Staging a beer bottle (or any other drink) for photo or video, especially for commercial purposes, requires lots of work and preparation. It’s kind of a cosmetic treatment to turn an averagely looking swing-top beer bottle into an awesome looking drink which you instantly desire when you see the photo.
Here’s a short tutorial how to primp a bottle for the perfect packshot in six steps:
STEP 1: Buy beer
Better get more than one bottle and check for misprints like color errors or bleeding edges and damaged labels. Those errors are worse than a crooked label. Put some spare bottles in the fridge – you might want to drink at least one after your shoot!
STEP 2: Bath the bottle
Especially if the bottle has a label at the back which shines through the front glass, it is better to remove it. The easiest way is to bath the bottle for a couple of minutes in cold water. After a while, you can easily remove the label. Be careful with the front labels, the might soak, too and are very fragile when wet. If a label is crooked, just let it soak for a while, then slide it to the correct position carefully while the bottle is still wet. Some beer brands use labels that don’t peel of properly, so you need chemical backing – see STEP 4 for advice!
STEP 3: Plunder your (your girlfriend’s, sister’s, roommate’s…) bathroom
Grab everything you can find, especially look for cotton sticks, fuzz-free face tissue, nail polish remover, glossy hair spray and an empty spray bottle. Then go to the pharmacy and get glycerin and maybe a syringe with a needle. The latter will help you to apply fizz to your bottle point by point. Rubber gloves are highly recommended, no matter if you want to avoid greasy fingerprints on your model or protect your skin from a potpourri of chemicals!
STEP 4: Remove residual glue
Labels are glued to the bottle and removing them usually leaves stripes or grids on the glass. If you want to light the bottle from behind, those stripes might reflect to the front. Carefully remove the glue with nail polish remover. Use Cotton sticks for corners or when you have to go close to a label.
STEP 5: Hairspray time!
Take the glossy hair spray and go outside or open your bathroom window. Better go outside! Hold the spray about an arm’s length away from the bottle and spray the labels. Don’t go to close, otherwise the spray might cause stains. Now the labels are preserved against grease and humidity (see step 6).
STEP 6: Add fizz to your bottle
Make sure that your set is prepared and that you are ready to shoot. You should already have set light and found a position for your bottle.
Now comes the most interesting part: Mix water and glycerin 1:1 in the empty spray bottle, shake it thoroughly and spray it on the bottle. Test with a bottle dummy before from how far away you should spray to get the best possible result. Depending on your spray bottle, 3-4 sprays should be fine. Hold your bottle carefully at a spot which will not be in the frame or where you won’t destroy the glycerin fizz (like cap or bracket). When you’re done, place the bottle on your set and take awesome pictures.
If you are interested in the actual shooting, read more in How to light a beer bottle