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Photographing Your Bottles

- by Bob Essner

image001.jpgThe following article on photographic techniques was submitted by Robert “Bob” Essner, Director of Materials Management (Purchasing, Central Supply, Sterilization, Couriers, Mail, Printing) at Freeman Health System, Joplin, MO.

image002.jpgBob served as the main photographer for the pictures of the bottles you see on the pages of www.folkfolkartinbottles.com. In this article, Bob shares some of the techniques and approaches he used to take the pictures of bottles you see appearing on this web site. Photography Tips & Techniques The following Tips and Techniques are offered to those of you who enjoy taking pictures of your collections – not necessarily limited to bottles. Although pictures can be taken with regular color film, there is much more flexibility available using digital photography – from cropping to adjusting color and contrast. 



1.  Infinity Board
image003.jpgThe light-weight and portable Infinity board is the perfect background for photographing a variety of images including bottles. The effect of the background is simple, your images stand out, while the board fades away to infinity. This also makes cropping and digitally adjusting color and contrast an easier task.
2.  Tripod
The tripod is necessary to mount and support the camera for slower shutter speeds and high F-stops to obtain greater depth of field for enhanced picture sharpness. Using a remote shutter release also minimizes the chance of shaking the camera during exposure resulting in sharper images. 
3.  Lighting
Lighting is the most important tool you have to work with indoors. Learning to work with lighting is more important than the relatively simple task of actually using a camera. The light that reaches the subject comes from the light sources themselves and also from any reflective surfaces in the studio. You can cut down unwanted reflected light using dark walls or curtains, and create reflected light where you need it using reflectors. Reflectors can be any large, preferably white surface. You can buy portable reflectors that fold up, and can be held by an assistant or a stand to reflect light into the shadows. Large sheets of polystyrene are light and work well. You can also improvise reflectors from white coats, newspapers and make use of convenient white walls.
The trick with lighting is to reduce the glare on the bottles as much as possible while providing adequate lighting and contrast to the contents of the bottle. This will require some experimenting and a helper to hold or position the “reflector” material. Depending on the type of lighting you use (incandescent, flash, fluorescent, etc) it will be necessary to set the “white balance” on your camera to capture colors in the correct hue. 


1.  Positioning the object
You will want to take pictures of the object from various angles and perspectives. This will also take some experimenting to arrive at the most desirable results. Having a helper position the bottle while you look through the camera lens helps make this part of the job easier. 
2.  Reduce camera “shake”
Using a remote shutter release will eliminate camera “shake” and enable a sharper image. Optionally, you could use the self-timer of the camera to have a “hands-free” method of taking the picture. 
3.  Camera features
For best results use at least a 5 megapixel digital camera with "through the lens" framing and focusing. Additional features that will enhance the quality of the pictures are the ability to set “white balance” and the ability to override auto-focus with manual focus. Auto-focus can get confused with the round shapes and, if you need to get up close to a specific part of the internal scene, manual focus is the best method.  


A good quality program to manipulate digital images provides flexibility and creativity in producing just the look you want in your pictures. The most common uses are for cropping, enhancing the color or contrast or the color balance (hue). You can also utilize software to reduce the file size of the .jpg image while maintaining high resolution quality necessary for posting to the web.   

By: Bob Esner,  a Photographer for www.folkfolkartinbottles.com