Photographing Beer Bottles

One of my weaknesses is presenting my final pieces properly. I usually run out of time before I am able to properly take photos of my work. This time, I was organised and left myself enough time to take some proper photos of my work.

I watched a few tutorials online of how photographers take product photos.

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I set up my photography box with two lamps and a black background. I set up my camera on a tripod to achieve stable and consistent images. I wanted my three photos to look similar so I kept the beer bottles in the same place. This is a similar set up to how I photographed my other projects.

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I was really disappointed in how the photos turned out. Because I don’t have the correct lamps, the photos just tuned out really weird colours, the lighting was horrible and the details weren’t as vivid as I hoped them to be.

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I did try editing them to see if the photos could be improved. I adjusted the colour balance – adding in some blue/purple to counteract the orange/yellow tones. I also toned down the exposure. I used the sharpen filter to bring out some of the detail. Although I really like the dark background because the bottles stand out, I just hate everything else about the image. I felt that these images didn’t do my work any justice at all. In the past I would have just used these images but as one of my goals this year was to present my work better, I decided to start from scratch with the photos.

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I went with a really simple set up – I just put the bottle on my table near the window for natural light. I took the same photos for each bottle in the exact same position:
  • a front view
  • a side view
  • a back view
  • some details of the foil effect, illustrations and wax seal

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The natural light and simple background was a really good choice. The photos came out looking so professional and much better than the first images. Sometimes simple is best! The detail and the colours were much stronger and more eye-catching in natural light.
The photos still needed a little bit of editing to really make them stand out though.

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Using the brush tool and layer masks, I removed the background around the beer bottle.
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I copied the layer and inverted the layer mask so I had the background on one layer and the beer bottle on another.
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I lowered the saturation and brightness of the background which looked like this:
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On the bottle layer I used levels to make it a touch brighter
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The last things I did were to crop the photo, make the background a little lighter and carefully touch up the edges of the bottle where the layer masks overlapped.
I think the shiny black table and the grey-ish background are quite dark and moody looking which fits the theme of the beer really well. They’re so plain that they allow the the labels to stand out. I’m so happy with how professional the photos turned out. Putting more thought into how I present my work is definitely paying off.

Product Photos

One of my weaknesses is displaying my work appropriately and giving it proper justice – so this year I’m really trying to tackle this issue.
Playing around with my images, I came up with a few ways to display the finished product.

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This first idea uses a black background and a full view of the label. The dark background definitely makes the whole thing pop. I’ve seen a few designers display their designs like this. I used warp on photoshop to fit the label to the curved bottle shape, then I added another layer of the label behind the bottle. I used a black gradient overlay to outline the shape of the bottle. The bottle itself definitely lets this down – I would obviously find a better example of a bottle or maybe even take a photo of one myself.

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Drifwood Brewery

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I tried out this look on a white background and it really doesn’t work. The white is far too harsh, and the colours actually look a lot duller. Also, the label does need to conform to the shape of the bottle like the first image because otherwise it just looks so flat.

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I also decided that I would definitely need a front and back view of the labels if I didn’t choose the first idea of the spread out label. I also noticed that sometimes the reflection of the bottles is included in the image. This was easy enough to photoshop – I copied the bottles, turned them 180 degrees and used a black gradient overlay over the reflections.
The Empire Gin, Cervecería Sagrada beer.

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I also experimented with gradients and texture. I didn’t like how these looked as I felt the textures took away from the beer label design. The white gradient looks okay but a bit fake – it would be better to have a real light source.

Label Service

I ordered my labels from Label Service , a company that manufactures food and drink labels for major food products in the UK. I was sent out some samples of beer and drink labels that included foil.

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I was really happy with the quality and placed my order with the company. After a week my labels arrived.

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The colours were much brighter which meant that the labels stood out more. The silver foil finishing looked great and I was so happy with how it turned out. The labels definitely benefitted from this added print finishing – it made them look so much more professional and eye catching.
My only complaint was that the silver border I had asked for was missing. Unfortunately, the printers would not be able to finish new labels in time so I have to just accept the labels without the border. It isn’t a massive catastrophe but I feel that it would have finished off the labels nicely.

