Last Spring the art director at Wine Spectator called me to shoot Charles Smith of Charles Smith Wines, K Vintners and other brands. She reached out to me for their feature because she was confident I could handle Charles’ larger-than-life personality and still come home with the goods. He’s an ex-concert promoter with a bit of a wild side. Over two days in Walla Walla, we shot Charles and his team in four locations, including his home cellar and brand new tasting room. The tasting room is a gorgeously renovated historic building with spectacular light and really cool steel walls. Shooting Charles was a bit of a challenge. I understood that he wasn’t going to let me push him too hard, but rather, I needed to be intuitive about how to let him “lead” but still get the kinds of images that I wanted to make. My favorite of these is the portrait with the steel background. It’s graphic and arresting–like the man himself. Total dream assignment.
This is probably the most spectacular vineyard I’ve photographed so far. We had the opportunity to meet the terrific people at Pacific Rim to shoot their Wallula vineyards and winery in Eastern Washington. From dawn until sunset, we documented their bio-dynamic vineyards, winemakers, vineyard workers and the finally the winery in Wenatchee Washington. Pacific Rim is one of the largest Riesling producers in the West.
Gotta just love the name, right? Ultratravel. Picture Editor Joe Plimmer of the UK’s Telegraph called us up to shoot a story on the food, wine & coffee scene around Oregon for their international travel mag, Ultratravel. Opening spread is pictured here.
Do you think it was hard for Maria Stuart to get volunteer models for this photo shoot? After all the job description might have been something like this: “Wanted: Happy, friendly people to come drink wine and enjoy themselves.” Oh, and you have to eat some yummy food, too.
It’s always a pleasure to shoot for R Stuart & Co. They recently updated their label art (it’s gorgeous) and wanted to expand on their library of marketing images. The great thing about working with Maria and Rob Stuart is that they share their basic goal then let us run with our ideas. It’s often free form and creative and sometimes we’re all surprised with some of the images. In this case, I think the outdoor images were the unexpected photos. It was a lovely evening, the models were connecting well and it comes across nicely.
Because we’ve got a fair number of winery clients on our roster, we shoot a lot of wine bottles. On the surface, it seems like a simple thing–the bottle is small, it doesn’t talk or move and you can put it pretty much where ever you want. While it is straightforward, it’s not simple. The bottle and the label need to express the brand and sell the wine. To do that, we’ve developed three different approaches to wine bottle photography. Here’s a few examples.
Studio shots for knockout/catalog/e-commerce
While this seems like the easiest kind of wine bottle photography, it’s actually the more challenging. Wineries invest a huge amount of money in the design of their labels and the look of their bottles, so this simple shot needs to make the best of both. In additional to flattering the bottle and label, we’re building good-looking highlights and reflections in the glass.
Styled Studio Shots
When wineries want to express a bit more about their brand, they’ll ask for a styled shot. In our studio or on location, we’ll choose surfaces, props and lighting that telegraph aspects about the wine or the brand. A big, dramatic red might call for sexy lighting and and rich surfaces while a crisp white might call for a sunnier approach. A styled bottle shot boils down to a compelling still life about that particular wine.
Bottle shots done on location are a great opportunity to evoke the textures and atmosphere of the tasting room experience. Working with surfaces and props on hand, the primary goal is to make the bottle look great while incorporating some of the environment. That might be a rustic barrel or a shiny tasting surface. Location wine bottle photography is often the most fun and efficient way to create a family of wine bottle images.
If you’re like more information or a quote for wine bottle photography, drop me a line here.
Just because a shot is simple, it still needs subtlety and finesse. At some point almost every winery or vintner needs bottle shots for knock out. And if you’ve ever tried to do it yourself, you quickly learned that dark colored bottles reflect every little glint and sparkle in the room, and probably you and your camera as well.
For us bottle shots are like little portraits. We control reflections while shaping the bottle with highlights. It’s not rocket science, but it is a task worthy of diligence and care. And the result makes your catalog, brochure or website look more polished.
If you’ve got wine to sell, consider your babies worthy of a thoughtful portrait.