Wine Bottle Photography

As a commercial photographer Karl specialises in product photography and in this live product photography workshop, where he shoots a bottle of red wine, he shares a host of useful techniques that can be applied to the genre as a whole.

In this show he demonstrates two very different lighting setups to achieve a variety of different shots, explaining the modifiers, background choices, lighting considerations and post-production requirements for each.

You can follow step by step as he reveals the gradual process of achieving the perfect product photograph of a bottle of red wine.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • Product photography: How to photograph wine bottles
  • Product photography tips
  • Lighting modifiers for product photography
  • Rim lighting techniques
  • How to control reflections in bottles
  • Working with composite images
  • Correcting image distortion
  • Photographing using coloured gels

If you’d like more on product photography, make sure to visit our Product section.

If you have any questions regarding this workshop post them in the comments section below.

We no longer sell diffusion material, however if you would like to find out more about our Member discounts get in touch.


  1. Hello Karl, in order to shoot the glass and bottle in situ, is it possible to use 3 lights: left, right and top to do the rim light instead of using the single light back lighting?

    1. Yes that may be possible, check the rim lighting version I did on the motorcycle boot in our Product section as a similar example.

  2. Karl, I know that soft boxes of all shapes and sizes are relatively inexpensive, but would you be able to recommend any alternative lighting arrangement in place of the soft box behind the bottle?

  3. Hello Karl,
    Any chance you can point me where I could find a boom pole like the one you are using to hold the 216 diffusion paper roll? I cannot find one of this length (60″) to hold the roll on a c stand just like you do.
    Thank you for the advice.

  4. I have been shooting wines for awhile now.. taken a lot of what you have been doing in your shoots and improving my work. Gotten some great shots. I happen to be working with a vineyard and they have quite a family of wines. Whites, pinks, bright blushes and reds. I have tried photographing two bottles together and of course the bright blush bled colour all over the the pink. I tried it both together, and shooting each separately and compositing. Very different results. Do you always shoot the items separately then composite? And the same for a wine glass with a bottle. The bottle reflections are always affected in some fashion from the glass. Do you always shoot separate and then composite?

    And a question about shooting those family of wines together. The reds seem to be so different to capture, so dark compared with the wines that glow. How do you approach when a shot requires both types?

    1. Hi Gary, I can’t remember having to shoot them together but I’m sure I’d find a way to make it work but as you mentioned if it became to time consuming then it might be better to lock the camera down and do them separately. With regards the bottle and the glass together it depends how close the glass is to the bottle, if it will block some light or cause unwanted reflections. This has meant I have done both versions with glass separate and together. I will keep your comments in mind for a future live show on shooting white and red wine together in a set.

  5. These are Gold Karl, thanks! Question, still have a white wine bottle coming up soon? I’ve nailed the red wine, and keen for the next!

      1. Thanks Karl, yes I checked out that Tutorial too. Is it possible to shoot a white wine bottle to give the same effect as the red bottle in order to have a consistent look across a brands selection? Or will transparent bottles always need to have a different look due to ‘physics’.

        Thanks much, Aaron.

        1. Hi Aaron, You could shoot a white wine bottle in the same set but you’d have to use the silver card behind to illuminate the liquid or it will look dead or off colour. You’d bounce the light off of that card from your main scrim or softbox in the same way as the whisky shoot.

          1. Thanks so much. I’ll give it a crack and send through the results.

            Since joining I’ve bought broncolor 30 x 180 + 120 x 180 + a roll of diffusion + made a 4m x 1.5m scrim frame + painted up a bunch PVC board (can’t get black Foam core here, only white) + converted my Dedo projection attachment onto one of my Profoto strobes. So, thanks for the inspiration!


  6. Hi Karl. I’m curious as to how you decide when to use your DIY scrim with the tracing paper vs the diffusion material on the c-stand. Is there a difference.

  7. I really love your tutorials. I bought a gigantic softbox like you use for this video and it’s so great, thanks for all your recommendations. If you don’t already own one, and if you love useful toys, you might consider getting a small laser cutter. You make one template in Adobe Illustrator for something like the wine bottle cutout, and then you can make a new one in 5 minutes, or change it slightly for a larger or smaller bottle. Students can usually find one at their university or local maker shop. I find them very useful and fun.

  8. Hello Karl! Thanks a lot for giving us the chance to go further! Just a short question, every time that I am going to brighten the label of the bottle I am always struggling with the reflection of the snoot’s light on the up side of the bottle . Is there any way to eliminate it?