Beer Bottles From My Client

My client gave me a few beer bottles with information on the side that he wanted for the labels. Beer label information is actually really varied for each different brewery depending on what information they think is important and for the target audience.
Craft breweries tend to assume the drinker is more knowledgeable about beer than say, your average Fosters or Carling drinker (sorry not sorry) they tend to include information that average drinkers might not be interested in knowing.

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As well as having a look at the different information provided on the bottles, I also measured a few elements. The space for the best before stamp needs to be a certain width to ensure that there will be enough room for the stamp.
I picked the information that I thought my client would appreciate the most:
  • Description of flavour. Eg: “A full bodied stout with notes of malt and chocolate”
  • Ingredients: water, hops, sugar, yeast and barley
(Brewers provide only basic ingredients because their recipes are usually closely guarded)
  • Amount of liquid – in this case, the bottles I bought are 500ml
  • Alcohol percentage. Eg: ALC 5.6% VOL
  • UK Units of Alcohol. Eg: 2.8 UK Units
  • Best Before date with space for stamp
  • Date of brewing and brewer’s (client’s) signature
  • International Bittering Unit. Eg: IBU: 29
The last two pieces of information are things I know that my client was really interested in having on his labels.
The date of brewing and the signature give the label a feel of quality and lets the consumer know that a lot of care has gone into making the beer.
IBU / International Bittering Units is the measurement of the bitterness of the beer.
“The first thing to understand is that the International Bitterness Unit, from a chemist’s and professional brewer’s perspective, is a simple measurement of the bitterness of a beer. Not the “hoppiness” and not even how bitter you, the drinker, might perceive the beer–just the levels of a class of bitter compounds found in the finished brew. It’s not the only method to measure a beer’s bitterness, but many brewers use it and now consumers are starting to demand that their beers have a specific IBU level.” (Popsci)

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Chart of IBU and the styles of beer that usually have those IBU’s.

British Library

My client told me that the British Library might have more patents that I could look at.
I contacted them to ask if they had the kind of thing I was looking for.

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Besides assuming I was a man (oh dear) the email I received back was extremely helful.

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I had a look at the Espacenet website, but most of the patent orders didn’t have any illustrations, and the ones that did weren’t visually interesting.

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Although this particular website didn’t offer anything interesting, it’s good to know that I can visit the British Library and look at their patents if I need some extra inspiration.

 

Label Ideas

My client mentioned that he wanted labels that wrapped around the bottle fully. He also decided he wanted to use dark brown Grolsch style bottles. Grolsch/swing top/clip top bottles feature a closable cap which stays on the bottle. These are great for recycling and reusing too.

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“At 3.125″ x 7.375″ these labels are meant to really “cover your glass”.These labels completely wrap around most 12oz bottles and will leave about 3/4″ gap on 22oz bombers and most wine bottles.  It’s like using both a front and a back label – plus a little extra!” (Grog tags)

 

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4″ x 8″

 

 

 

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Initially my client said that a 4.58″x 4.5″ label would be fine, but when I checked it against the bottle, it wasn’t large enough for the information or the design. We then tried 4″x 6.5″ but that was still too small too. I felt that the 4″ slide was okay but the labels needed to be a lot longer. Finally I settled on 8″ as the width and 3.5″ for the height, because it was long enough at the back to almost touch, I can fit all of the information on the label and there’s still enough space for the design on the front. One thing I was concerned about was that there wouldn’t be enough room for the design but this size will definitely have enough room.

 

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I also hashed out a very quick idea for the label. It’s based on some of the other labels I’ve seen. There’s room at the side for the information. I think the composition is quite interesting and it’s a little different to what I usually do. The label is almost like a “scene”, with some of the imagery extending beyond the top and bottom of the image. The loose petals and leaves from the barley and hops would “float” amongst the information.
I’m also including the amount of hops and barley that is present within the style of beer itself, which my client and I think is really exciting. We think this idea is a bit unusual and would make for a really interesting design idea.

