Posts

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.

A game-changing trick that will improve your drink photography

I’m not a huge fan of faking it when it comes to food and drink photography. But sometimes, especially when you’re working for a client, you need to shoot a perfect shoot and we all know that a perfect shot takes time.

Today we’re looking into shooting drinks. I’ve always wanted to try this trick. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing fancy. I’ll show you how easy it is and it saves you lots of time.

It’s called GLYCERIN.

Have you heard of the glycerin trick? Glycerin is a thick liquid that mixes well with water and creates the most beautiful and natural-looking condensation effect. A condensation effect that will last for hours. I’ve put it on a test and loved the result. Since I didn’t have any fine-mist spritz on hand I could only create larger drops, which were perfect for what I was shooting – beer. Usually smaller droplets look better, so I suggest buying a spritz that produces a finer mist or one where you can control how fine the mist is.

But why not just use cold glasses. Sure, that’s perfectly fine. I’m doing this all the time. The thing is, natural condensation doesn’t last very long. If you’ve ever shot cold drinks, you know the condensation looks great for a few minutes and then the super fine mist that’s creating the matt turns into drops. So if you need the drink to look cold for a long time, this is the perfect solution. But it makes the drink unedible. You’ll learn why in the next section.

Okay, so how did I do it?

First, a cold glass produces both super-fine droplets, that create a matt effect on glass and larger droplets that we can actually see. So for this to look natural there are two steps to follow:

  1. Spraying the glass with a clear matting spray (hello unedible).
  2. Spraying the glass with a 50-50 water-glycerin mixture (vegetable glycerin is considered edible, but only in very tiny amounts!).

Did I just spray the whole glass?

Nope. You spray the parts where the drink will actually be touching the glass. This is where the condensation happens in real life. Therefore you need to cover the bottom edge of the glass if the glass has any thickness. And you should also cover the top of the glass if you’re not pouring the drink all the way to the top. See the photo below for a reference.

A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
Glasses prepared to be sprayed.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A glass with matting spray only.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
After I spritzed some water-glycerin mixture.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
And here’s how it looks with water in it.

Does the matt spray ruin my glass?

Yes and no. If the glass is pretty smooth, the spray can be removed easily with kitchen soap and hot water. It does take some extra work, but I could remove it entirely. You can see that I used a glass with some textured writing. I wasn’t able to remove the spray entirely in those tiny edges. So be mindful of that and maybe try first with a glass that you don’t mind destroying.

Some other things to be careful about and other uses

  1. When taping the paper around your glass be sure to make it perfectly straight. If you check the top photos you can see that I didn’t do this and you can see the edge of fake condensation being all wonky.
  2. Also, be sure to pour the liquid to the edge of the fake condensation, otherwise you’ll end up seeing a straight line and it will look fake. Sort of like the photos below. They are not perfect, but it was an experiment. In the end, I was hoping to get a great beer shot, so I put more effort into that one.
  3. You can use the water-glycerin mixture to spray over fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens to make them look fresher. If you wash them carefully after the photoshoot they are still edible.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!

Final shots

So I took all the things above and made the beer photo. My idea was to make a beer pouring shot where you can really feel the freshness of the beer and make it look cold and refreshing. Here are some final shots…

A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!

Conclusion

Hope I helped just a little bit. If you try this trick let me know in the comments or write me on Facebook or Instagram.

In case you want more useful tips about photographing drinks Joanie Simon’s got a great video about that! Her tips also helped me with this little experiment. She’s awesome by the way 🙂