    1. Hi Karl,

      Really enjoyed this class. Thank you! I know you highly recommend using the larger 120×180 Soft box but I am wondering if I’d be able to get similar results with the Godox 31.5×47.2″ Softbox. Godox makes them affordable and I believe that’s the closest one in size to the one you recommend. So many things I still need to get and I’d rather spend the big bucks on lighting. Thanks again!

    2. Hi Tilemachos, unfortunately the reflection of the snoot will always show up in the glass shoulder of the bottle if you are lighting for the label. You may try holding a flag in position but it’s probably just as easy to run an ‘Action’ in photoshop to undertake a healing brush action. This can work if every bottle is in the same place and same shape then you can automate the process in PS. The only other alternative is a light like the projection attachment, which is so precise that it only lights the label.

    1. Hi, it can be smaller as long as the light is tall enough to reflect up the whole bottle. Remember the highlight on the bottle is simply a reflected image of the light source. The physics dictates how big (or close) that light source needs to be, but with scrims there are ways to make a smaller light source appear bigger.

  9. Very interesting tutorial as always. I am struggling to find a Picolight to buy. do you have any link to share?


    1. I found one from Godox. It was made for video. Haven’t tested it as yet and but they recently came out with a Bowen mount attachment.

    2. Hi, thank you. Visit broncolor’s website and it should have there dealer list, or email them for further info.

  10. This video has opened my eyes to a world of creative possibilities! As I am somewhat financially strapped, I have achieved an excellent “ghetto” variant of the picolight with a $20 ebay vintage projector combined with a speedlight. I just gutted the projector and removed the light bulb. I then machined a holder for a godox speedlight. I find that I can modify the output with various covers to contain the light. I can use the built in focus mechanism to achieve the defocus described in the video. Yes I would prefer to use the nice picolight. But felt like maybe others in the same boat as I could use a cheap alternative. Best regards, Emile.

  11. Thanks for this great and educated Tutorial.
    you said that will be another tutorial for shooting white wine.
    i can’t see it… where this tutorial ?
    can you send a link ?
    thank you very much

          1. thank you very much.
            two more questions :
            1. is there a link for buying diffuse paper in your web site ?
            2. where in my profile, i can change the picture ?

          2. Hi, I’m afraid that we do not sell the diffusion paper on our site but you can find a list of Lee Filter distributors at this link here –

            To add a profile picture the member needs a Gravatar which is a globally recognised avatar.

            Once you have created one of these using the email address you use to login to the website your picture will then show up on our website.

            Hope this helps,

  12. Dear Karl,

    Thank you for the FANTASTIC content you propose. I walk around the Internet for years searching for quality courses and I must say that you offer the most precise, professional and complete content I’ve ever seen.

    Please don’t stop.

    Cheers from Luxembourg.

  13. Followed the directions. Now I have a crackin’ photo. Noticed there are so many ways to adjust the lights to wrap and fade. Thank you!

  14. Karl, I am having a hard time finding those acrylic mirrors, can you help? I live in Atlanta, Georgia

    1. Hi, try a sign service company or plastic supply company – Plexiglass Mirrors or Acrylic Mirrors.

  15. Hi Karl, would using the 100×100 softbox on the left be much different to using the 120×180 since still reasonably big compared to the size of the bottle?

    1. Hi Cameron, yes should be OK but remember size of the softbox is from the subjects point of view, so the distance from the subject also dictates size.

  16. Hello Karl,

    Hope all is well with you and your team..

    I have a question regarding flair. I noticed you flagged the sides to reduce the flair, but how come you don’t get flair from the top? Or is that because the light is shooting over the top of the camera ?

    1. Hi Philip, flare comes from the direction the light is coming from and you can actually see it in camera or on the test shot, so you simply need to block what you can see. If there was a need to eliminate any flare from the top and sides I would have used a window mask as you will see me use in many other tutorials.

  17. Hi Karl,

    Where can I get an extension tube for the Hasselblad lens? I can’t seem to find one on eBay πŸ˜€

  18. Hi Karl,

    You answered on one of the questions asked on the live show that you’re using an extension tube with a 80 mm lens and you prefer it over a 100mm Micro,
    What particular model were you talking about?
    and what (Canon) lens can you recommend for doing product photography and what extension tube? I do own a Canon 100 mm Micro and would like to expand my arsenal if it can help me achieve better images

    Thank you!

    1. Hi, The Canon 100mm Macro is probably the better option, you will see Anna and I shooting with it on a lot of the food tutorials. I was talking about Medium format lenses and not seeing a great deal of difference between those macro lenses and the using extension tubes. However a good inexpensive set of extension tubes for canon is a brand called Kenko (not the coffee brand).

