Half the fun of ordering a cocktail is getting to see how it’s presented and photographing cocktails is the perfect way to remember fantastic times with friends and family, especially while traveling. You don’t have to have anything fancy in the way of camera equipment to capture a stunning cocktail photo – the cocktail itself does half the work just by looking that good!
This article is part of my growing list of holiday and travel photography tips and collection of articles you might find really helpful to get the best photos possible during your next trip:
- Travel Photography Preparation and Basic Camera Maintenance
- Architectural Photography Lighting and Composition Tips
- Taking Pictures of Animals – Pet and Wildlife Photography Tips
- Photographing Sunsets – Tips for Taking Perfect Sunset Pictures
- How to Take Photos of Lighting – Tips for Photographing Lightning
Here are 3 of my favorite tips for photographing cocktails and taking photos of drinks:
1. Angle and framing
Let the cocktail’s visual presentation dictate how you take your picture.
Most of the time, a forty-five degree angle will play up all the best visual aspects, as it captures both the layers and depth of the cocktail, affords a good view of the glass, as well as shows how the garnish complements the drink.
That is, of course, not to say that other angles don’t have their merits too. If the glass itself is intricately patterned or otherwise interesting, a straight, level shot may make for a more interesting picture, for example.
Just like architectural photography, give yourself some space. A picture in which the cocktail takes up most of the frame not only isn’t as interesting as including some of the background scenery, but also doesn’t come out so well if you’re shooting with, say, a smartphone or tablet because you cannot usually capture an interesting depth of field.
2. Lighting and settings
Because you’re dealing with glass and liquid while photographing cocktails, the best lighting possible for a cocktail photo is simply natural lighting. If this is not an option, however, take advantage of whatever lighting you have available.
If there’s space to do so, photograph your cocktail on the bar top because there tends to be a lot of surrounding visual interest.
Overhead bar lights tend to be dim at best, but the area behind the actual bar is often brightly lit to display the bar’s available ingredients. This can serve as a good background, for one thing, but also as a good source of reflective light. I cannot imagine taking photos of drinks in Cozumel and not including something about Cozumel in the background!
Because of the limited light availability, don’t worry about white balance too much while taking photos of drinks. You can mess with that setting some to see if anything works better, but it likely won’t make much of a difference.
Try a few different shutter speeds for different outcomes. The lighting and nature of what you’re shooting may result in noticeably different outcomes at different shutter speeds.
Now comes the fun part: actually getting your photo!
Assuming you didn’t come to the bar equipped with a tripod, find something to stabilize your shot, whether that’s the bar top itself or whatever solid object you have handy. I also find while photographing cocktails that getting my camera lens as close to the table creates really interesting perspective.
If that’s not an option, or if you’re shooting from a higher perspective, then wait until you exhale to snap the picture. Your hands tend to be more steady on the exhale than on the inhale.
Check the background for anything weird or distracting (crumpled napkins, discarded garnishes, puddles, etc.) when taking photos of drinks. Not only is it unappealing, but it could also shift the focus from your cocktail to whatever else is near or behind it.
If you’re photographing cocktails and taking photos of drinks on your smartphone, check for photo editing apps. Lots of these are free, and some of them have quick and easy cocktail photo editing features. My favorite is Instagram, where you can find many more of my travel photos. Clip-on macro lenses for your smartphone are super cheap and will let you zoom in on the tiniest of details.
Make sure not to remove the garnish, as it will provide a pop of color and an eye-catching accent to your photo overall!
Do you have your own favorite tips for photographing cocktails and taking photos of drinks for me? How about a favorite umbrella drink photo? Share them in the comments below!