Cocktail photography is a lot of fun, but it’s also challenging and requires practice to create images that will make people stop and stare. This post shares some professional tips to help you take your cocktail styling to the next level.
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Cocktail Photography Styling Tips
Shooting drinks is a little different than shooting food. While the same photography principles apply, working with a variety of glassware can be tricky at first. There are a few things to take into consideration when it comes to creating beautiful cocktail photography, including:
- STYLING TOOLS
- CAPTURING ACTION
Are you ready to dive into some
drinks tips? Let’s do it! 😉
Cocktail Photography Styling Tools
Get A Glass Cleaning Cloth
Glass cleaning cloths are a MUST on set when you’re photographing drinks. You’d be surprised how easily glassware will pick up dust and finger prints. It can be pretty time consuming to correct those unwanted marks in editing, so get some cleaning cloths and keep your glassware as clean as you can on set.
Use Cotton Gloves
Along with glass cleaning cloths, using cotton gloves to handle the glassware is incredibly helpful. I have a variety of these in my home studio and they have saved me a lot of time on set when I need to adjust the position of the glass.
Use Museum Putty
Museum putty is one of the cheapest, but most effective food styling tools. When you start photographing drinks, you may notice that sometimes the glass doesn’t always look straight. It can look like it’s leaning slightly too far in one direction. Adding a bit of museum putty to “straighten” the drink to the camera can be incredibly helpful.
Ice Cube Trays
A lot of cocktail photography requires ice. Making your own is a fun styling idea to help you get a little more creative with the styling of your drinks. Of course, you can use the crushed ice in your fridge. But, with the variety of ice cube trays available, you can create a bunch of different shapes and sizes to play with. Plus, ice cube trays are much cheaper than buying customized fake ice. I had no idea how much custom fake ice could cost, but wow. It’s not cheap.
One of the biggest challenges with shooting glassware are those unwanted reflections. I highly recommend experimenting with double diffusion, which means that you use two diffusors to modify the light instead of one. I will often fire my strobe through a large soft box while placing an even larger diffusor in front of it. This really helps me tone down the reflections so they look and feel natural instead of too bright and overpowering.
READ MORE ABOUT: FOOD STYLING TOOLS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD HAVE
Cocktail Photography Angles
Similar to food photography, there are three very popular angles to consider when shooting drinks:
- STRAIGHT ON
- 3/4 ANGLE
It’s important to experiment with different ways of viewing your drink images. It can be challenging at first, because different perspectives require you to think differently about the composition and the lighting. But, showing off a variety will enhance your skills behind the camera and make your portfolio stand out to potential clients.
Cocktail Photography Lighting
Lighting is a whole other topic of discussion in photography. Whether you use natural light or artificial lights, adjusting the position and controlling the power of your light source helps you to create different moods for your images. Check out my blog post that dives deeper into different lighting setups for drink photography.
See some examples and inspiration for the following:
- SIDE LIGHT
- SIDE/BACK LIGHT
- BACK LIGHT
- USING GELS
- DIRECT/HARD LIGHT
- SOFT LIGHT
From left to right and top to bottom: side light, side/back light, back light, using gels, direct/hard light, soft light.
READ MORE ABOUT: DRINK PHOTOGRAPHY LIGHTING SETUPS
Cocktail Photography Props
Use A Variety Of Glassware
I highly recommend having a variety of glassware on hand for your cocktail photography. Glasses come in many different shapes and sizes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different glasses. Being able to show off your skills through glassware is a great way to keep your drink portfolio and social media feed visually interesting.
Surfaces & Backdrop Variations
Using different surfaces and backdrops always brings your images to life. The surfaces are a very important part of the food photography creative process and can range from wood, slate, dark, light, marble, foam board and seamless papers. Oh, and don’t forget to try some reflective surfaces too! It’s amazing how just switching out colors or textures can affect the mood of the image. When you think about the creative direction for your drink images, consider if you want a more dark and moody look or a light and airy look and pick surfaces accordingly.
Use Ingredients & Garnishes as Props
Dishes, silverware, glassware and linens are always top of mind when it comes to props, but ingredients can also serve as props. They are a really beautiful part of the food or drink story and help the images feel natural. Don’t be afraid to use raw ingredients to give your drink images a little extra visual appeal. Sometimes ingredients can be placed on the surface for texture or used as a garnish for the drink itself.
Get Fake Ice
Fake ice is one of my favorite things to work with on set. The cubes aren’t time sensitive and can be oh-so-pretty in the glass. Fake ice, however, can get VERY expensive depending on where you order it from. My advice is to order some simple fake ice cubes from Amazon so you can start experimenting without breaking the bank.
Capture Action Shots
Splashes, Pours & Swirls
Splashes, pours and swirls in cocktail photography are oh-so-fun to produce! There is definitely a process behind the mess that becomes of your studio, but it’s well worth it when you get to show off the final images. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy and practice capturing the action.
The thing to keep in mind with action shots is that you need to learn a super fun editing technique called compositing. I have a blog post that dives deeper into How To Composite A Bottle, and it walks through how to composite your images, so be sure to check it out.
READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO SHOOT A SPLASH
In conclusion, cocktail photography styling is a really fun process. While it takes practice and planning ahead, it definitely helps you improve your skills and diversify your portfolio. When potential clients see a beautiful variety of drink images mixed in with your food images, it opens the doors for a wide range of projects. Have fun, keep practicing and reach out with questions anytime!
Cheers and Happy Shooting!
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.