Art Nouveau Artists 

I picked some pieces from a few different art nouveau era artists based on the way they have/had depicted flowers and plants, for inspiration as to how I would approach the hops and barley that I’m drawing for the labels.

 

Alphonse Mucha
Alphonse Maria Mucha (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, most well known for his images of women. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements and designs.
Mucha considered Le Pater his printed masterpiece, and referred to it in the January 5, 1900 issue of The Sun Newspaper (New York) as the thing he had “put [his] soul into”. Printed on December 20, 1899, Le Pater was Mucha’s occult examination of the themes of The Lord’s Prayer and only 510 copies were produced.” (Alfons Mucha)

 

Aubrey Beardsley

“Aubrey Beardsley was an English draughtsman and writer. He was brought up in Brighton, in genteel poverty, by his mother. She gave her children an intensive education in music and books, and by the time he was sent to boarding-school at the age of seven Beardsley was exceptionally literate and something of a musical prodigy.
It may be argued that Beardsley was the most significant figure to emerge in English art in the last decade of the 19th century. In his first maturity from 1892 to 1894 he created a modern style that was wholly personal and, as he himself put it, ‘fresh and original’. The content of Beardsley’s art was as startling as its style. His ostensible subjects were drawn from Classical literature and history, the Bible and the social world of his own time; but his pictures express eternal human truths, given a grotesque force by the power of Beardsley’s own fevered psyche. In his lifetime and immediately after, his work became widely known and admired abroad, and formed an influential part of the current of Art Nouveau and international Symbolism.” (Tate Online)

 

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
“Scottish architect, designer and painter. In the pantheon of heroes of the Modern Movement, he has been elevated to a cult figure, such that the importance of his late 19th-century background and training in Glasgow are often overlooked. He studied during a period of great artistic activity in the city that produced the distinctive Glasgow style. As a follower of A. W. N. Pugin and John Ruskin, he believed in the superiority of Gothic over Classical architecture and by implication that moral integrity in architecture could be achieved only through revealed construction. Although Mackintosh’s buildings refrain from overt classicism, they reflect its inherent discipline. His profound originality was evident by 1895, when he began the designs for the Glasgow School of Art. His decorative schemes, particularly the furniture, also formed an essential element in his buildings. During Mackintosh’s lifetime his influence was chiefly felt in Austria, in the work of such painters as Gustav Klimt and such architects as Josef Hoffmann and Joseph Maria Olbrich. The revival of interest in his work was initiated by the publication of monographs by Pevsner (1950) and Howarth (1952). The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society was formed in Glasgow in 1973; it publishes a biannual newsletter, has a reference library and organises exhibitions. The Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, holds the Mackintosh estate ofdrawings, watercolours and archival material as well as a collection of his furniture; the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow Art Gallery also have important collections.” (Tate Online)

 

 

Charles Ricketts
“Painter of romantic subjects, illustrator, stage designer, sculptor, connoisseur and writer on art. Born 2 October 1866 at Geneva, of an English father and a French mother, and brought up in France and Italy. Studied in 1882 at Lambeth School of Art, where he met his lifelong friend Charles Shannon, with whom he founded a magazine The Dial 1889–97, and the Vale Press 1896–1904. He gave up printing after 1904 and turned to painting and occasional sculpture and in 1906 began to design for the theatre, his designs including sets for Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan 1924. Exhibited at the International Society from 1906 and the Grosvenor Gallery from 1921. Art adviser to the National Gallery of Canada 1924–31. Author of The Prado and its Masterpieces 1903, Titian1910, Pages on Art 1913, and the posthumous Self-Portrait 1939. A.R.A. 1922; R.A. 1928. Died in London 7 October 1931. Included in the Late Members exhibition at the R.A., winter 1933. A large part of the collection of works of art which he formed in association with Shannon is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.” (Tate Online)