Tips and tricks for photographing cocktails

In this lesson, I want to share with your a few tips and tricks for photographing cocktails.

#1 Soy sauce for colouring water

Don’t waste alcohol for training your skills, it might become a very expensive… You can use any soy sauce or Worcester sauce to colour the water and use it for your images.

When shooting for client, use the original alcohol, but if it’s for your personal project, feel free to just go with a colour water. If coloured well, nobody can tell any difference 🙂

You can create fake wine, whiskey, green tea… a few drops are enough and when creating something, make sure it matches the colour of a real drink.

Use simple water as an alternative to a neutral colour alcohol. You don’t need to use real vodka, gin, white tequila or white rum when doing your personal projects, learning how to photograph cocktails, or as a test glass. Just make it simple, and as cheap as possible… you already spend lots of money on other things 🙂

#2 Glycerin for creating fake condensation

Glycerin combined with water ( at 1:1 ratio) creates a fake condensation effect.

You can get glycerin at the pharmacy, or online (Amazon for example).

Before you spray the glycerin mixture you prepared, spray the glass with a transparent matt spray (I recommend doing it outside). You can get such spray in a DIY store.

The spray will create a matt effect on the glass, and the glycerin will create those drops, that lasts way longer.

When spraying the glycerin mixture, cover the top (and eventually) the bottom of the glass. Condensation happens on the part where the drink is poured. When working with glycerin, you want to make that look more realistic possible.

You can even apply glycerin mixture by a small brush (tooth brush) on the glass to target certain areas and create that condensation you need for the perfect shot.

Don’t worry about destroying your glasses, you can wash them after the photoshoot.

You don’t need to work always with glycerin, you can work with real condensation too. Glycerin however allows you to shoot for a longer time, as condensation lasts a few minutes only.

#3 Correcting distortion in the images

We can’t completely avoid it, but, we can work with it and correct it.

You can notice some of the distortion on the bottles, or tall glasses, sitting on the sides of your scene. This happens mostly when using 3/4 angle or flat lays.

To correct the distortion, you should always look at it through your camera or computer screen while tethering.

Just place a small piece of paper, coin, or anything else under one side, to make the objects look straight in your image.

#4 Adding interest

Cocktail images are all about details and textures.

Always ask yourself: how can you make your image more interesting?

One way to do so is to work with highlights of the liquid in the glass. This can be done with backlighting – as you are able to beautifully capture illuminated part of the drink.

This is the #1 thing you focus on when creating an image, as it helps best to show the texture and consistency of a drink.



#5 Edible flowers to add interest

You can use flowers as a garnish too, it’s a beautiful decoration, that can add lots of interest.

When working with flowers for cocktails or other dishes, make sure they are edible.

You can grow them at home, or get them from Amazon for example.


#6 Negative space and leading lines are your friend

Keep your images simple, a good cocktail image doesn’t need a lot of props.

Your composition can be very simple, a great choice is to work with leading lines (the corners of the table), and include negative space too.

This way, you can move the attention to the main hero – the cocktail itself.



#7 Include various heights in the image

Working with various height of glasses, bottles and other props is necessary too.

Adding different heights add lots of interest, working with the same height can make your image look boring.

Keep this in mind when buying your props, bottles, always search for variety.

#8 Fake Ice cubes

If you are serious about photographing cocktails, you will need acrylic ice cubes. (A recommended one is this)

Real ice can melt very quickly, depending on the season. That’s why I recommend to shoot cocktail images in winter 🙂 Real ice will last longer, so you have more time to play with composition.

When buying acrylic ice cubes, don’t buy the cheapest ones. The great cubes might cost more, thats’ why it’s an investment you take, if you want to focus on brands in the beverage industry.

I personally don’t use the such ice cubes, I have always used a real ice in all my images.

I found out that if you want to work with clear ice, don’t keep it more than 1 day in freezer. After 1 day, the ice starts getting overfreezed and cloudy.

(you can see this in the image – half of the ice is cloudy, has been in a freezer for days, the other half was added a day before the shooting).


#9 Cover the citrus garnishes in a paper towel and spray them with water to avoid getting dry

This is what I learned from Rachel (Two Loves Studio). Your garnish should be ready before you start preparing cocktail. Some garnish can get dry quicker, therefore just cover it with a paper towel and spray it with a bit of water.

You can also keep them in a fridge until the last moment.


Key takeaway

  • #1 use soy sauce to colour water for your personal projects or test shots. You can create a fake wine, whiskey, rum, tequila, tea…
  • #2 Get glycerin for making condensation last longer. This is helpful if you want to take time to shoot and experiment with lighting or composition
  • #3 Correcting distortion in the images by placing a piece of paper or coin.
  • #4 Adding interest to your cocktail images by highlighting the texture of the drink
  • #5 Edible flowers to add interest are a great choice
  • #6 Negative space and leading lines are your friend
  • #7 Include various heights of objects – glasses, bottles and other props
  • #8 Cover the citrus garnishes in a paper towel and spray them with water to avoid getting dry
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