7 Tips for Delicious Drink Photography

Drink photography, like all food photography, may seem difficult, but it’s actually quite easy – once you know a few techniques.

In this article, I share my top 7 tips for great drink images, including:

  • The best ways to style your drink setups
  • How to Manage Drink Photography Lighting
  • A step-by-step method for splash photography
  • Much more!

Ready to become a master drink shooter? So let’s dive into it, starting with my first tip:

1. Compose Your Scenes Carefully Before Shooting

The best drink photos are well composed, which means you have to be very careful about the position of the elements in the frame. The way you arrange the drink and any supporting elements will help the viewer process the image and tell a specific story.

To create a good composition, start by determining some sort of “ruler” or compositional guideline you want to use, such as the golden spiral.

Next, define your main subject – in other words, the drink. Then move on to accessories; make sure you arrange them according to the composition guideline you have chosen. For example, if you are working with the golden spiral, place the accessories along the curve that leads to the drink.

You should also pay close attention to your choice of accessories. I would recommend working with a color palette and style that matches the mood of the photo. For example, if the drink is orange, you can use green props to add contrast or orange props to make the scene more monochromatic.

If you’re having trouble coming up with accessory ideas, look at your ingredients. You can add mint leaves, pinches of sugar, lemon slices and more.

The type of glass is also important. Some drinks are associated with specific glasses, so be sure to do your research! If a drink is not associated with a type of glass, then choose a glass that works well with the overall scene.

Finally, you might want to put “makeup” on the drink. Professional food photographers often create bubbles of condensation or frost on the glass, which ensures a perfect look and lasts longer than natural bubbles or frost. In fact, there are people who specialize in this type of food styling and work with top photographers – although some shooters advocate a more natural look, and ultimately that’s really up to you.

2. Follow a specific workflow

drink photography tips
Canon 70D | 90mm | f/16 | 1/6s | ISO100

With drink photography, the order in which you prepare the set is very important.

Drinks and props should look fresh in the final photo, so start by placing a dummy to replace the real drink.

Then add any accessories that aren’t meant to be cool, especially those that can be difficult to light due to glare. You can also add new props, but be aware that they will need to be replaced before the final shot is taken.

Next, light your scene and adjust your exposure settings. Once everything is ready, replace any props that don’t look fresh and place the main drink (i.e., replace it with the dummy). If you wanted to make the icing or the condensation, go ahead and add it to the set.

The very last step is to pour the drink into the glass. Many liquids have foam, bubbles, or other clues that indicate whether they’ve just been served or been sitting for a long time, and the goal is to keep things as cool as possible.

I don’t mean you only have a few seconds to take the shot, but if you can follow this workflow and then pour the drink, your photos will always look fresh and inviting!

3. Use the right light

drink photography tips
Canon 70D | 17mm | f/22 | 1/125s | ISO200

Natural light works for food and drink photography, but artificial light will make your life easier because you’ll have more control over reflections. Note that you don’t need a lot of studio equipment to take great photos; you can shoot with flash or flash and still get great results.

If possible, shoot in a dark environment; otherwise, you’ll need a flash powerful enough to dominate the ambient light. To make sure no ambient light is interfering with your setup, start by taking a photo without a flash – it should be completely dark.

Then start adding lights and modifiers one by one. You can take a test photo after each new addition. And when you examine the test images, pay close attention to the reflections!

Regarding the lighting configurations:

Backlighting is an extremely popular choice; it limits reflections and gives translucent drinks a certain shine.

Side lighting is also popular, especially for scenes with denser drinks and/or foreground elements that need to appear bright. Softboxes and stripboxes will help you create an eye-catching white reflection on the edge of the glass.

You have the option of using hard light and incorporating highlights and shadows into the composition. This approach is very trendy on Instagram and other social networks.

4. Be sure to carry essential accessories

drink photography tips
Canon 70D | 45mm | f/22 | 1/160s | ISO100

Every drink photoshoot requires a handful of props. These aren’t part of a standard camera gear bag, but they are must-have items for drink shooters.

Here is the list of key accessories to have:

  • A microfiber cloth. This will help you clean the glass. Any cloth will work, but microfiber is very absorbent and doesn’t leave lint.
  • Gloves. You should always handle drinking glasses with gloves to avoid fingerprints. Cotton gloves are fine, but they can leave lint. Latex gloves are even better.
  • A funnel. To avoid splashing the clean glass, use a funnel to pour the drink.
  • A box cutter or a very sharp knife. You will often need to cut herbs or garnishes to style your drink scenes. A dull knife can damage the object, so always bring a good cutter or a sharp knife.
  • A syringe and a pipette. You can use them to create splashes or carefully place drops as needed.

5. Try splash photography

drink photography tips
Canon 70D | 17mm | f/5.6 | 1/200s | ISO100

Splash photography looks great and it’s not too difficult either. It requires two key elements: a fast shutter speed and a lot of patience.

Now the best splash shots are actually composite materials; in other words, multiple photos are glued together to create the perfect final file. Here’s how it works:

First, build the set and adjust the lighting. A flash will help you freeze splashes and flying drops, but you can do splash photography with continuous lighting if you set a fast shutter speed. You will need to use a tripod so that all your shots have the same framing.

Take the first picture without the splash. You will use this plane as the basis for the composite because it will show a clean whole. (That way you won’t have to clean up after every photo!)

Then comes a lot of trial and error. Take lots of photos, experimenting with the shape, size and shape of the falling liquid. Change the drop height and even the shutter speed for sharper or blurry splashes.

Some images will look better than others and you will probably need to merge multiple splashes to create a perfect post-production result. For more, check out my next tip:

6. Don’t be afraid to create composites

Photo composition is a post-production technique where you use rooms multiple photos to create one stunning file, and that’s a big deal in drink photography.

For example, as I explained in the previous tip, you can blend multiple photos to create a perfect shot. You can also use composition to create images of levitation or when capturing a steaming hot drink.

I’ll walk you through how compositing works in Photoshop, but any program that lets you use layers should be fine.

Start by opening Photoshop. Then go to File>Scripts>Load files into stack. In the pop-up window, select the series of images you want to compose, then click OKAY. All files will be loaded into the same Photoshop document as separate layers.

Make sure the base photo (such as the clean splatter scene) is the bottom layer. Next, turn off the visibility of all layers except the bottom two. Click on the top layer and add a layer mask – fill it with black. Now start painting in white the part you want to use in the composite.

Repeat this process until the final photo is ready. Sometimes you can change the blending modes to avoid having to carefully select different elements. For this sample splash, I changed all layers except the background to Lighten:

drink photography tips

7. Apply some standard edits

Every drink image needs some basic editing, that’s why you should still spend some time with each file in your editing program of choice.

drink photography tips

The most important part of editing drinks photos is removing unwanted reflections. You can remove them using clone or heal tools, and while it might take a bit of trial and error, you’ll get more adept over time.

The rest of the editing workflow should focus on balancing exposure between highlights and shadows, removing color casts by adjusting white balance, and color enhancement.

You can do all of this manually or work with filters and presets; It’s yours.

Drink Photography Tips: Final Words

Drink photography is a lot of fun, and now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to create some great drink photography yourself.

So remember these tips. Practice a lot. And capture great images!

Which of these tips do you plan to use first? What drinks are you going to photograph? Share your opinion in the comments below!

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