J20 Bottle Shoot – Building the Scene

The other week I decided I wanted a little project, just something that was quick, but delivered pleasing images. So after throwing a few ideas around, I decided it would be fun to photograph some bottles. Originally I thought of whisky, wine, etc, but this is not something I have readily to hand, and decided an alternative approach would be to go down the fun drink route and photograph some J20 bottles. So while out shopping we picked up our favourite flavor and they then sat at home for a week waiting for me as life took over.

Finally I had an hour spare to capture the photographs. So for the shoot I grabbed the following bits, nothing expensive, but all capable for my needs.

  • 1 x Phot-R 4m Heavy Duty Umbrella Softbox Flash Photo Studio 2-in-1 Combi Combination Light Boom (used to hold the softbox as a main light above the bottle)
  • 1 x Photography Light Stand by Koing (used to hold the rear flash)
  • 1 x Neewer 70 x 70 cm Speedlite Studio Flash and Umbrella Softbox (main light)
  • 1 x Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Stacking Grid System  (used to light the background)
  • 2 x Yongnuo 565EX ETTL Speedlite Flash
  • 2 x Yongnuo YN-622C Wireless TTL Flash Trigger Wireless Transceiver
  • 1 x Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL wireless flash controller
  • Colour filters
  • 2 Perspex sheets – 1 opal and the other translucent
  • Clamps to hold sheets
  • Black card to stop reflections and white for a bounce

So the purpose of this equipment was to support the following diagram.

Process to getting to the final images

Initially I setup a single bottle on the Perspex and to gauge the main light. After this, it was a case of bringing in the background light to an acceptable level so that it achieved a nice glow. Once done the main light was then turned back on to fill the scene. This then delivered a starting image to work from. One issue immediately noticed was that the main light was casting onto the background and washing it out slightly. So to fix this the softbox (main light) was moved slightly forward and angled to avoid light spill onto the background.

After this I introduced another bottle and some water to the scene. This water was mixed with vegetable glycerine in a spritzer bottle. The glycerine is used to prevent the water from running down the bottle and provide an appearance of a chilled bottle condensing what ever the temperature.


Building the scene further, it was time to fine some ice. Quite often this would be fake ice cubes, but I don’t have those so this was the real thing for me. Not too much of an issue as I was using flash and not strobes that deliver heat and subsequently melt the ice.

Once the ice was in place and I decided I did not like the blank space between the bottles, as I wanted to portray a group,  as this was a social bottle gathering rather than 2 distinct bottles. Easy to fix, bring in the third bottle.

After third bottle was added and some minor adjustment to the scene, the final images were taken changing just the rear flash filter colour.

All in all, very happy with the result of an hours fun.