Category: Problem Solving

Combining a taste for vintage port wine with the challenge of bottle photography.

The first step is to create the lighting that best suits the subject. The choice of colour, shape and design of these bottles have been carefully developed by the producer. Therefore, in bottle photography, it is essential to pay attention to detail and show off the embossed motif and labels; these are fundamental to the identity of the brand.

These are vintage port wine bottles that were originally dirty, scuffed, scratched and just plain old. Many had damaged and misaligned labels as well as creased foil tops/capsules. When photographing new products, it is often possible to choose the best looking bottles. Not so in this case; here there is a limited choice with often only one example available.

Here is an example of the before and after images – drag the slider to the left and right to preview.


It is important to me to photograph each bottle as best I can. With all bottle photography, I regularly take two or three images and then merge them together after the session, during post-processing. Conversely, this helps to minimise the time required to bring them to a state that could be perceived as better than new.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of port wine then I recommend a visit to Porto. An excellent and reasonably inexpensive city break destination where you can visit one of the many port houses, such as Graham’s, for a tour and wine tasting session.

I am available to photograph your products, and as much as I enjoy it, not just wine! I produce images for all types of product and business, which can be as simple or as creatively adventurous to suit your needs.

You can contact me directly by telephone or by completing my contact form to schedule a consultation.

Based in High Wycombe (UK), supporting local, national and international customers.

Just one thing.  How would you say  in an image?

Moreover, how can you convey a wide-ranging concept such as ‘just one thing’ that is both immediately understood and eye-catching?  For me, it’s starting with the creation of a list of descriptive words – writing down what pops into my head. Getting ideas out onto paper without restriction, not concerning myself with whether it is right or wrong. Just five minutes later I had well over a hundred words in front of me… a great starting point.  To simplify the list, I put them into vague groups such as emotion, movement, color, senses and so on.  Now that I had this organised in front of me, I was starting to add more words as ideas feed on ideas.

Just One Thing

Just One Thing – Spark

Click!!! My brain made a connection

I quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted to depict movement and instantly ‘speed’ sprung to mind. Speed is fairly easy to simulate with a blur streaking across the image but it seemed too obvious and certainly would limit my creativity… Click!!! My brain made a connection.  If using a single word to express just one thing was limiting, then I should not restrict myself. to single words – the one thing I portray and the one thing the viewer sees can and will be different.  Now we are getting somewhere I smiled to myself, then continued to consider the many ways we relate to and share the wonders of language.

Red is not just a color, it’s the blush of embarrassment, the mist of anger or the ripeness of fruit. The bringing together of hands can be translated as applause, prayer, respect or dominance. Seeing new relationships form between my loosely grouped words, I could begin to visualize and combine… my concept was coming together, solidifying.  Now to put these ideas into action…now to say just one thing in an image.

Hands are expressive, add impact to words and often communicate in a common language… A perfect subject!

Yesterday, one of my friends mentioned ‘the lost hero’.

Suddenly, it was clear; I had lost sight of the reason for creating a particular image over my desire to create a well composed image. Here’s what I see, hopefully you get the feeling from my sketching. The left shows my final, nicely composed image and the right an attempt that seems more like it’s been thrown together:

lost heroIn both images, the lost hero is the baseball.  It is not immediately obvious, and this is further impacted my my use of an eye-catching but slightly inappropriate prop… The popcorn of course!  I have since found that popcorn does not bring back memories of the big baseball game in the same way that peanuts do – my US friends immediately connected with the right image.

I will be re-shooting a series of these images as a mini-project,…

…so getting back on track (thanks to my US friends) is very important to me.

Here’s one of my other ideas for the series, it needs work but the hero certainly stands out.

lost heroI’m aiming to complete this project within the next couple of weeks where the lost hero will be found. If you are interested, then please choose the option “Notify me of new posts by email” and post a comment at the bottom of this article.

If you would like to view my current work, please visit my Projects page


Direct sunlight can be an issue…

…but it’s possible to use some basic techniques to solve the problem and use a cloudless sky to your full advantage. Here are five of my favourite methods.

1. Shoot directly at the sun using your subject to partially block the light for that sunflare look.

Sinaia Monastery - Direct Sunlight Challenge

2. Work a hard edged shadow into the design to add a little extra interest.

Sinaia Monastery - Direct Sunlight Challenge

3. Shoot in the shade and light up the subject with an opposing white wall or board for that beautiful soft look.

Sinaia Monastery - Direct Sunlight Challenge

4. Find an old guy hiding in an ancient dark church. In other words, move the set inside and make good use of window light.

Sinaia Monastery - Direct Sunlight Challenge

5. Create your own shade by stretching out a length of semi-translucent material to defuse the light falling on your subject. No example as, on this particular day, I didn’t use this method.

The takeaways are simple… Pause for a moment to look around, shoot to suit the conditions, get the safe shots (misquoted from Don’s workshop), be prepared to try something different and there really is no one best way but there is your way.