  19. Hello Karl, I have a question, how would you achieve that color glow in a clear white bottle, for example a Vodka or Tequila bottle, I would think that the whole bottle would get in color? Thanks.

    1. Hello Pabel, why would you want to achieve a coloured glow down the side of a bottle such as vodka or tequila? That is not something you would normally want? If the light was coming from the back like in the second setup in this video then the colour would refract through the bottle and be visible on the opposite side of the bottle as well as putting colour on the glass on the other side. The whole bottle would not get in colour. If you watch this tutorial you will better understand what is happening and where the light is coming from

  20. Thanks a ton Karl for making one more in-depth live show/tutorial.
    Probably the best way to make the most of available time, during the lock down.

  21. hi karl
    you mentioned having a large soft box is the best to have….I only have two medium sized soft boxes at the moment could I place them side by side to get the effect of a larger single softbox


    1. Hi Lee, yes that’s perfectly OK but there may be a visible ‘stripe’ of darkness reflecting from between them if you are not using diffusion material in front.

  22. Hey Karl, just out of curiosity I wanted to know that in this live show you mentioned that Polarizing filter does not work well with removing the reflections of a shiny metal surface but in one of your modules which is dedicated on Polarizing filters you’ve shown us how to remove reflections of a shiny metal surface. I’m a bit confused please help. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Polarisers don’t work well on bare metal due to that light reflected from bare metal is not polarised. Can you tell me which module you think I mention this? Are you sure it wasn’t coated metal?

      1. Hey Karl, unfortunately, I misunderstood the information given in your module, a big apology for my mistake & thank you for making me understand properly & clearing my doubts. The best platform to learn.

  23. Hi Karl,

    as there are so many gels from LEE, what kind of gels do you recommend for all purpose? which orange, red, blue… thx for help

    1. Hi please can you email that question in to Emma and she will give you a list of our most commonly used gels.

  24. hey Karl,

    At the minute : 24:44 of this video, your picolite reflects on the bottle. That happened to me when i was trying to use the snoot and I couldn’t get that headache away. Any solution?

    1. Hi, a snoot will unfortunately stand out much more strongly as a reflection on a bottle than a projection attachment. The simple trick is to retouch the dot of light afterwards.

  25. I’m always amazed how easy you make things look!

    This is a great class! I can’t say that you’ve given a bad one to be honest! I used to be a member of Kelbyone training and I haven’t looked back since my swap!

    You have helped me grow as a Photographer.

  26. Absolutely brilliant, Karl. I’ve used this technique multiple times on dark bottles/objects and it works every time. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, your passion and your expertise! Love that passion!

  27. Hello Karl,
    I built a big diffuser with savage translum and a wooden frame. Is it possible that the color of the wood frame affects my color temperature and makes it more yellow, warmer? If so, what face of the diffuser produces this effect: the one that touches the focus or the one that touches the bottle. (On the other side I also have a softox). Do I have to paint the white or black wood? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi I’d be very surprised if the wooden frame has any affect. It’s most likely the colour of the Savage translum? You could try putting black tape over your wooden frame though to check.

      1. in regards to Translum – it comest in three grades..

        lightweight – (.127mm) thickness
        medium – (.2mm) thickness
        heavyweight – (.3429mm) thickness

        Looking at LEE 216 – it’s made out of polyester, as is the lightweight Translum… logically then the lightweight Translum would be the option to choose for diffusing bottle shots?

        At what point would one use the Medium (Polypropylene) and Heavyweight (Styrene) versions of Translum? for what purpose?

        Thank you Karl! Learning immensely and at incredible speed with your courses!

        1. Hi, the only other one I use is the LEE 400LUX it’s thicker and tougher but doesn’t seem to do anything different. To be honest I don’t tend to get into the minor variances with these things. If I can see it’s diffusing well and giving me a good gradient then I can work with it. We can get too caught up in the semantics it’s better to just get on with shooting.

  28. Hi Karl,
    the final image in the video is different to the image shown on this site. Obviously the setting got optimized. What changes did you make?

    1. Hi Jens, if you look at the image on screen at 1:12:28 it is slightly different at this point. If we examine the image shown on the page let’s break down where the differences could come from. First let’s start with the left side of the image and the bigger softbox, on the image at 1:12:28 the light is going all the way to the back of the bottle so the physics dictates that the light was further behind/back than in the shot shown, also in the shot shown below the video the light is more curving around the front of the bottle and label, so the same softbox is uses and diffusion they are just closer to the camera and slightly more in-front of the bottle. The same applies to the one on the right but I would also say that it is closer to the bottle as the reflection looks bigger. The wooden base is darker but that was simply darkened in post production. When the show finished, I looked at the shot with fresh eyes and without the distractions of presenting and shooting and then I decided to try both lights forwards a little to separate the reflections from the back sides of the bottle or alternatively I may have simply moved the bottle back a little further and lowered my shooting height a little, other than that the set up is the same. Neither one is necessarily preferable over the other it is simply choice on how you feel about it at the time. Cheers Karl.

