Process for photographing cocktails

When you photography cocktails, following a process will become very crucial. It’s important to prepare everything before you bring the main hero.

I often see some behind the scenes videos on Instagram, where the main hero is the first object on the scene, and then follows the composition, other props, getting the right light, repositioning of the hero, etc..

Your main hero should always come last to the scene, and the garnish even after that. And it’s because, the foam of the cocktail will last a few minutes only, ice will melt, condensation will get dry… if you are not ready when the moment is right, you won’t get that perfect shot.

So lets have a look how the process should look like:

#1 prepare the scene & camera

The first thing you start with is to prepare the scene – the backdrop and your camera. 

If you shoot with natural light, your first action will be to move the table to the window that gives you enough light for your scene, and place the camera on the tripod. 

If you shoot with artificial light, your first talk to is set the scene, together with the lighting and the camera. 

Shooting cocktail is about capturing details, and you want to get them sharp. That’s why I strongly recommend using tripod.

#2 Connect your PC or mobile if you tether

If you shoot tethered, the second step is to connect your camera to the PC or mobile. Looking at your scene through the computer screen while creating the perfect composition is a game changer. 

If you have never tethered before, you can visit this course about Tethering.

#3 Experiment with lighting

After you connect your camera to the PC, it’s time to experiment with lighting and find the perfect camera settings for ideal exposure. 

Another aspect to train is keeping your ISO to minimum. ISO at 100 will give you the highest quality image, this is how you need to shoot for your clients. However, during personal projects, be flexible and use higher ISO when needed. 

At this stage, take some simple glass, place a few ingredients on the scene, and take a few shots while playing with different camera settings and different intensity of lighting. Compare these images and choose the settings that seems correct. 

This stage includes playing with reflectors, black cards, until you nail lighting perfectly.

#4 Play with test hero to get the perfect composition

Once, your scene, lighting and camera is ready, bring the first props – supporting elements and a “fake” hero, that could be a glass with the water & ingredients… This is the time to play with composition and create your perfect scene. 

Often, our ingredients during that time get dry, so before creating the final shot, you will need to replace them for the fresh ones. 

This is the same for your hero subject. Unless you work with some fake props or ingredients, or you use some special tools for keeping them fresh for hours, they won’t last so long. You arrive to your perfect shot with dry and bad-looking hero.

#5 Bring the hero subject

After you found the perfect composition, you can bring the main hero. Just exchange the hero with the test glass, maintaining the exact same position, and if needed, exchange the ingredients for the fresh ones too.

After, bring the garnish. This is the most delicate thing, as all the attention goes to the garnish. It’s very important it looks fresh. 

Keep your garnish in the fridge until the last moment, or cover it with a wet paper towel to avoid getting dry.

#6 Change the perspective to get more images

You got your perfect shot, now it’s time to change the perspective and take more shots.

Change the camera angle, move around the scene and take the shot from the other side, move further or closer. You can exchange the lens and take some close ups too. 

Having a variety of images will be useful for social media, and you might get some beautiful shot for your portfolio too.

#7 Change the backdrop, lighting and props and experiment

If your main hero looks still great, why not changing backdrop, lighting and get even more different images of the same subject. 

Let your creativity free and experiment with various colours and moods..

Key takeaway

  • Having a process when shooting cocktails (or any other subject) is important,
  • Never bring the main hero to the scene when it’s not ready, instead, build the scene, create the perfect composition, lighting and play with test hero first
  • How the process of photographing cocktails could look like:
    • #1 prepare the scene & camera
    • #2 Connect your PC or mobile if you tether
    • #3 Experiment with lighting
    • #4 Play with test hero to get the perfect composition
    • #5 Bring the hero subject
    • #6 Change the perspective to get more images
    • #7 Change the backdrop, lighting and props and experiment
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