I have been photographing beverages and drinks professionally for more than ten years. National and international brands trust me to make their products stand out. Today I am serving up my drink photography tips with you on how we make this image!
You can see more examples of that work on my business website, Jena Carlin Creative.
Jim Rude, the co-founder of this site, is an extremely talented food and beverage stylist I have photographed food and drinks with for seven years. Check out his extensive portfolio on his website, Rude on Food.
Work, then play!
Jim and I were excited to work on this Beer Float shot after a long video shoot for Saputo Foodservice. We made a delicious Goat Cheese Spinach Artichoke Dip with their Stella brand cheeses, and the how-to video turned out great!
The taste testing for these beer floats may have been my favorite part!
Step One: Planning the Photoshoot
For planning this shoot I collected all of the beer glass options, ice cream scoops, and surfaces. I already had a variety of other props and surfaces packed up for the other shoot and a clear idea of the art direction we wanted. Jim bought the ingredients in the morning, chilled them during the day and we were ready to shoot immediately after the commercial food photography job.
Step Two: Composing the Glasses
We started out by styling a variety of eclectic glasses to get the composition just how we wanted it. Once we had that nailed down we marked each of the glasses’ positions with a pencil on the surface.
While the food is going to be the star, everything around the food goes a long way toward selling the product. Lighting, props, composition, angle, and many other components go into a shot like this.
Step 3: A Little Light on the Subject
To minimize reflections and glare, I set up the light lower than the table and behind the subject matter. The light softy wraps around the right side of the glass while the left side has a striking sidelight. Coupled with the dark surface and backdrop, this makes for a super dramatic shot.
After the lighting was set, we took all of the glasses away except for one. Jim and I started with the middle glass, thinking we could build our shot out from the center.
We agreed that we would need to take this shot in stages to get the best beer foam and ice cream styling for each beer float.
Time is often essential in these shots. Ice cream melts and beer head only hangs around for so long! This tip can be true for a surprising amount of food photography, from melted cheese to bubbly champagne.
Step 4: Trial and Error
We planned on adding each glass as we came to it but quickly noticed that the first beer float blocked the striking light from the left. While that would have been a more natural approach, the commercial photographer in me wanted the perfect highlight. Therefore, we decided to shoot each float separately and merge the photos later into one final image.
This is where our original pencil marks come in. As long as each float stays in place and the lighting doesn’t change, it’s pretty easy with today’s photo editing software to combine each glass, with highlights intact, into one stunning photo.
Drink Styling Tips
Drink styling is all about timing and order of operations. To get the best results, it’s important to do everything you possibly can to have the photo exactly right before bringing the food into the picture. Especially if that food is melty.
That means getting the lighting on the glasses right where you want it, making sure the glassware and surface are clean, and arranging any props, silverware, etc.
Once you are ready, take the ice cream out of the freezer and twist the top off of your beer. Style the ice cream and beer onset and take pictures as you go. Then you can make sure the position is correct and you are capturing the food at its best.
To get the really great foam in the shot above, we took action shots while the pouring beer was stirring up the bubbles.
If you don’t want a body in the shot, you and a friend can work on a quick, clean pour before they hustle out of the shot and you snap the picture. These tips can be a fun exercise in patience and precision.
Step 5: Editing and Retouching Tips
A good rule of thumb onset is to tweak the image physically when possible until that tweaking takes significantly longer than it would to fix it in Photoshop.
An example from my other commercial work for room sets photographing products and models is filling nail holes in a wall. If there is only one or two holes to fill, it can be done after the fact. However, once the wall becomes so filled with holes that removing them all would be a time investment, it’s best to fill them all and repaint before shooting.
In the case of this shot, I ended up having five images to merge together to achieve the lighting effect I was after. I also removed dust, cleaned up any reflections of my equipment in the glass, and added an s-curve for contrast.
More Before and After Retouching
View this and other retouching before and after examples on my Instagram Stories! It’s amazing what some slight editing can do to make a photo really pop.
I’m Thirsty! Give Me the Recipe!
To see how all of the shots turned out and to get the recipes to these AMAZING beer floats, check out the full article!
Looking for More Photo Tips? Click Here!
Let me know if any of these tips help you out next time you decide not to wait for a special occasion, but create one!