A LIGHTING MAINSTAY FOR BEVERAGE PHOTOGRAPHY
Author Nicole York / Category Lighting / Published: Apr-12-2021
White Line lighting has been used in beverage photography for ages, but why is it such a mainstay and how do you produce it?
What is White Line Lighting? If you've ever seen a photograph of a glass or a bottle where the edges of the bottle are outlined by a highlight, you've seen White Line Lighting. From whiskey to beer and wine, this technique is so common it's almost ubiquitous.
Why? Because White Line Lighting picks up the details in the shape of the product, creates pleasing highlights that allow the bottle or glass to stand out from the background, and creates a clean, graphic shape.
Remember, branding is incredibly important in product photography, and the bottle shape is a form of visual branding. So why do companies need photos like this?
Allowing the beverage or bottle to stand on it's own, with no distractions, is a powerful visual statement. But more than that, it's flexible because it can be put in almost any scenario, from a company brochure or catalogue to ad advertising campaign, and not look out of place.
In this video, veteran commercial photographer Rob Grimm demonstrates the White Line technique. Rob not only demonstrates how to troubleshoot lighting issues, but how to handle labels that wont stay down, how to show off the color of the beverage, and even how to take multiple photographs for later composites.
HOW TO SET IT UP
To create a White Line lighting set-up, the first step is getting the bottle cleaned and prepped. Make sure the label is clean and wrinkle free, and that there are no fingerprints, smudges, or dust particles on the glass. Use a bit of sticky wax under the back edge of the bottle to keep it in place, and set it on a piece of clean black plexiglass.
Next, you'll need to add a large enough light source to create soft highlights on the edges of the bottle. In this circumstance, Rob uses a Broncolor Parabolic 88 as the light source, then diffuses it through diffusion fabric draped over a backdrop stand between the bottle and the light. This creates a large, soft source of light. After that, he drapes a piece of black velveteen over the center of the diffusion fabric. Black velveteen is an ultra-fine black fabric with texture that "eats" light, meaning it won't show texture when exposed to light, and will remain dark in spite of being placed so close to the light source. This creates a nice, dark backdrop for the edge lighting to pop.
Once that is done, he adds another light with a gridded beauty dish boomed over the top of the bottle. This creates a highlight on the top and shoulders of the bottle, and keeps light spill to a minimum. A very important part of this step is to ensure a polarizing gel is added to the beauty dish. Polarizing gels help cut down the specular highlights in the glass so they can be more easily controlled.
Finally, Rob adds one more strobe with a snoot attached to light the label. This one he places camera left so the label is lit from left to right: the same way the western eye reads text. This also mimics traditional portrait lighting, where the light falloff leads to another highlight.
While not part of the lighting setup, one important thing to notice is the gold card placed behind the bottle. Without much light passing through the bottle, the color of the beverage inside can get lost. The gold card bounces light back through the center of the glass and shows the color of the beverage.
This light pattern can be used as a key set-up or complimentary set-up in nearly any beverage photography.
THE TROUBLE WITH HIGHLIGHTS
Because of the nature of the bottle and the way it was built, there will be times clipped or distracting highlights are inevitable. In those cases, make sure to get "plates." Take the time to get a shot where the light that causes the distraction is either turned off, turned down, or otherwise altered to remove the distraction. This aspect of the bottle can be composited in later to remove the distracting bits.
This light setup is a great place to start your beverage photography journey, and also a useful, flexible setup that will allow you to create product images your beverage clients will be able to use in multiple arenas.
Knowing it will make you even more valuable to your clients. If you want to learn more about beverage photography, don't forget to check