COCKTAIL PHOTOGRAPHY – HOW TO DO IT BETTER?

mezcal-matatlan-oax

Ever since i started blogging about cocktails and spirits a year ago i have struggled with taking my pictures in an environment that isn´t the best when it comes to light as i live in a very dark apartment and there´s really nowhere to go outside either. But in a bad situation you try to do the best that you can and sometimes you need to be inventive.

I take my pictures is in the kitchen with the kitchen fluorescent light in the roof as the light source apart from a little small metal halogen light i use sometimes to brighten it up. There isn´t much daylight coming in from the windows unfortunately as there´s huge cherry trees and a garage next to the building that blocks most light. To combat the poor light i try to use different angles and play with shadows.

I think i really need to make myself a light-box of some kind, Rumdood made one and his pictures are great. Cocktailnerd uses both a lightbox and outdoor backgrounds as far as i can see when browsing his blog and his pictures too are great. Making a light box doesn`t have to be expensive if you use cartons, its mainly the lights you need that may cost a bit. I wish one of the bloggers that have made their own lightbox (Dood..hint) would make a blog post about how to do it with drawings or pictures in some tutorial style.

Another thing is the camera. I have a very simple pocket-camera which i use with the macro that is available which isn`t very good. I want my pics to be bright but under these light circumstances its a bit hard. I´ve been told that my drinks looks like they do in a bar which in a way isn´t necessarily a bad thing  but i would prefer to be able to take bright yet natural looking pictures. And then i rather would like to be able to choose whenever i want a picture to be dark like it would in a bar. And besides, i`m quite “tired” of being kicked out of tastespotting everytime because they think my pictures are too dark..

During Drinkwrite 2009 in New Orleans there was a cocktail photography session with Jamie Bodreau, Darcy O`Neill and Rick Stutz – all three of them taking amazing pictures. The main points in short, made during the photo-session were these:

A_- You dont need to have the most expensive equipment to take good pictures but if you have good stuff, it helps. Look for cameras that are good with low-light and close-up-macros.

B – Daylight is always the best.

C – Get a good lens/lenses.

D – Indoors, cheap desk-lamps will do.

E – Things to consider – visual interest, surfaces one or two, neutral background example – paper. Glassware is important, try to vary, look in 2nd hand shops. Garnish of the cocktail is important for the final touch.

F – The lowest possible number you shoot, the more light you`ll have.

G – try to get a macro of 12.

I wonder how many cocktail bloggers out there struggle with the same problems as i do when it comes to cocktail photography?

When i was in the US i was lucky to have a chance to take pictures in natural light outdoors and to experiment using a paper background versus using a natural background with plants etc by the fishpond and here are two different pics of my a little bit crazily garnished tikidrink “Mixohouse cocktail” which was made for the New Orleans TDN.

mixohouse-cocktail1

I myself think the one with paper background looks better as the neutral background lifts the cocktail into focus. So a neutral background is important but it doesnt have to be white or of paper, but it needs to be “calm”. At home i`m using a dark brown straw-mat that i hang up in the kitchen. It works quite well though even if its dark in there, you can see it at the picture on the top.

I find the pic at the left better when it comes to brightness, the right one is a bit too dark, i would have liked to see the mint more bright green as it is in the left pic as well as the cherry more exposed. But both pics are taken in daylight which i think is the best light to use. That said doesn´t mean there´s no way to get good pics indoors, you just need good equipment and good light. (light-box again)

There are a few blogs out there with some tremendously fantastic photos, i hope to get there some day – and photographing is really fun. I also look a lot at food pictures, there´s much to learn from the foodies and food in my opinion isn´t the most easy subject to photograph.

Another important thing is the after-work. The exposure, color balance, sharpness, brightness and contrast are a few very important factors for a good end result. At the same time i don´t want my pics to be too much processed either, i want them as natural as i can get yet there´s occasions when its nice with a really “dreamy” picture.

In any case to me the main thing is – i want the cocktails too look appetizing enough to make you want to drink them.

Its just like with food pictures, if it makes you crave it or feel something then its a good picture. But good cocktail photography isn`t all about the equipment, its also how you take the pictures, how you balance the background, how you crop the picture, how you make the picture come alive and get personal etc I also think its a good idea to try to keep it simple.

But one thing that i don`t like is how many of the glossy magazines process their pictures to the point of making them”loose their soul” and in the end they really do look not only unnatural with too bright colors and too much sharpness but also totally unpersonal and almost sterile.

A good idea for us bloggers though would be an online cocktail photography school..anyone? i would certainly need and enjoy it.

Now you`ve read about my pictures and my thoughts on cocktail photography and surely there are tons of things i haven´t thought about and i`m curious to know about your photographing.

What are the problems you folks have to deal with when doing your cocktail pics? what solutions have you come up with and what equipment do you use? what works for you?