December 12, 2008

Bottle image standards

posted by philip in Partnerships, Snooth, Website Updates

Snooth is a repository for a lot of information. Since we launched the Snooth Analytics last month I’ve been pleased to see that over 10% of US Wineries have signed up and are using the analytics that we offer. Several times that many wineries (around 30% of US Wineries, plus many non-US wineries) have been adding content to their pages by uploading bottle images, other photos as well as winemakers notes and other content. We’re well on our way to becoming the “go to” resource for anyone looking to learn about a specific wine, anywhere in the world.

All this is free to wineries, and not just that, but we bring the largest audience of any interactive site in the wine industry, and allow the wineries to connect with our users directly. If you work for a winery and you haven’t “claimed” your content on Snooth, its easy, and you can do it here.

The benefits don’t stop there, as Snooth powers many other sites via our series of data feeds and APIs. The point is, if you take the time to add content to Snooth, you can enjoy the benefit of having is syndicated to the tens of partner sites that we power.

One question we get a lot is how should the bottle shots look. At a basic level you want people to be able to recognize the wine from the image, and ideally you want it of sufficiently high resolution to allow users to read the text (some examples to follow):

good_bad.jpg

Now, that’s the basics. For wineries who are paying professional photographers the standards are even higher. Ever since I blogged about the issue of a lack of standardization of images, back in May of this year, we’ve been working with Artisan Media to define what constitutes the perfect bottle shot, and its our hope that when a winery arranges to have their bottles photographed that, in addition to any images they may need for their own materials, they will have a standard shot taken. This “web standard” can then be used for any and all websites, retailers, social networking sites etc.

The perfect bottle shot for the web is a high resolution image taken against a white background. Ideally of the label, but many sites will allow you to upload a label and a bottle image. Having this standard shot taken, and having as many wineries as possible use a similar standard, will allow the wineries much more control over how their assets are portrayed across the web. The specifications are below, and thank you to the team at Artisan for working on this with us:

Final Image Specs:
1 jpg or tiff file at least 11 x 5.4 inches @ 300 dpi, 8 bit color depth (3300 pixels x 1620 pixels @ 72 dpi)
Image should be cropped to make the label as large as possible

Workflow Checklist
1.  Adjust white balance to eliminate color casts
2.  Make sure all letters are visible on the label
3.  Remove any distracting dust, blemishes, or reflections if present
4.  Apply sharpening to image (In Photoshop use Unsharp Mask: Amount 80%, Radius: 1.5, Threshold: 3)
5.  Make sure image is 8-bit color depth
6.  Make sure image is cropped to final specs, keeping the bottle/label as large as possible without cropping into the label

by RBoulanger · December 12, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Bravo for attacking this monumental task. At TWM, we were able to manage for quite a while by using the same photographer for all the bottles, but its amazing how crappy some of the images submitted by wineries would be.

How many KB do the ideal images end up being?

by Corrado · December 12, 2008 at 6:08 pm

Not sure what audience this was intended for, but considering none of the examples above are “professional” caliber images, my assumption is that this is intended to be a consumer’s/blogger’s guide.

IMHO, the suggested standard attempts to cover too many scenarios. The final image specs (above) are suitable for sharing print-ready digital images, but no ‘social networking’ site is going to allow you to upload a 16MB TIFF image or LET you drop a 1MB 1620×3300 JPG onto their site as anything other than a thumbnail linked to an off-site (photobucket, imageshack) hi-res pic. I haven’t seen a non-art wine-related website yet, whether it be a winery, a retailer (wine.woot, WL.Com), or a management/social site (CellarTracker, Cork’d) that deals with anything beyond the 96 DPI Web Standard I’m familiar with.

Having said that, I totally get where you’re coming from. Sites like WTSO.com have some of the worst photographers I’ve seen, providing useless bottle shots or detail shots of completely irrelevant things. It’s really not that hard to take good, detailed photographs with very basic equipment.

Regarding the background, if you’re cropping to the label as suggested and have the first clue about metering, I don’t follow the ‘white background’ logic unless it’s simply a way to try to white-balance the image during the processing stage.

I’m surprised you didn’t make mention of the single most critical aspect of photography: light. Using the middle photo above as an example, with direct lighting (e.g. on-camera flash) you’ll inevitably have the ‘white stripe’ running up the bottle where the image is overexposed. Shut the flash off (or bounce it off a neutral wall/ceiling), get a tripod, and shoot with your main light source behind you at angle. Example: http://tinyurl.com/6fm87l

As far as what the typical blogger can do, I took this shot about 5 minutes ago: http://tinyurl.com/5ulmmb using this set-up (faaaaaaar from ideal): http://tinyurl.com/56oq6c Now, granted, the Zinzilla label image above isn’t going to win awards and it isn’t going to be picked up by McNab Ridge for use on their website, but for common, everyday blogging and social networking/cellar management sites, you get 100% of the necessary information in a 100K package.

Again, I’m not sure what the intended audience was, but any pro who’s not already doing something similar to what you suggest above shouldn’t be in the business and the standard is extreme overkill for the common everyday blogger. I don’t see where users can upload bottle images to snooth.com, so it doesn’t seem to be a guide to improve data HERE…

by Corrado · December 12, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Not sure what audience this was intended for, but considering none of the examples above are “professional” caliber images, my assumption is that this is intended to be a consumer’s/blogger’s guide.