      1. Hi Karl,
        thank you very much for your detailed answer and thoughts on that – that’s very helpful! Also you left the red color on the right side away.
        It’s another good example of the importance of the so called fresh eyes.

        (I guess the final image we look at here is shown at 1:32:28, if anyone wants to take a look again.)

  29. superb tutorial Karl, thoroughly enjoyed it. Appreciate the way you teach, clear, concise you explain why it’s best to set lights up in the right way and the wrong way and seeing the results competes the jigsaw, will watch it again, thank you.


  30. Hi Karl, I have just one question. The reflection on the left hand side gets a bit rounded when it hits the label. I guess the reflection was selected and blured in photoshop and because there was a corner it got this rounded and doesen’t continue straight up. Is it for purpouse or a mistake? Thanks

        1. Hi Stepan, on my file I can see the top one but not the bottom. It may be your monitor not resolving all the tones on the top one. My guess would be that the scrim roll had curved away, this sometimes happens when it is not on a frame and it is just hanging on the roll from a grip arm. Thanks for pointing it out as I hadn’t noticed it before.

          1. Good morning Karl, thanks for your reply.

            I can see it correctly on my eizo There is a slight light fall of right under the label as well. At first I thought it was both caused by selecting and bluring the reflection but when I took a closer look I could see that on the top it’s the reflection itself that is not straight and on the bottom it’s probably some shadow from the label(it’s almost unnoticable but still can see it there…) anyway the question is whether it should be retouched to absolute technical perfection or just left more natural like this… Thanks for your time. I really like content of this website and it does’t cost an arm and leg πŸ™‚

          2. Hi Stepan, as explained I think it was caused from the diffusion material curling away and yes it should have been corrected or retouched. I haven’t checked the image on my Eizo only on my website on my macbook so I’ll sort it out when I get a chance. Glad you are enjoying KTE! πŸ™‚

        2. I just had a closer look and compared the final image with images in video and it’s something different… just forget what I said πŸ™‚

  31. Hi Karl,

    I have seen this tutorial twice already and each time I feel I get something new. Outstanding!!
    Could you achieve similar results using a 140 cm octobox and a speed light? I am afraid that is the extent of my budget now.


    1. Hi Jorge, as long as the speed light spreads well in the softbox then they work fine, the soft box must have an internal diffuser.

  32. Hi Karl, I went from having no idea about photographing bottles to being keen to have a go. I feel I’ve learnt a lot. Thank you.
    So I grabbed from the wine cellar (ha!) – it came with a highly silvered badge. This caused me no end of problems. I guess the problems would exist with many bottles that have reflective text/graphics…
    I tried to take several shots with a view to blending in PS, but even with many different attempts with different lights and diffusion modifiers, I still could not evenly illuminate the silver badge. My guess would be that silver writing would be harder still.
    Perhaps I could try a dulling spray, but this would have to be very targeted. Would it be possible ?
    Do you have any tips that might help, please, or is it just down to experimenting more with the lighting ?
    Thanks for putting together this valuable resource.

    1. Hi Barry, find the live whisky shoot with shiny label and you will get some good tips from that and also the recent one on pack shots I had to contend with shiny labels on some cosmetic bottles, you should find them all in the live shows replays section. Cheers Karl.

      1. Thanks for a quick, reply, Karl.

        I’ll take a look. I’ve only recently joined and have not yet worked through many courses. I’m trying to emulate your methods with smaller scale, continuous LED lighting. The journey begins …

  33. Hi Karl. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial.
    But I did not understand how to use that color palette.
    Have you a tutorial for that?

    1. Hi Micaela, we’ve had a few people asking about that so I’m going to produce a tutorial on that soon. Thanks Karl.

  34. Can’t stress enough how much your shows and education program has been a breath of fresh air. So much knowledge is passed on, very clear to follow, and the techniques to get the results are amazing, could have spent hundreds on books and still wouldn’t get the education I do from your courses. Keep em coming, I am hooked πŸ™‚

  35. Thanks Karl, I was even thinking of using my old Bron light brush just to light the label.
    I’m enjoying your monthly workshops-thanks!

  36. Hi Karl
    When you didn’t own Bron and a pico light how would you have lit the label with basic elinchrom lights please.

