If you’re in the wine industry or are a food photographer, then wine photography is one of the skills you need to perfect. This will be vital for your website, Instagram and most importantly, for promotional and sales purposes. However, epic wine shoots aren’t so easy to achieve—they call for well-thought styling ideas.
Wine photographers have a lot of work to do in order to make their wine look great. It takes some creativity, technical skill, and the right equipment to create an image that will capture the attention of your audience.
Wine photography styling ideas to attract more customers include using props to tell a story, capturing splashes, and adding a human factor. Additionally, you can adopt the rule of odds and use fake ice cubes to avoid messy melting. It’s also important to make the wine look refreshing and realistic.
For more details and tips on how to style your wine photo shoots so you can bring in more customers and market your wine successfully, read on.
Conceptualize the Story You Want the Photos To Tell
Product photography, including wine photography, isn’t just about capturing perfect photos; it involves passing a message through the images. Therefore, the basis of your photography styling is the story you want to tell. What message do you want to pass to your audience?
Is it a new brand packaging? Do you want them to learn about the latest cocktail in town? Or is it a new wine that you’re introducing to the market?
Knowing the message you want to communicate helps in choosing the right styling props.
Besides helping with props, having a concept in mind goes a long way in determining the type of lighting to use depending on what you want to focus on. For example, you can decide whether to go for soft or hard light based on how sharp you want the images to appear. Additionally, you get to determine the right light modifiers to use.
Incorporate Props That Add Value to the Product
Like with any other photography, you need to choose the right props for your shoot. You should start by finding an ideal background that fits your theme.
Here, the background can be bartending gadgets or other wine bottles. You can also decide to go the extra mile and do something more than the standard bartending, wine bottles, or dining table setting. You can customize your background using textured papers or taking the photo outdoors somewhere in the greenery.
When choosing your background, consider checking on dust, scratches, blemishes, and other unwanted spots that may affect the quality of your image, as you’ll need to deal with these later in post production.
For the props, you can use ice cubes, fresh grapes, a bottle opener, a cheese platter, etc. If your shoot includes wine in a glass, ensure you use only the right wine glass for the specific type of wine you’ll be using.
For practical drinkers like myself, it sounds silly but some customers are overly concerned about which wine goes into which glass, which may affect how they perceive your photos.
So, be cautious about this!
If you’re short of prop ideas, you can do some research on Pinterest and Instagram to get a glimpse of what other wine photographers use.
However, don’t just copy everything from online photos; grab ideas from the outstanding images, combine them with what you have and alter them a little to create your own attention-grabbing images. Twist the props to add a touch of authenticity to your images.
Remember that humans are visual beings who tend to process information faster based on what they see. Therefore, check to see that the props you use have a unique visual appeal that captures the attention of any wine lover. Go for quality props that won’t lower the value of your wine photos.
A perfect blend of the right background and props creates an ambient shooting atmosphere.
Capture Splashes To Emphasize the Wine’s Appeal
It’s now time to style the motions.
Capturing splashes makes wine photos more appealing by adding dynamics to them. Splashes have a unique way of enhancing images and giving them a sense of style.
To create appealing splashes, you can use the wine itself or extra objects such as ice cubes or grapes. Grapes look great when being dropped into a wine glass.
Maybe you’re now wondering how you can capture the splashes perfectly from a fast pouring drink. Worry no more!
To freeze the splash motion, you’ll need to use a fast shutter speed – which means you’ll also need fast, powerful lights (i.e. flashes or strobes).
Besides the standard splashes captured when pouring wine into a glass, you can also add a little drama by trying to blow wine into the air. Throwing wine away is bad, but a little risk is worth the perfect shot.
You don’t always have to use expensive wine; you can prepare cheap/fake wine (discussed later in the guide) specifically for this.
Remember, splashes can be messy, and you need to have towels to protect your camera and other gear. If you intend to create splashes using this approach, it may be best to do it in an outdoor setting to reduce the mess.
Try capturing the splashes from different angles until you get a perfect shot.
Add a Human Element for Product Authenticity
You wouldn’t consider your wine photography styling complete without adding a human factor to it, the same way you would for your wine. This is because the human element brings authenticity to an otherwise sterile product shot, and makes it feel more relatable or believable.
