The importance of understanding your client’s product.

Product photography isn’t something you just jump into without good preparation. Not just the location and the light – but the aims, the purpose – as well as the logistics, all play a vital role.

I was recently documenting about 500 bottles of vintage drinks – starting from the year 1900 working upto 2000. 100 years, 500 bottles of whisky, wine, brandy, madeira and port.

The client, a renown wines and spirits merchant in North Yorkshire, was helping me work through the long list of products – locating each bottle from the shelves, cellar or elsewhere, checking it off a list, carefully dusting it, placing it, checking the light, taking the photo and returning the bottle in the correct place.

Quite an operation and process was set up, and it became almost mechanical. However, when I was left to my own devices, problems could have occurred with overzealousness and lack of respect for the product.

You see, at that time, we had moved off wine and onto port. Some of the bottles were dating back to the 1970’s, and looked like they hadn’t been touched since they first arrived. However, their state of dust wasn’t down to poor housekeeping, but it’s how a bottle of port (vintage port) should be left. Due to the nature of the product it’s best to handle as little as possible – this would stir up the sediment inside the older bottles. Instead, they are left until needed.

So rather than a dust covered 1970 Grahams Vintage Port trying to look like it’s been sleeping peacefully in a dusty cellar – for the aesthetic and marketability,  collectors and investors would expect to see a dust covered bottle – as it shows it’s been looked after in the right way by a wine merchant rather than a merchandiser.

So before you whip out the duster and bottle of pledge on a photoshoot, just make sure you understand the product and the target market first.

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