually shot on location for that nuance.  However, since real spaces are small, you usually can not light the bottle as well as you could in studio. 

            To solve this, I prefer a hybrid method, shooting the bottle on location and in studio, and compositing them in post.  This gives you a nicely light bottle while still maintaining some of the nuances of it being in a real environment, and you will still have a studio bottle shot in case you need to change it up later.  Here is how it works. 

            For the image above, we first started with the location shoot.  Working on a tripod, we composed and styled our image, and then lit the bottle with one light.  This light’s main purpose was to illuminate the reflector behind the bottle so the bottle would reflect on the bar.  It was not flattering, but all we wanted was that reflection.  We then proceeded to light the rest of the image, capture the final, and measure the exact placement of the bottle to the lens. 

            Then, in studio, we carefully replicated the bottle and lens placement and lit the bottle correctly, which required 6 lights.  Specifically we used three rim lights, one side light shooting through a diffusion panel, and two snooted lights, crossed polarized to the lens, hitting the main and neck labels.  We also paid mind to the colors of the location image and gelled the lights accordingly.  Now it was off to post-production. 

            Anthony, from Pixel House, helped me with the post production by layering the studio bottle shot over top the location image.  Then, to add even more depth, I also had him layer in some car light streaks and a brighter left bar from two additional location captures.  A little tweaking in PhotoShop and we ended with a well lit bottle shot that seamlessly fits into its location.