People relate better to pictures that include a human factor because they appear more authentic and captivating.
You can add a human element by using a model or just a part of a person. For example, you can use a human hand to demonstrate wine pouring or wine glass grabbing actions.
- Add a hand reaching for a glass of wine in front of the bottle on top of a rustic table setting
- Place glasses with wine inside them next to each other on a wooden countertop overlooking something scenic
Anyone holding the glass should hold it by the stem, what most wine fanatics fancy, but the point is that you want your viewer to be drawn into the scene.
Use Fake Ice Cubes To Counter Messy Melting
Ever wondered what kind of ice cubes are used in wine/beverage photography that last long enough to get the perfect shot?
Here’s the secret. Acrylic ice cubes or Encapso K.
Given that normal ice cubes melt so fast, it might be hard to use them in wine photography since they give you only a few seconds to get the shot—which might not be possible if you’re trying to shoot from different angles while managing reflections.
Therefore, the best way to go about this is by styling your wine using fake ice cubes and shards.
Here, you have to go by the adage, ‘fake it till you make it.’ Feel free to fake it until you achieve an appealing look.
Create a Chilled Look To Showcase the Wine’s Versatility
On to another ‘fake it till you make it’ styling idea for wine photography that gives your bottle a chilled look.
Any wine lover will be fascinated by the sight of a chilled wine bottle on a hot summer day. To evoke this fascination in your audience, you’ll need to think outside the box.
A chilled look in a wine bottle comes in the form of condensed water on the bottle’s surface. However, standard water dries out quickly, thus not ideal for photography.
So, here’s the way out—mix glycerine and water in the ratio of 1:1 to get a slightly sticky liquid that wont evaporate. Carefully spray the liquid on your wine bottle to create a chilled look that doesn’t dry out easily.
However, this styling trick has a major drawback. If your wine bottle has a paper logo or label, the solution can weaken it and cause it to peel-off.
And it can be quite oily to clean up.
But if you really need to create a chilled look and your bottle has a paper label, you can first cover it with a clear spray before applying the glycerine-water solution. The clear spray helps hold the label in position.
You can also create real condensation by using a garment steamer.
Use Hard Light for Sharper Reflections
If you want to make your wine images a little dramatic using shadows, hard light is the way to go.
Hard light like the bare natural light from the sun or artificial light modified using beauty dishes and barn doors produces deep well-pronounced shadows.
Additionally, hard light creates well-defined light and shadow transitions.
The texture of the glass or wine bottle has a significant impact on the image’s visual appeal. The hard light also accentuates the real texture of your subject when directed at the right angle.
However, some photographers who aren’t into reflections use soft light, which creates well-illuminated images with gentle curves.
You can keep on adjusting your lights to get the effect you fancy.
Use Backlighting To Highlight the Wine’s Appearance
Backlighting in photography happens when you place the main light behind the subject to face the camera.
In wine photography, backlighting helps bring out the beauty of the wine.
However, if not properly set, it may be hard to get a perfect shot with backlighting because the subject’s back may end up being too bright, with limited light hitting the front.
So, to avoid this, you can play with the lighting distance. Make sure you twist the light in such a way that it bounces back to the scene from the front. You may use a white foam core or a reflector.
Ensure you use a clean, transparent glass that’ll allow light to shine through the content for an eye-catching shot.
If your wine is too dark to let much light through, you may need to dilute it with distilled water.
Use Diffusion Materials To Control Reflections
Wine photography can be overwhelming when it comes to managing the reflections that appear on the glassware.
When you are shooting glass bottles or wine glasses, everything within the shooting area reflects in the glass, creating unwanted glares in the photos.
However, this doesn’t mean your glass shouldn’t have any reflections. You need a bit of reflection, or else your glass will appear fake. Therefore, it’s up to you to judge what reflections look good for your image.
In product photography, some of the best practices include creating a gradient of light with your reflections for the most aesthetically pleasing look.
A handy trick here is to use diffusion. Diffusers are semi-translucent materials between a light source and the subject to create wider, lighter beams for soft light. Therefore, double diffusion creates a softer light that lightens the subject’s shadows making the reflections manageable.
Generally, double diffusion creates softer shadows and eliminates overly deep reflections on your glassware.