    I’ve got snoots etc and even the Elinchrom Zoom 12 degrees to 24 degrees.



    1. Hi Elizabeth, I would have used a couple of grids in front of the snoot. Or I would have constructed a really tight snoot out of cardboard and wrapped it around the actual snoot to make the tightest circle possible and then messed around moving it backwards and forwards to get the right size.

      1. Hi Karl,

        In response to this answer to Elizabeth’s question would barn doors work at all?

        Thanks Craig

        1. Hi Craig do you mean about lighting the label. If so then the answer is no, barn doors will not work for this. See duck food chapter for tips.

  37. Thank you for sharing your knowledge you really do great job!I am very new member to your education community and also new photographer (2 years old).I would like to ask if soften so much the edges of light does create banding effect because in some shoots i saw this effect and if that wasn’t my monitor fault because i saw this lesson on my laptop how do you handle that?

    Thanks in advanced for your time!

    1. Hi Giorgos, Thank you for your kind words. In answer to your question we should never compromise our lighting because we are worried about resulting banding in gradations otherwise we would be unable to create a number of beautiful lit situations from glossy objects to graduated backgrounds. Banding is not really an issue if your work flow is correct. 1. A high quality sensor in 14bit-16bit, 2. A high dynamic range of a sensor. 3. Shooting in RAW mode and then exporting and working in 16bit image files. 4 and following my procedures for removing any banding as demonstrated in my ‘Post Production’ modules. It may be that a low quality monitor or a bad printer shows banding but that doesn’t always mean it is actually there. Cheers Karl.

  38. I missed the live show, but your show is just amazing as I can watch again and again and learn more and more. I am thinking in going into product photography and this will help me a lot. and $14 is just nothing of what we are getting in return.

  39. Definitely your best live show so far. Product photography is where you shine and I learnt a lot from you through the years. Thank you Master for this great learning platform and for sharing your technique. Much appreciated.

  40. Hi Karl,
    Couple of questions for you:
    1) at about 6:30 you place the bottle right at the end. Why is this placement so specific?
    2) what is the purpose of the black card behind the bottle in the initial setup?

    Will potentially follow up with more Iater.

    1. Hi Kryn, did you have your sound on for this video as those things were explained, maybe I’ve misunderstood your question but certainly the purpose of the black card was made clear as that was the whole purpose of that demonstration? The reason the bottle was so close to the back edge to ensure the maximum light wrap around. At the very start I also explained how it could be done with more lights from the side and top but obviously the technique I demonstrated only needed one light.

      1. Ya, I wrote the question down before continuing watching it. At several points you did indeed provide several statements that explained the use of the template.
        From what I got: it allows even wraparound of light around the bottle, it provides a means to create a black background whilst still having that wraparound using a single strobe, and if shooting light through the bottle that’d just look weird. Did I understand that correctly ?

        There’s a LOT of good info in there, so I’ll probably go back a few more times.

    2. Another question I have is related to the size of the modifiers you use.
      In this tutorial you use your largest softbox and huge reflector panels. The strip lights aren’t the smallest either.
      Is there a specific reason why you use the biggest ones available, or could we do with something smaller?
      How could people with small work spaces handle this?

      1. Hi Kryn, the unfortunate thing with wine bottles from a photography point of view is that they are tall, they have a shoulder and they round, all of these things mean that a huge amount of surrounding area is reflected back into the bottle. The only way to over come this is to have something very big and/or close to the subject to reduce the angle of incidence for any other reflections. The cheapest way is to use large scrim rolls as I was doing and then you can put smaller softboxes into these. Or use a white wall or use a method similar to the ‘kettle’ shot in the ‘product’ section.

  41. Hey Karl,

    I love what you are doing, I would be glad to spread the word about this new major Learning source for Still Life Photographers.

    Let me know how I can help.

  42. Thanks for the great demonstration and tips.
    Would there be a tutorial on post to compliment this great demonstration…?

    1. Hi Keith, glad you enjoyed this live show. The minimal post requirement for a shoot like this are covered in our post production section. We’ve also just released a new product shoot in ‘product’ product extras section that is the shoot and post work which you might enjoy. Cheers Karl.

  43. Karl,
    Watched this after the fact but this helped me out greatly. I’m certainly looking forward to the upcoming product tutorials.


  44. Thanks for the quick upload, once again I missed the ‘live show’. I am getting into product photography and this was an eye opener of the little inexpensive tricks to play with light to change the outcome of the picture. All at $14 a month, you would have to be a fool to think you are not getting value for money.

Leave a Comment