IMHO, the suggested standard attempts to cover too many scenarios. The final image specs (above) are suitable for sharing print-ready digital images, but no ‘social networking’ site is going to allow you to upload a 16MB TIFF image or LET you drop a 1MB 1620×3300 JPG onto their site as anything other than a thumbnail linked to an off-site (photobucket, imageshack) hi-res pic. I haven’t seen a non-art wine-related website yet, whether it be a winery, a retailer (wine.woot, WL.Com), or a management/social site (CellarTracker, Cork’d) that deals with anything beyond the 96 DPI Web Standard I’m familiar with.

Having said that, I totally get where you’re coming from. Sites like WTSO.com have some of the worst photographers I’ve seen, providing useless bottle shots or detail shots of completely irrelevant things. It’s really not that hard to take good, detailed photographs with very basic equipment.

Regarding the background, if you’re cropping to the label as suggested and have the first clue about metering, I don’t follow the ‘white background’ logic unless it’s simply a way to try to white-balance the image during the processing stage.

I’m surprised you didn’t make mention of the single most critical aspect of photography: light. Using the middle photo above as an example, with direct lighting (e.g. on-camera flash) you’ll inevitably have the ‘white stripe’ running up the bottle where the image is overexposed. Shut the flash off (or bounce it off a neutral wall/ceiling), get a tripod, and shoot with your main light source behind you at angle. Example: http://tinyurl.com/6fm87l

As far as what the typical blogger can do, I took this shot about 5 minutes ago: http://tinyurl.com/5ulmmb using this set-up (faaaaaaar from ideal): http://tinyurl.com/56oq6c Now, granted, the Zinzilla label image above isn’t going to win awards and it isn’t going to be picked up by McNab Ridge for use on their website, but for common, everyday blogging and social networking/cellar management sites, you get 100% of the necessary information in a 100K package.

Again, I’m not sure what the intended audience was, but any pro who’s not already doing something similar to what you suggest above shouldn’t be in the business and the standard is extreme overkill for the common everyday blogger. I don’t see where users can upload bottle images to snooth.com, so it doesn’t seem to be a guide to improve data HERE…

by philip · December 12, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Corrado – thanks for commenting. The standard is for pros, for everyday bloggers / drinkers the examples were meant to be sufficient.

We allow users to upload images to Snooth. On a group page its right below the main image (eg. http://www.snooth.com/winery/larkmead-vineyards/) and on a wine detail page its in the corkscrew menu (accessed via the little corkscrew icon). We will also accept files at the specified sizes. Facebook (i think) will also accept images of that size.

I do think we need to make it clearer that users can add images to the site though.

by Dan Chapin · December 12, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Corrado – thanks for offering some insight from your perspective. Forgive me for not having the technical background to address your points above (I’ll leave that to my business partner, Dave Elkins, who is the photographer for our winery clients) but I would like to add some color to the conversation. I think the audience that should be listening to this discussion is the small to medium sized wineries. Wine social communities and marketplaces like Snooth.com are riddled with poor quality product images that reflect other website itself. To overcome this issue, many online marketplaces and retailers take it upon themselves to produce their own bottle shots, taking control of the brand/product image from the winery. Although our core business at Artisan Media is not photography, we are working to create high quality, standardized media assets for wineries who wish to increase their brand footprint through companies like Snooth.com. While the shots themselves can be subjective, there should be some sort of standards in place. I agree that the file size should be smaller (less than 96 DPI) which is why we provide both print-ready and web ready sizes for our clients. Here is a link to our bottle shot examples that we sent Philip earlier this year: http://tinyurl.com/5d66wh There is room for argument as to the artistic style but the standard is nearly there. As Philip pointed out, he would prefer to have a close up of the label instead of the full bottle, and it is easy enough to provide that format as well.

by philip · December 13, 2008 at 1:36 am

“Wine social communities and marketplaces like Snooth.com are riddled with poor quality product images”

aaah…brings a real glow of pride to us, when you say it like that!

Seriously though – the actual specs aside. Wine images (be they bottle, vineyard or winery) can be stunningly beautiful, and I’d love to see more shots like that on our site, as well as on any others.

by Dan Chapin · December 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I guess I need to lay off the Christmas egg nog when I write my comments… I would like to see all of the wine photography in one place for websites like yours to pull from. This can also be a place that wineries go to to instantly create the bottle shot standard. The wine industry is pretty lucky to have such a beautiful product…from seed to bottle. Why has it taken so long for us to figure out to showcase properly?

by philip · December 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Dan – Thats our goal too. We already power content on several other sites via the Snooth API. I’d love to see that number grow 10 fold, then when a winery uploads their content to Snooth they know that they’ll see it identically represented across tens of sites.

by PG · December 20, 2008 at 9:22 pm

I tried to register & continually got a response that the names I chose were already in use. The first ones were unlikely…but when I chose to put in Fatfish and it bounced back as already in use, I realized that it was untrue.

Love the Seval…I’m a Pinot fan, but this is similar…delightful

by philip · December 21, 2008 at 11:39 pm

PG – We have over 60,000 registered users, a lot of common words are already in use as usernames.Here’s the Fatfish user: http://www.snooth.com/profiles/fatfish

Its a new account, so that might be you creating that account.

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