Just how do food photographers capture the appeal of an icy beverage on a hot day? These pros share their secrets for taking refreshing images of cold drinks.
There are few things as appealing as a great photograph of a cold drink. No matter the season, an icy, colorful beverage can evoke memories of faraway locations, tropical sunsets, the sand between your toes. Still, cold drinks are notoriously difficult to photograph. Take a picture too early, and you’ll miss that lovely condensation on the glass. Wait too long, and you’ll be stuck with a melted mess.
Food stylists have some extreme ways of tricking the camera, from using expensive fake ice to substituting drinks with a concoction of water and granulated gel. But, it’s also possible to get that perfect, refreshing shot with all natural ingredients. With experience comes a ton of little secrets for freezing ice, lighting dishware, and accessorizing beverages. We asked seven outstanding food photographers to share the best tips they’ve learned throughout the years.
1. “I normally have a spray bottle on hand to lightly mist the glass after I have everything figured out.”
Image by Joshua Resnick. Gear: I was using an old 39mp Hasselblad digital back. I hacked together my own adapter and sort of made a franken-camera by duct-taping the digital back to an ancient Fuji GX680 body. Even to get it to sync required all kinds of modifications and soldering. There were no electronic connections, so there is no exif, but I am pretty sure I was using the Fuji gx680 125mm 3.2 lens.
What’s the story behind this photo?
I was stuck in my house due to a huge snowstorm and could not leave to get the ingredients for some shoots I had planned, so I had to improvise with what I had. I found some cranberries in the fridge and a leftover juice pack from one of my kids. I also had some mint that was somehow still fresh looking. I put it all together, and it turned out to be one of my best-selling photos.
Image by Joshua Resnick.
For shooting beverages, backlighting is your best friend! There are very few situations where this is not the case. There are exceptions, of course, but they tend to be drinks that are more opaque, like milk, orange juice, or eggnog. For shooting anything carbonated or fermented, it is extremely important to keep everything as cold as possible. If you don’t, the drink will look flat and lifeless almost instantly. Also, it will be difficult to get realistic looking condensation. However, even this is not always enough. I normally have a spray bottle on hand to lightly mist the glass after I have everything figured out. Another technique I have is specifically for beer. If the beer is looking flat and has lost the foamy head, you can reinvigorate it by stirring it with wooden chopsticks. The tannin compounds in the wood naturally react with the beer to create foam.
2. “Use back or side light for shooting transparent beverages to make your composition bright, alive, and artistic.”
Image by Antonina Vlasova. Gear: Canon 5d EOS Mark III camera, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Settings: Focal length 100mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f6.3; ISO 100.
What’s the story behind this photo?
I always try to design my compositions inside the glass as carefully as I do with the entire stage set. I often prepare fresh greens and ripe fruits and berries, all of them well-cut and nice looking. To ensure my cocktail remains fresh, I set my whole composition first and then put the ingredients in with tweezers just before shooting. That allows me to keep the main object in perfect condition.