Essential equipment and props

Let’s have a look at the essential equipment for photographing cocktails:

  • narrow focal length lenses – I recommend getting some of you want to focus on drink photography and work with clients on such projects – we speak about this in the lesson above
  • tools to manipulate light – diffusers, reflectors, black cards – visit this lesson to see more of the lighting tools for creating bright and airy, and dark and moody images
  • tweezers – very helpful for working with small objects, especially when frozen ones
  • syringe – to add or take away small amount of liquid from the glass
  • gloves – to work with glass for not leaving any fingerprints
  • different forms for preparing ice
  • scissors – for cutting herbs
  • a sieve – for pouring drinks, separating the ice and other solids from the liquid part of the drink

And here is the list of props you can use for the scene

  • glasses – of different size, with different pattern –
  • bottles – of different height for syrups, water, or other things, that you can add into your scene
  • mini jars for the ingredients eventually
  • cocktail sticks – wooden ones, metal ones, of any colour you wish
  • classic & water jar -can be used for larger ingredients, or even for shooting certain fruit cocktails
  • glass decanter – for adding interest in the photos and to complete the story
  • trays and boards – for including to the scene, matt or metal (avoid shiny objects)
  • the right backdrops – for shooting with backlight

# 1 Glasses

Collect variety of glasses, and search for interesting pattern. Pay attention however, that the pattern is not too strong and overwhelming. It’s great if we can see the colour and texture of the cocktail through the glass, as our main hero is actually a cocktail, not the glass itself. Interesting pattern however can add lots of interest.


When building your glass collection, have a look into this lesson, so you can first collect a pair of glasses from the main glassware categories, then building a larger variety within each category.

The best place to search for glasses is the vintage market, or thrift stores, as you can find some unique pieces for a good price.

When buying the glasses, 1 or 2 same glasses is enough to buy, you don’t need a complete collection of 6. Most of the times, you won’t use all 6, so it’s a waste of money. However, if you like shooting larger scenes of gathering, it’s helpful to have more glasses for wine and water. After all, you can use them often at home too 🙂

#2 Bottles

Bottles are very versatile and its great to have a variety of them of different height and size.

You can use them for syrups, water, or other liquid ingredients of the cocktails. I even collect some very interesting and beautiful empty alcohol bottles – you can use them for perfecting your photography skills (such as lighting or composition).


I even colour water (with a soy sauce) and pour it into that bottles, and add it to the scene when shooting. Of course, this is what you do only for your own personal shots, never for the client 🙂

Keep in mind to combine a different heights of bottles and glasses in one image = it’s great to include various heights into one shot, it will make it more dynamic.

Having a very tall bottle and very small glasses won’t work together, or having huge glasses and small bottle. It can look weird.

Instead, combine small bottles with small glasses, or high bottles with higher glasses. When buying alcohol bottles, always keep in mind this – how tall your glasses are, so you buy a bottle with a great height ratio.

#3 Mini jars, small bowls or plates

Mini jars, small bowls or plates can add lots of interest into images too. You can use them for small ingredients, such as berries, olives, fruits or anything else. Make sure to include the right size proportion to the glasses, so the jar won’t take too much attention from the main hero.

When looking for small bowls, have a look at the candle equipment shelves – the mini bowls with a beautiful texture in the middle (1.image) is actually for candles, not for food 🙂

#4 Cocktail sticks

Cocktail sticks are a must to have for cocktail images and they look great just being placed someone on the scene too. You can get them wooden, metal, of different colour.

When using the sticks, just make sure they are not too shiny and reflective. Sticks are also not very expensive, you can get them easily on amazon for example.

#5 Classic & water jar

Having a larger jar can be helpful sometimes, for keeping the water or other ingredients too. You can get some simple ones and some with an interesting texture or pattern.

I love using these jars for completing the storytelling, or placing them into the negative space, to fill some corner, but not taking much attention.

#6 Glass decanter

Glass decanter can be a beautiful part of your image, especially when having a unique and interesting piece. Take time to get the right one, again the proportion of the size to the glasses is important.

I got mine at the vintage market, together with the vintage glasses. Focus on collecting a variety of shapes, sizes and patterns.


#7 Trays and boards

I would say, it’s nice to have trays and boards but it’s not a must-have piece. It’s not easy to find beautiful trays, therefore take time to collect the right ones.

Great trays and boards are matt metal, stone, marble, wooden or glass ones, avoid shooting those really reflective silver trays. These parts of the image can get easily overexposed when working with back light.

Again, focus on variety and sizes. Smaller trays will be a better choice for cocktail images, especially when shooting only 1 or 2 glasses in the image.

#8 The right backdrops

Having the right backdrop can be game changer for the images. In the past, I shot on vinyl backdrops, but when using the backlight, they reflect a lot of light.

The best backdrops are the ones you paint at home, (make sure the paint is matt), or the ones that you can buy made on plywood or canva backdrops, or on a real wood or stone.

If you have vinyl backdrops only, you can use side-back light, instead of straight backlight. Experiment with this and you will notice how the reflections will disappear when moving the light towards the side.

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