Photographing cocktails seems simple. You pour or order a drink, then you take a picture. What more could there be? As It turns out, a lot. Cocktails are served in low lighting, come in reflective glassware, and have a limited window to shoot. But don’t let that stop you. Follow our tips to get beautiful shots of your beverages.
Food and drinks look best in natural lighting. Unfortunately, cocktails are usually served in ill-lit bars after sundown. If you’re able to shoot during daylight or dusk, find a spot by the window. If not, don’t worry. You can use a candle or portable LED for the same effect. Just avoid flash, which accentuates unattractive details.
Light placement is key. Your drink should always be between your light source and your camera. This highlights details and reduces glare. Plus, backlit cocktails have an especially enticing glow.
Before you start shooting, decide whether you want to focus on your drink or its environment. Close-up, glamour shots are a great option for decorative cocktails, while you’ll capture more ambiance with a wider, inclusive shot
Consider supporting elements that draw attention to your cocktail. If you’re mixing at home, surround your drink with its ingredients. If you’re at a bar, ask your bartender for some garnish (fruit slices, herbs, straws, swizzle sticks, etc.) and throw in a prop. To help your subject pop, pick a background with appropriate contrast. If your cocktail is dark, try using a lighter background and vice versa.
Low lighting means longer shutter speeds and greater chances of blurry shots. To capture sharp blur-free images, steady your camera with a tripod or on a flat surface like books or a table. Or, use a camera with built-in image stabilization which will counteract any wobbles to keep your frame in focus.
Start shooting as soon as your cocktail is crafted. Ice melts, heads disappear, and fizz goes flat very quickly. If you’re going for something more complex, use a glass of water or crumpled napkin as a cocktail stand-in so you can prep everything first.
MIX IT UP
Change your perspective until you find the best angle. Shoot low, shoot high, go wide and show the whole scene, or get up close with a macro. Just avoid positioning the camera at the same angle as the light source, which will create flares.
The key is taking many frames in a short period of time. Shift your position, change your lens, rearrange your props. The more you try, the more likely you are to get the perfect shot.