Drink Photography 101 | How to Capture and Style Your Beverages
Experiment with unusual props, colors and various composition techniques to perfect your magazine-worthy drink captures.
Drink photography is the best form of culinary fun, outside of actually cooking or crafting your own cocktail. Express the scene with fun colors, filters, compositions, and props to set your tone, all while invigorating your senses with the smell of fresh nearby rosemary or thyme. Though, capturing the true essence of your beverages can be a bit tricky, so we’ve curated some fun tips for you to help you get started. Let’s dive in.
Drinks are fairly simple in essence and therefore a tad one-dimensional. Spice up your images with an array of complimentary colors to give a wider breadth of dimension and value. Colors go a long way in making your images pop, especially when used to accentuate certain garnishes or hues within your drink. Plus, they’re so fun! I personally like to use the MC Aputure Light — includes 360° of hue and 100 levels of saturation adjustment, you have the power to conveniently reproduce any color, all in the palm of your hand.
Composition is Key
Within the rules of composition, the ‘rule of odds’ states that when you’re including a group of subjects in your photo, an odd number, rather than an even number will produce a more interesting, visually pleasing composition. When including garnishes, props, and the beverage consider this school of thought. Adjust your frame by adding 3 or 5 main glasses / props into your composition, forming diagonals or triangles as structural shapes. This framework allows you to powerfully emphasize one main subject to help it visually stand out.
Lighting is an interesting take, and perhaps the most important element to your photograph. You want to avoid those harsh reflections and unwarranted spots on the glass, but still illuminate your liquid amicably. While tricky, you can still easily photograph beverages under correct lighting conditions, especially when manipulated.
Back Lighting - While backlighting is often frowned upon in the photography industry, it does help offset bouncing light into a controlled direction. Counteract dreaded bright spots by placing your light source behind the main subject to gently highlight the glass in a more flattering way. Even when using side light, point toward the back of your frame for more even shadows.
Hard Light - Again, harsh light can be a bit difficult to work with under normal circumstances, but bright tones can add a powerfully dynamic to your drink photography. We’re so often told to utilize a more soft, diffused light but sometimes that simply isn’t enough vibrance. I have often found drink photography to be the perfect opportunity to capture photos using pure, undiffused light to encapsulate the textures on the glasses, creating almost a prism effect. Remember: the further the light is away from your subject, the longer the shadows so really play with your scene and find a happy medium.
Natural Light - The free, least adulterated source of light is one that comes from your nearby window (or outside your front door! Any excuse to get outside is fine by me). However, if you are photographing in closed corridors, shooting indoors is a whole different ball game. Because indoor lighting creates a challenge for finding excellent light throughout the different rooms, you must strategically photograph during the brightest parts of the day. I find that midday is the perfect time for a vibrant, bright window-lit room.
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Get Creative w/ Garnishes!
Adding in a dash of spice, a slice of citrus, some freshly cut basil, or whatever-the-heck you’re dreaming of for that mouthwatering first sip, include it in your frame! Capture the crisp, fresh details of every ingredient that goes into your beverage. Even setting ice cubes around the nearby surface emphasizes a refreshing interest, but act fast! But aside from colorful additives, including textures, such as salt or sugar rim to your glasses, will add another layer of intrigue to your composition, because fun photos are born out of the intentional, creative composition.
Scenes Help Tell the Story
Drink photography isn’t just about your summer drink of choice, it’s about the overall emotion and mood the viewer feels when looking at your image. If you’re wanting to quench your thirst with a tall glass of sparkling lemonade, place the glass by the pool with a towel and an openly cut watermelon. If it’s a snowy day at the cabin, place your steaming mug by the windowsill to set the scene. Think of your drink as the character in a story, and adjust accordingly.
Props Make it Interesting
Props are splendid for crafting an atmosphere that breathes life into the frame. Within beverage photography, you might have to deal with complicated drinks with a ton of varietal decor, but adding in a few props can elevate your storyline. Simple, relevant items help curate a story and sense of context. A photograph of a teacup would look silly next to bartending tools, so make it cohesive.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this fun mini how-to. Go out and make mama proud!
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