10 tips for photographing cold drinks

With these simple tips and tricks for photographing cold drinks, you are going to take your drink photography to the next level.

Summer is slowly approaching and with it cold drinks who doesn’t love a refreshing drink in the midst of a hot Summer?

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography. Sometimes you need to act quickly, especially if you’re working with real ice and it can be very stressful, but the results are amazing. I love drink photos! And I love taking photos of cold drinks, but they require a bit of preparation or you’ll end up with a bland looking image.

So if you wanna create images of refreshing cold drinks that really pop, read on. I have some tips on how you can make cold drinks look cold and refreshing.

Using very cold drinks so the ice melts slower

This would be my nr. one tip, because if you’re planning on taking more than one photo, this will save your life. I tell you! Try adding ice to room temp water or to ice cold water and see the difference.

I always plan out my photoshoots and I place some water, juice, sparkling water, or whatever I’m shooting in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I wanna make sure I have some wiggle room and don’t need to rush through the shoot. Although, if I take too long, I replace the whole drink and start from scratch.

Add some frost effect

Frost effect is one of my favorite things about photographing cold drinks. A frosted glass really gives that chill feel.

There are a couple of ways you can achieve frost effect.

You can place the glass in the freezer way before the photo shoot to make sure it is really very very cold. But take care when you’re taking it out since you might leave fingerprints. Always be mindful of where you touch the glass. Preferably touch it near the bottom or with cotton gloves. After you take the glass out it will only take a minute or two before it starts building frost, so you need to make sure it’s on its place by that time, otherwise, you’ll get fingertips seen on the frost.

The other way to create frost effect is by mixing 50:50 solution of water and glycerin. This will maintain the frost effect for longer and it will keep it more the same all the time. Natural frost will become watery after some time (which also looks great), but if you wanna keep the same effect for a longer period of time, glycerin will do the trick.

Optional: You can spray the glass with matting spray, before adding glycerin solution. While glycerin creates a translucent frost with larger droplets (and creates a look o a drink that you just took from the fridge not a freezer), spraying with a matting spray, creates a matte effect, exactly like the frost that looks like the drink is coming from a freezer.

One note, though. Don’t drink the drink if you used glycerin or matting spray on the glass.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Add some ice

Ice is an essential part of drink photography. But it melts really quickly, especially in the Summer (I always turn off heating when shooting something cold during Winter).

When you’re choosing what ice to use, be mindful of the shape. Would the drink need round or square ice cubes, would shaved ice look better. Would using uniquely shaped ice look great. Think about that first!

One more thing about ice. These days you can get pretty realistic-looking fake ice cubes (that don’t melt!). They are pretty expensive though. So far, I’m only using real ice. I do have some cheap fake ice cubes, but they look very fake. If your drink is not very transparent, they might still work, since you can make them just peek out a little bit.

Frozen garnish

When it comes to photographing cold drinks, the frost is really important way of showcasing that we’re dealing with a COLD drink. One way to enhance that is by adding frozen garnish. For example, if your drink includes some sort of berries, you could freeze them and add them on top in the last second. After a minute or so (just like the glass) they will start to build the most beautiful frost.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Frosted sugar rims

This is not purely cold drinks tip, but I always like to see a nice sugar rim and to me, it almost immediately screams cold cocktail.

Try playing around with colorful sugar or salt rims.

First, you need to line the edge of the rim with some lime or lemon. I’ve even used butter for coarser sugar. If you wanna add some color, you can use food coloring or flavored sugars.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Adding salt or sugar to create beer head or champagne bubbles

This one is a lifesaver.

I remember shooting a beer cocktail a long time ago and that foam just wouldn’t stay for more than a few seconds. It was a pain. My husband helped me pour just so I could press the shutter fast enough. I can’t remember how many bottles of beer we used.

Adding some salt or sugar helps re-form the foam and keep it for longer. Although you might not end up drinking that beer, that’s still much better than being left with 10 open beer bottles after the photoshoot. Unless you’re throwing a stale beer party afterward 🙂

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Think about light placement

How the light hits your drink can make or break a photo. Like in every type of photography light is key.

Transparent and semi-transparent drinks look amazing in backlight or in back-side light (that’s the angle between the backlight and sidelight). This way the light goes through the drink before hitting your lens. Since the drink is transparent you get a gorgeous glow that lifts up the photo and adds another dimension.

If the glass looks a bit dark, you can try using a reflector to bring out a bit more light to the front of the glass as well.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Play with hard light

There seems to be a misconception in food photography that you need diffused light and soft shadows in order to create a beautiful image. This is true to some extent, but this totally depends on the feel and the story you are trying to portray in your photos.

I find hard light drinks especially pleasing in drink photography. Even more so, if I’m using a glass with some structure. This way the hard light going through the glass creates a beautifully patterned shadow. The other nice thing about using hard light in drink photos is that it creates a colorful shadow whenever you shoot a colorful drink.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Watch those reflections

When you’re dealing with highly reflective surfaces such as glass, you need to be aware of what you can see in the reflections. If you’re seeing some weird distracting reflections, try determining what causes them and remove those things. Sometimes it can be the shape of the light source (lightbox or a window). In this case, you can try diffusing the light with a curtain or diffuser.

Always do a test shot

Always, always do a test shot.

Once your drink is in the glass you need to move fast. Ice melts super quickly, especially if you’re shooting in a warm room or in the sun. Building a perfect composition before your drink is all dressed up is a must in drink photography.

You need to make sure everything is where it needs to be before adding icy things to the set.

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