How To Set Up Your Lights for Drink Photography

I'm your food photography guru sharing photography tips, equipment ideas and business advice to help you improve your photography skills and navigate the world of food photography a little easier.

Hey, I'm Regan.

Come behind the scenes with me and I’ll show you some different drink photography lighting setups using artificial lights.

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drink photography lighting

Drink Photography Equipment

In this post, I’m going to show you some drink images along with the behind the scenes set up, so you can see where my lights were placed and what type of modifiers I was using. The equipment that I am using during these demonstrations is listed below, if you want to check it out or ever refer back to it.

CAMERAS

LENSES

TRIPOD & SETUP

ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS

  • Paul C Buff White Lightning 1600

LIGHT MODIFIERS

TETHERING TOOLS

SURFACES & BACKDROPS

READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO LIGHT A BOTTLE WITH ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS

food photography backdrops

Light Setups for Drink Photography

1. Side Light

Let’s start with lighting your drink scene from the side. This basically means your light is positioned on one or both sides of the subject, depending on how many lights you’re using.

THE SETUP

In the coupe glasses image below, I used one strobe light positioned on the right side of the glasses. I also used double diffusion (a large softbox over the light and a large diffuser in front of the soft box) to soften the light really nicely. The double diffusion prevented the light reflections from looking too bright. You’ll notice the reflections on the glass appear soft and not too harsh or distracting.

two wine glasses with a dark background
photo shoot studio scene

2. Back Light

For this setup, I placed the martini glass on a black reflective surface and positioned black foam core behind the martini glass.

I had to get a little creative when thinking about how to light this particular glass. The space I was working in wasn’t very wide, so I didn’t have enough room to set up two lights on each side of the table and far enough back from the glass.

THE SETUP

I set up one strobe directly behind the black foam core and positioned the light a little higher up. I used a large soft box again to keep the light soft. Now, you might think that the light would be completely blocked by the black foam core, but it was only partially blocked. This is because the soft box was larger than the foam core and positioned a little higher up, so the light could pass by the foam core to light the glass.

Martini on black with gold olive
Beverage Photography Tips

3. Using Gels (Back Light)

This is another back light example to show you how gels work.

Using gels with your artificial lights is a really fun way to play with colors, especially when shooting drink photography. Gels are transparent, colorful materials used to create a variety of different color effects in photography. You simply place the gels over your light source to get these creative effects in your images.

THE SETUP

I used a large diffusor set up behind the glass as the backdrop and used a white reflective surface to show the reflection of the glass in the surface. I positioned my artificial light directly behind the wine glass for this image using that large diffuser as my modifier to keep the light soft. I couldn’t attach a soft box to the light since the gel was attached to the light instead.

The images shot below show the glass of wine with a pink gel in the light vs. no gel in the light. Kinda fun, right? 😉

Wine glass shot with pink gel
Wine glass lighting setup
Drink Photography Lighting Tips

4. Hard Light

Hard light is more direct light. It can be a more playful and bold look. The way to create hard light is to not use a modifier over the bulb on your light.

When you cover the bulb of your light with modifiers (like a large soft box, umbrellas or diffusers), you will create soft light. If you take the modifiers away, you will create hard light.

THE SETUP

In the drink image below, I used one strobe positioned on the right and slightly in front of the glasses. I exposed the bulb on my light and didn’t use any modifiers or diffusion. This caused the light to be more direct and create stronger shadows, similar to a bright, sunny day with no clouds. The palm frond was used to create shadows of palm trees in the background.

Btw, positioning the palm frond “just right” probably took the most time in setting up this image. 😉 You’ll notice all the aluminum wire I had to use to position it correctly. It looks like a mess, but it got the job done.

READ MORE ABOUT: ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Two drinks in a sunny scene
Photo shoot studio setup

5. Soft Light

Soft light is when the light is balanced and more evenly spread out over your subject. The way to achieve soft light is by having a variety of light modifiers to work with. Softboxes, umbrellas and diffusers are great options to have on hand.

THE SETUP

In the example below with the Benham’s Gin, I used one strobe with an umbrella positioned near the top of the bottle/image. I also used a round diffuser positioned opposite the light so it would bounce a little light back to the bottom of the image. I also bounced some light back to the bottom of the image by placing an extra diffuser on the opposite side of the light.

READ MORE ABOUT: MY OVERHEAD SETUP FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Drink Photography Lighting Tips
Drink Photography Lighting Tips

Drink photography lighting is a lot of fun to experiment with. And, the more control you have over your lighting, the more creative you can get with it. I hope my behind the scenes demonstrations helped you see how you can experiment with light in your drink photography.

Happy Shooting!

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.

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