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.

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Drink photography is the best culinary fun outside cooking or crafting your cocktail. Express the scene with fun colors, filters, compositions, and props to set your tone 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, we’ve curated some fun tips for you to help you get started. Let’s dive in.

Or add drastic contrast and shadows.

Create even lighting on food.

Color Theory

Drinks are fairly simple in essence and, therefore, a tad one-dimensional. Spice up your images with an array of complementary colors to give a wider breadth of dimension and value. Colors go a long way in making your images pop, especially when accentuating certain garnishes or hues within your drink. Plus, they’re so fun! I personally like to use the MC Aputure Light — it includes 360° of hue and 100 levels of saturation adjustment; you have the power to reproduce any color conveniently, all in the palm of your hand.

Photo By: Carlie Penning | iPhone 12 Pro

Photo By: Carlie Penning | iPhone 12 Pro

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. Consider this school of thought when including garnishes, props, and beverages. 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.

Great for party scenes!


Lighting is an interesting take, perhaps the most important element of your photograph. You want to avoid those harsh reflections and unwarranted spots on the glass but 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 highlight the glass in a more flattering way. Even when using side light, point toward the back of your frame for more shadows.

Hard Light - Again, harsh light can be difficult to work with under normal circumstances, but bright tones can add a powerful dynamic to your drink photography. We’re 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.

Moment aputure MC thumbnail


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Get Creative w/ Garnishes!

Add 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, and include it in your frame! Capture the crisp, fresh details of every ingredient in your beverage. 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, it 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 want 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. Consider 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. In beverage photography, you might have to deal with complicated drinks with a ton of varietal decor, but adding 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.

A cup of coffee in New York City.

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