Tuesday, February 9, 2016


When I was approached by this winery to do some advertising photography and heard what they thought they wanted—the usual sterile, cliche, studio style all their competitors were doing—I set about to change their minds.  If you’ve seen this blog before you already know that my preference is to use natural light in my photography when appropriate—which is most of the time!  In this case I felt natural light was the only way to do such an organic product.  I told them that I wanted to reconnect that bottle of wine to the vineyard—that sold them!

Then it was off to their vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains—a short drive from where our studio was, at the time, in downtown Saratoga, California. I made arrangements to meet with their management on a clear evening at 5:30pm.  Since this was in August I wanted to be in the vineyard doing photography by 6:30pm, at the earliest, to avoid any direct sunlight on my subject-getting that nice late, soft, light towards sunset.  After I rummaged through one of their ware houses scoring a nice old, wooden crate we headed out to the vineyard with the bottles they wanted photographed.

Lighting on the location:

Placement of the subject is everything when using natural light outdoors, no matter what your subject is.  In this situation I started walking down the vineyard’s rows that were backlit, (so I’m facing West) looking for some nice bunches of grapes at the height of my wooden crate. Remember what I said earlier—I don’t want ANY direct sunlight on my subjects.  Why?  We need to control the dynamic range of the scene.  Direct sunlight would blow-out the white labels on the wine bottles when we got the grapes and leaves properly exposed. 

Now, my main light is the clear blue sky above and behind me (“the sky is my soft box”).

 f9.5 @ 1/20 sec., ISO 400, Lens @ 70mm
This was the final image.  You can see by looking at the tops of the bottles where by light source is—nice soft sky light.

 f6.7 @ 1/20 sec., ISO 400
We also did a single setup of the different wine variety showing an entire bottle.

f8.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400
On my first visit to talk with the owners about this job I did a quick scout of the location. I did this image for a color/detail insert. It was in the morning so there was a lot of backlight for the grape bunch I chose.

f9.5 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400
As I was leaving I got this nice scene of a portion of their vineyards. I really like the series of rolling hills in rim-light. I always do extra images like this on a job—I can’t help it when I get inspired I just keep shooting while the light is good! On the business side this is really good.  You want to over-deliver when it comes to images—surprise them with views they had not thought of. That’s how you can really impress the client—then they buy more!

As usual, should you have any questions or comments leave them below and I’ll get back to you.
’Til next week.

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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