Style Photos With the Rule of Odds for Visual Consistency
Photographers in wine photography use two main approaches. One approach includes focusing on the details on one subject, while the other comprises multiple subjects for a stronger appeal. Either way, we can’t point out a right or wrong approach because both create unique visual appeals.
However, when focusing on multiple subjects, there is a rule that works magic: the rule of odds. Similar to the rule of thirds, this rule states that an odd number of objects in a photo is more pleasing to the eyes than even numbers.
So, when styling up for wine photography, aim to use 3 or 5 objects to create a pleasing visual balance and have good control over diagonals and triangles.
Odd-numbered objects create a sense of harmony and balance in the image.
For example, with 3 objects, you can arrange them in a triangular way which is harder to do with 2 or 4 objects. The triangular representation can give your image a deeper sense of symmetry and balance that’s more appealing to the eyes.
Make Your Wine Look Real
When styling your wine shoots, don’t forget to make your wine look real. Some forms of soft lighting may produce very soft images that make the resulting images appear generic. Therefore, you need to use your judgment to determine what light gives the effect you desire.
Harsh light is best if you want dramatic images with deeper shadows or reflections, while well-balanced, soft light gives you flattering photos. Be cautious not to use excessively soft or hard light, or else your final product will end up being unsightly.
If your end result doesn’t yield the effect you want, you can adopt a different line of thinking. You can use photography substitutes for real wine.
For example, if a glass of red wine appears too dark in your shoots, you can substitute it for a perfect mix of red food coloring and water.
When styling wine photography, you sometimes need to make concessions to create visually appealing photos while keeping the cost down. Red food coloring and water are cheaper than red wine but still give a perfect shot, so why not go for them?
Other ways to give wine photography an authentic look include adding fake ice cubes and creating a chilled look.
Most wine photographers use artificial styling features to create those memorable wine photos that grab your attention.
Be Creative With Your Garnishes
If your wine photography includes cocktails, you can style it up by getting creative with your garnishes.
A good choice of garnishes makes wine photography lively and vivid. For example, you can portray your creativity using matching colors in garnishes to make the photos brighter and the wine more enjoyable.
A little color mix-up in the garnish composition can also yield an epic shoot. You can also add a few matching flowers to create something unique and more special to your brand.
Opt for Simplistic Settings and Adequate Lighting
Styling your wine photography alone isn’t enough to attract more customers. You also need to learn a few photography tricks that will produce eye-catching images when combined with your top-notch styling.
Here’s a rundown:
- Consider the light. Light is what makes photos and knowing how to control it is the most important skill for a photographer. Think of the lighting effect on your images. Do you want a soft light that creates soft shadows and flattering images, or hard light which adds a dramatic effect to your photos by creating deeper shadows? Do you want a sharp or blurred light? The choice is yours!
- Keep the camera still. Hold the camera in a stable position or secure it firmly to reduce movements. A still camera produces sharp images—not blurry shots. The best way to do this is by using a sturdy tripod.
- Consider your scene-setting. While you may want to include several props in your photo, you may end up creating a crowded image that doesn’t pass the concept you wanted. Therefore, consider keeping your setting simple and clean—avoid unnecessary props that don’t add value to your photo. Also, decide on the number of objects you’ll use and remember what we said about the rule of odds.
- Consider your light setting. Decide how you will light up your scene. Where will the main light be? As backlighting works well for wine photography, where will the objects be? Will you require any diffusers? Double diffusion helps manage unwanted reflections in the object. Your light setting determines the state of your final image.
- Get closer, but not too close. Leaving a huge distance between your camera and the subject causes your image to be more compressed, which may be what you’re going for. However, you can make your wine look more “heroic” by getting closer with a shorter focal length, which distorts the perspective.
- Consider the exposure. Look at your photos and study the light exposure. The images should not be too dark (underexposed) or too bright (overexposed). The light should be just right, and all aspects of the label clearly visible.
Wine photography isn’t as easy as it may seem. To capture iconic photos that attract customers, you need to employ well-thought-out styling ideas that are indicative of your brand.
Consider your background and props, work on your lighting and scene-setting, and use a few tricks here and there, like creating a fake chilled look or using fake ice cubes.
We hope our guide gives you a good number of styling ideas for your upcoming wine photography shoots.