Applying the Experiment
Now that I was more familiar with shooting water and making it appear black, I decided to apply the skills to my product photography. (These are the types of things that I do for fun, by the way.)
I was in the middle of a series of experiments for which I shot the same bottle of cologne in as many ways as I could come up with, in order to sharpen my product photography skills. This shoot ended up being my third experiment and began much like the pool shoot, but on a smaller scale. This time, I used a shallow glass dish, one black towel, and less water. I first tried placing the towel below the glass dish, but the glass created an awful glare. Moving the towel into the dish helped with the glare, but changed the water level.
I wanted just enough to cover the towel and the bottom portion of the cologne bottle, without fully submerging it.
I dialed in the lighting (and the water), then agitated the dish to create water ripples around the bottle. In the process, I also produced air bubbles. Tiny, little air bubbles. Like thousands of them. They were all over the inside the dish, including inside the cologne bottle lid (Figure 8.6). I tried removing them, one at a time, using the Spot Removal tool in Lightroom but gave up after 10 minutes, with another hour or two of work ahead of me. Now what?
Figure 8.6 The shot looked good—or would, minus a few (thousand) air bubbles.
My bubble solution may be the most important lesson of the shoot: Know when to outsource your work. We’ve all been there, with several jobs shot and waiting to be edited, when a painstaking, time-sucking moment like the removal of thousands of air bubbles comes along, and you have to make a decision. Fall behind on other work or speed up the process by outsourcing portions of a job?
For the bubbles, I outsourced the cleanup work to my retoucher friend. I know some photographers who hand off all of their editing and color grading to employees, interns, or coworkers, while they stick to shooting. There isn’t anything wrong with this, but I prefer to have my hand in the whole process. I find that my photo shoots are done almost equally in the camera and the editing. I let the mood of the images influence how I color grade them; I’m not comfortable leaving those decisions up to another person. After I’ve already put my signature color grading on the image, however, I have no problem sending the file off to a retoucher to have them remove all the air bubbles (Figure 8.7). Decide how much of your hand needs to be involved and how much you’re comfortable handing off to someone else, so you’re not left buried in bubbles.
Figure 8.7 I applied what I learned in the previous water experiment to my product photography. Same principles, just on a smaller scale.