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- a camera
- a manual focus lens, preferably a macro lens
- a tripod
- a black background (with or without structure according to taste)
- wine or substitute liquid
- a buddy to pour the wine
- two white canvases or two reflector panels or one white wall
- a VERY thoroughly polished wine glass
- table mat and rubber eraser (explained later)
- two flash heads that can sync toghether in any way
- cable shutter release, if possible
Set up the glass before your background. If the background is supposed to show surface structure, put it wherever the flashes throw light at it. If not, put it further away so it will become blurred and mostly black. In my shot, I again took my sister-in-law´s famous tax folder and decided to show its nice structure. Of course, you can also take a piece of wood or a curtain if you like to give it a more vivid color. Black is the easiest way to get a neutral contrast against the red wine.
The background surface must be white, because it will reflect the flash light. This lights the glass in the "commercial" way: it creates white outlines while the rest of the glass remains dark. You can see the canvases I took as the bright stripes shaping the glass, the bottle and the flowing wine. You can also see the flashes themselves upper left and lower right (in fact you can even see my arm holding the upper left flash in the reflection as well as some strange soft reflections I didn´t care about since this setup was done right before dinner; I was hungry and in a hurry. It can be done much, much more perfectly!).
The flashes show because they were too close to the camera. My shot is far from perfect. It was done for fun and I made it like this:
If you want to do it right, without uncontrolled reflections, you need to go this way:
...and keep everything else in your room as dark as possible. Shoot with your camera´s highest flash sync speed, so the ambient / working light will not show. Remember: flash light is so short that ambient light will only register when you let it in through the shutter that remains open after the flash exposure.
Of course, you can also go the other way round! Give it a white backdrop that you light with flashes and keep the rest of the background dark. This gives you a white glass with black outlines, since the glass always catches and projects the surrounding. The wine and bottle will also look different, because the light now comes from behind it instead of left and right.
Now you can choose to do a clean shot, doing a lot of tests, carefully lighting, emptying and cleaning the glass everytime you take a picture or you can simply set things up and shoot away. My shot way done the latter way, set up in ten minutes and the first shot actually was the best. Looking back, you will notice that the picture looks great either way.
You need to work with flash if you want to freeze the motion of the wine. If you accept blur, you can also take conventional light sources. If you must use lamps because you don´t have a flash and want to freeze the motion, you will need either high ISO or really strong lamps. Else, your shutter speed will be too long.
If you want to have your glass slanted like I did, you should get it fixed. Else, it might fall over from the force of the pouring wine. You cannot slant your camera here because gravity dictates the angle of your bottle and the flow of the wine. The picture would look strange with a straight glass and a slanted camera. A table mat and a rubber eraser should provide enough friction to keep things steady.
Don´t forget to play with your white balance! Try sunlight, cloudy, flash, shade and even incandescent white balance. It might give the wine and bottle the right edge in color. Maybe it´ll just surprise you and you´ll learn something new about how to crank your camera in a new way.
Have fun shooting away! Oh, and by the way: I shall be glad to receive comments and links to photographic work by people inspired by my blog! Give me some feedback, come on! :-) And be shameless to copy my work! I want you to do that.