You’re sitting in a winery tasting room. The sun shines through the window as you swirl your drink. Just as you raise your wine to take a quick sniff, you hear a click. Your companion has just snapped a photo of you with your nose in your glass.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with this picture, but it’s one frequently spotted on Instagram feeds. To ensure that your winery shots stand out, we talked to four experts.
Lighting and Lines
“Photography is made up of two major elements, and that is light and line,” says Heather Daenitz, founder and photographer of Craft & Cluster, an agency that helps wine brands communicate how their “wine gets from grapes to glass,” she says.
“These two principles, light and line, are going to be important, regardless of the camera that you use,” says Daenitz. “You could have the best equipment in the world, and if you don’t understand these two principles, your photos are only going to be okay.”
Emma K. Morris is a Northern California-based photographer who works with wineries, resorts and restaurants in and around Napa Valley.
“The very best time to shoot, known as ‘magic hour,’ is the hour or so prior to sunset,” says Morris. “This works well especially in the vineyard, so try to book your visit for the end of the day, if you can.”
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Just after sunrise and just before sunset make for great lighting, agrees Daenitz. But these hours may not be feasible for everyone.
“If you are in that space where you have to photograph in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead, then the next best option would be to try and find a shady spot,” she says.
Morris adds that a porch with “filtered indirect light” can make for a nice photo composition.
If you shoot inside, look for a light source like a window, but shoot away from it so your subject isn’t backlit.
If you aren’t able to find shade in the middle of the day, Daenitz recommends using shadows to your advantage, which is where “lines” come into play.
The “rule of thirds” is a common principle utilized by many photographers.
“The rule of thirds is that if you were split a photo into three separate sections, either vertically or horizontally, you would want your anchoring subjects to sit in one of those sections,” says Daenitz. “And that is going to help move your eye across the page.”
Tell a Story
Noël Burgess is a feature writer at Monarch Wine and founder of WineoXperience, a guide that aims to help wine be “inclusive and equitable.”
Burgess’ Instagram account has approximately 44,500 followers. “When I’m looking through my iPhone lens, I try to have in my mind, ‘What am I actually seeing, and how am I feeling?’ ”
He also stresses to capture moments as they are.
“[If] someone is taking photos of me, I usually ask that individual, ‘What are your expectations when you’re taking this photo? What are you feeling in this moment?’ ” says Burgess. “And I would say 99% of the photos someone takes of me, I’m laughing and smiling because they said something hilarious. It’s never, ‘Oh, can you fake smile?’ I really don’t want to do that. Let’s have a conversation. And then if something is funny, you’ll see a smile come out on my face.”
Hannah Spiegel grew up around wineries in California and has a website/blog, Vino for Breakfast. Her Instagram account has approximately 13,400 followers.
“My whole thing is wanting to make [wine] casual and approachable,” says Spiegel. “I think there’s a lot of pretenses around the idea that wine has to be very formal… And I found the way to stand out is just to be very authentic and true to what it is that you want your brand to be.”
It’s also important to pay attention to what makes a winery unique.
“I think every winery and vineyard is known for different things,” says Morris. “Try your best to capture what looks/seems different about your location. If it’s a hillside vineyard, capture the elevation and mountain backdrop. If it’s a historic tasting room with gorgeous architecture, that’s your golden ticket.”
For wineries that look to stand out on social media, “make sure that your anchor point is a thing that is distinguishable as your vineyard or your property or your company,” says Daenitz. “And honestly, the thing that I advocate for most often is showing off a person, a single person, because that is the most unique thing of any company.”
The right cameras and equipment to use can be challenging.
Morris recommends “both Canon and Nikon point and shoots with auto focus for beginning photography. Both have good tech support and assistance if needed, and most of the basic models are easy to learn and small enough to travel with.”
“If you’re wanting to elevate beyond an entry-level camera, then you’ll want to start looking at a full-frame camera,” says Daenitz.
Daenitz uses the Canon EOS 6D Mark II on her professional shoots. It’s an “amazing” camera, she says. “It’s not cheap, but it’s also not as expensive as some of the other cameras on Canon’s line.”
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For beginners, she recommends the Canon Rebel series. “It’ll do everything that you need it to do,” says Daenitz. Prices vary, but you can get some models for a few hundred dollars, “which is cheap in the grand scheme of cameras,” she says.
Burgess and Spiegel shoot and edit photos on their iPhones. Adobe Lightroom is free to download on your phone. And Spiegel finds that she can use the free features on most photo editing apps.
“Adobe Lightroom is a great program to be able to adjust lighting, hue [and] all types of things,” says Burgess. “And then one. thing I’ve been playing with recently is Prisma, a program where you can make artwork out of any of your photos.”
Morris recommends quality apps over most filters. “Free or cheap apps like Snapseed and Afterlight offer color balance, sharpening and healing tools that are aesthetically preferable to the unrealistic look of heavy filters, like those offered through Instagram.”
If you want to use Lightroom on your computer, Adobe subscriptions start at $10 a month, which will also include Photoshop.
But the secret to getting great photos? Practice.
“The more you take photos, the more practice you get [and] the better you get at it,” says Daenitz.