How Do They Do That?

Have you ever wondered how a photograph that looks unbelievable is actually created?

You know the sort of thing:

red wine pour bottle

Or this:

wine bottle pour

I’m perhaps getting a reputation for shooting pretty strange things, but I decided, one wet afternoon, to have a go at taking these type of shots. The basic setup is reasonably simple. You need to find a room without a carpet first!

Then set up a large plastic bowl to catch the wine and place a wire rack across the top of it. Fasten some strong cord to the bottom edges of your wine bottle so you can hang it upside down from a frame (use duct tape to stick the cord in place).

Finally, set up a white card behind the shooting area and use one or two flash guns to fully light the card and set your aperture so that the card is completely blown to white in your camera. The basic setup looks like this:

In this shot, I have removed the temporary stopper from the bottle (when it was neck upwards) and put my thumb over the end.

Carefully let the bottle down to the vertical upside down position, get your remote ready in your other hand and remove your thumb to let the wine flow out. If you have it all aligned, the wine will flow directly into the glass and the flash will freeze the flow and droplets in mid-stream.

At least that is the theory! Once all the wine is out of the bottle, you can pour it back from the glass and the plastic bowl back into the bottle and try again.

My final attempt required a bit of Photoshop:

wine bottle pour

This is an image merged from two separate shots. I had one of the glass with a flow going directly into it and a second of the bottle neck and flow with a nice pattern inside the bottle. Because the background is pure white, it is pretty easy to merge them and erase the areas that you don’t want.

I then used a new feature in the later versions of Photoshop – puppet warp. This lets you put pins into areas of the image that you want to stay in place and then move other areas a little bit like the arm of a puppet.

All the pixels are moved to keep the effect believable. In this one, I bend the bottle and flow over to the right with a pivot point in the middle of the flow of wine.

All that is needed at the end is to wash the splashes off the floor and do something with all that wine. But that is a different story.

About the author: Steve Heap is one of the top stock photographers working today. With a
portfolio of well over 4000 images, Steve’s photos have been licensed all
over the world. You can find Steve Heap’s entire portfolio online at Steve has also written a book for photographers looking to follow in his footsteps – Getting Started in Stock Photography.

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    1. Marc,

      Thanks! I had a lot of fun with this one. A bit messy, and wasteful of wine (although some of the remains were put to good use), but it is surprising what the wine does when frozen in flash lighting.


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