Cocktail photography is a lot of fun, but it can also be challenging and requires practice to create images that will make people stop and stare. This post shares some professional cocktail styling tips to help you improve your drink photography.
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Cocktail Photography Styling Tips
Shooting drinks different than shooting food. While the same food photography principles apply to drink photography, working with a variety of glassware can be tricky. There are a few things to take into consideration when it comes to creating beautiful cocktail photography, including:
- COCKTAIL STYLING TOOLS
- CAPTURING ACTION
Are you ready to dive into some
drinks tips? Let’s do it! 😉
Cocktail Photography Styling Tools
Glass Cleaning Cloths
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.
Along with glass cleaning cloths, using cotton gloves to handle the glassware is incredibly helpful to keep dust and smudges away. I have a variety of these in my home studio and they have saved me a lot of extra editing time.
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 and hot spots that can appear from your light source. I highly recommend experimenting with double diffusion, which means that you use two diffusors to modify the light instead of one.
I like to fire my strobe through a large softbox or a strip box while placing a larger diffusor in front of it. This really helps me tone down the reflections so they look soft and natural instead of too bright and overpowering.
It also helps to position your light a little more towards the back of your drink as opposed to the side, so the reflection falls towards the very edge of the glass.
READ MORE ABOUT: FOOD STYLING TOOLS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD HAVE
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 so you can create a variety of 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.
Lighting is a whole other topic of discussion in photography. Whether you use natural light or artificial light, adjusting the position and controlling the power of your light source helps you to create different moods for your drink images. Check out my blog post that dives deeper into different lighting setups for drink photography.
See some images below for the following lighting setups:
- 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
Gels, hard light, soft light
Cocktail Photography Props
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.
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.
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.
Splashes, Pours & Swirls
Splashes, pours and swirls in cocktail photography are oh-so-fun! The key is to setup your camera on a tripod and not move it during the shoot. Then, you want capture a clean shot of the empty glass first. Then, you can splash, pour and swirl to your heart’s desire. 😉
The thing to keep in mind with these types of action shots is that the final image will come together during your editing. You’ll want to learn an editing technique called compositing. This is where you take parts of different images to create one final image.
I have a blog post that dives deeper into How To Composite A Bottle, so be sure to check it out! It’s one of the coolest editing techniques you can learn for your photography.
READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO SHOOT A SPLASH BY YOURSELF
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. Have fun, keep practicing and reach out with questions anytime!
Cheers and Happy Shooting!
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.