As 2016 comes to an end, I thought I’d take this year out with a short tutorial on a recent image of mine I created for my product photography portfolio. I’m working diligently to fill my book with stunning imagery, and it’s a time consuming process! Here is the final image I’ll be breaking down:
Compositing is a huge part of my architectural & interiors work, so I want to apply that same mindset to my product work. This image is a composite of 3 elements – the bottle, the splashes, and the background. The bottle and splashes were photographed separately (the splashes are part of a Photigy splash pack, more on that later) and composited together in Photoshop.
The first step for me was to photograph the bottle. To hold up the bottle, I hot glued the back to a metal rod (you can get a 40″ long metal rod from home depot for like $7) and secured it into a grip head. I used two scrims on either side with strip boxes behind the scrims at an angle to create slight gradients, then I placed a white card behind the product to provide a clean background. I’m anxious to try this again with an odd color card, like a green screen, to make my clipping process easier.
The next step for me was to import this image into photoshop, and create a clipping path around the product. I used the pen tool, feathered the edges by 2 pixels, and contracted the selection by another 2 pixels (Select>Modify). This ensured a clean mask and no white edging around the product.
After you have the the bottle isolated from the background, you can begin working on “cleaning” it. There is a reflection from the metal rod holding the bottle, and various dust particles and imperfections in the product. all of that needs to be removed and cleaned so it doesn’t distract from the final image. I used the clone stamp tool, patch tool, spot healing brush, and a few different filters to clean the surface and get rid of scratches and dust (Filter>Noise>Median & Filter>Blur>Surface Blur).
After the bottle is cleaned of all imperfections, I moved onto the background and splashes. I purchased some splash packs from Photigy, and for this particular shot I used a few splashes from the “Milk on Black” splash pack. They had a holiday sale and I got a few packs for 50% off, but normally each pack runs $50 and includes GIGABYTES worth of hi-res splash images. It’s definitely worth a look if you don’t want to get messy in the studio, don’t have equipment to create splashes, or if you want to experiment with clipping, shaping, and incorporating splashes into your work.
I recommend learning how to create splashes of your own so you can expand beyond what someone else has done for you, but these packs are a good start for getting your feet wet and I’m sure I’ll use them again in the future.
For the background, I simply used the radial gradient tool, selected white and a light area of the product, and created a gradient on it’s own layer behind the image. I played with it a few times until I got the desired effect.
I selected the splashes I wanted out of the pack and imported them into photoshop. Since it was milk on a black background, using channels and curves adjustments, I was easily able to separate and mask out the background, leaving only the splash. I imported the splash into my other document and positioned it the way I wanted using transform tools and the puppet warp tool.
After positioning the splashes and masking out the splash portions covering parts of the bottle I didn’t want it to, I then created some shadows on the splashes and the bottle and brightened the splashes using curves adjustments. The fake shadows help bring some realism to the composite and I think our subconscious minds expect a shadows to be there.
For the final image, I combined all layers to a new layer (Command-Option-Shift-E), sent that layer to Camera Raw for adjustments (Command-Shift-A), saved my PSD/PSB file, then exported as a JPG. I would say the total time spent on this project was 2-3 hours. I spent about 30 minutes in my studio photographing the bottle, and the rest was spent in post. I hope this tutorial has helped, and if I left anything unanswered or could clear anything up, please leave me a comment below! Thanks!
Landon Wiggs is an arizona based commercial photographer specializing in architecture, interiors, and product photography. To schedule a shoot or inquire about services and pricing, contact him here.