How to Photograph Cocktails

Strategy.

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Taking photos of cocktails sounds simple enough—until you actually try it, and discover its unique difficulties and parameters. It gets better, though! Here are a few easy tricks I use when I’m on set or out at a bar to try to really capture the beauty and “yum” factor of a drink.

  1. It’s all about the lighting. Sure, natural light is great, but what happens when it’s dark outside, or the light in a bar is overpowering? I suggest giving in and letting it become part of the scene—it will add a really nice touch to the image, capturing the ambience of the space. The example below was taken using only ambient light from the bar: I placed the cocktails in front of an awesome copper backsplash and snapped it. I let the drinks sit for a couple minutes so they started to “sweat” a bit, making them look more alluring.

  1. Find a new angle. We tend to use the obvious compositions when taking images—a top-down photo on a table of food, a straight-on profile of a cocktail sitting on a bar—but what about changing things up a bit? If you find that the area surrounding your subject is not that interesting, move around. In the example below, I took the drink from the bar and placed it in a corner on the floor, next to the entrance to the kitchen. The black background is the bar, and the tiles on the floor create a pretty cool pattern. I feel it makes the image a bit more dynamic, since you don’t expect to see a drink presented in such a way.

  1. Timing. We all love to share our special moments online, especially when we are presented with beautiful food and drinks at a great establishment. But let’s be real: it’s annoying when someone is shuffling chairs, moving stuff around the table, and standing on stools just to get the perfect shot, while everyone else is just trying to have a nice time at a restaurant. If you are going out with friends to a bar that you know will have some amazing cocktails and food, head there earlier to beat the rush and photograph in peace. Ask the staff ahead of time if you can go right when they open so you don’t bother people, or if you are already there, talk to the manager and request to come back another day—by then you’ll know what to order, and what time to arrive to avoid any crowds.

I’ll be explaining more tips and tricks of the trade on May 6, 2017 at a non-alcoholic cocktail workshop that I’m hosting with Max Borrowman of Juniper at Vancouver’s Field and Social. Max will teach the basics of mocktail creation, using ingredients like yuzu, kombucha, and matcha, and I will explore how to capture it all on camera.

The word “mocktail” has a bit of a negative reputation; we usually think of non-alcoholic beverages as being super sweet, sugary, fruit juice-like drinks that are tacky and rather unpleasant to drink. That’s where expert advice comes in handy to create amazing-tasting mixes that are also better for the body. It’s all about being creative.


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May 3, 2017