Whether you are a small batch home brewer looking to start taking professional quality photos that sell or a product photographer looking to branch into beer photography I will let you know how to do beer photography the right way.
How Do You Photograph Beer
Beer photography is much like any beverage or food photography, you want to take images that make the viewer want your beer! And to do that there are a few simple steps and types of gear you will need. Read on for the full rundown.
Beer Photography Gear
This is the most important piece of equipment to have. While a DSLR is an ideal setup, the good news is you can take fantastic beer photos using your smartphone or point and shoot camera. There are even small inexpensive point and shoot cameras coming out specifically for food/drink photography. Just make sure it has a macro button and functions for manual adjustments like shutter speed, aperture, white balance and ISO before buying.
For my recommended food photography cameras read the linked guide.
A macro lens is a must have for beer photography. It is what allows you to take images that are so close you can see the details of the beer itself. Your macro lens will either be an inexpensive adapter that has a generic type of screw on lens or a specialty one with an adapter to fit into your existing lens. I have many guides for the best macro lenses on this site if you are unsure which is best for you.
There is no substitute for a tripod. As much as you can, you should always use one when shooting any type of product, and beer is no exception. It will keep your camera steady, allow for longer exposure times and it lets you interact with the beer for more interesting compositions.
I recommend a lightweight aluminum one that goes to roughly 6 feet tall and collapses down to fit in your bag. You can also buy the head separately if you already own a tripod with a different style of head. I have a number of tripod buying guides on The Main Museum so look for my favorite tripods.
Beer Photography Tips
Time Of Day
Good beer photography is dependent on two things, the time of day and location. Because beer is dark you have to find a time of day when there is plenty of light and the sun isn’t too harsh.
The morning or late afternoon are typically ideal times because the sunlight isn’t as direct. This type of indirect sunlight also softens shadows which helps in product photography. I prefer mid-afternoon myself but it will depend on how much shade your subject has.
If you are using fill-flash to light your beer then this becomes less important.
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a beer snob. So when I shoot beer I like to shoot it in its natural environment. This means that for the most part you can expect your favorite craft brews being photographed in breweries or bars/restaurants that serve craft beers.
I’ve had some of my best beer and food photography at the local brewpubs in my area and I hope these guidelines help you get there too. In the next tip I’ll give you a few tips to make sure your next beer shoot is a success.
Beers In Pubs
Location, location, location. If you want to be a successful beer photographer then you need to shoot your beers in a bar. This might sound odd but for the most part I would not suggest taking pictures of beer in your own home.
How Do You Make Beer Foam For The Perfect Photograph
When you first pour your beer there will be a head of foam. Take as many pics as you can while that initial foam is present.
But that foam will slowly go away but that doesn’t mean you have to pour another glass to get that refreshing looking foam.
To get your beer foamy again just add some salt and stir! Now you have that perfect head of foam ideal for photographs. This is by far the easiest method to fake froth a beer.
How To Photograph A Pint Glass of Beer
First pour your beer into a glass and take a few test shots of the beer itself. If it looks good then move on to the next step.
Lightly wet a napkin and ring out any excess water. Then without touching the wet napkin, rub it in a circular motion across the top of your glass. You only need to wet it lightly since you are trying to evaporate off that water. A little goes a long way when using this method.
This will blow off the moisture you added and create frothy foam that looks like it’s flowing out of your glass!
How To Photograph A Beer In A Can
I find that cans are not the easiest thing to shoot but there are a few things you can do to make them easier. The first is to find a good window or something reflective to shoot up against. The second is to use flash or bounce light into the can.
I like to throw a piece of paper on the ground that has a reflection of the can’s back. This creates an interesting light pattern and while it’s not super flattering it can be perfect for the right image. I also prefer to take my photos with flash which adds some light to the image.
The Second thing you can do is take shots looking up into the can as well as looking down at it. With this technique you can get a more accurate representation of the beer looking through the label and into the can itself. I recommend using fill flash to do this so that you are not introducing too much light into what is basically a dark tube.
One last tip is to take pictures with your camera’s macro mode. This will help you get really accurate close-ups of your beer, which is perfect for product photography.
How To Photograph Beer Bottles
First of all make sure you have a nice background behind your beer. I’ve found that the best backdrops are hard wood floors or dark colors like red, orange or green.
The best way to get a good close up of a beer bottle is to use fill flash. This will create shadows and give you more accuracy when shooting the bottle for product photography.
Use Fill Flash With A Soft Box Or Umbrella Here are two different ways you can add light to your shots when photographing beer bottles.
The first way is to use a soft box or umbrella. I’ve found that a softbox gives the best results, even if your bottle and background is not dark and contrasty. The second way you can use fill flash is with an off camera flash triggered by your camera. Most cameras allow you to trigger an off camera flash.
There are a couple ways you can trigger this flash. I personally use the Flash Sync setting on my camera so that I can get the most consistent results. This setting will give you the best results when using your off camera flash to trigger your flash and then in turn trigger your camera’s built-in flash as well.
Beer Photography Lighting
Speaking of lighting for beer photography, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that will help you get the most out of your beer photography sessions.
Focus on the bottle and not the label. Check your camera’s depth of field settings for this.
Lighting Only The Top of Your Beer Bottle Here’s a tip to make sure that you are getting the most out of your shot. This tip will really help you make sure that you’re looking at the top of your bottle, not just the front or back label. This will also help eliminate glare from the glass.
Lighting your beer bottle from the top and not just the front or back labels will really keep your beer bottle from looking flat and dull. It is a simple technique to pull off and it will greatly improve your shots. This tip works for beer bottles, wine bottles, or any other round-bottomed bottles.
Using a photo editing program like Photoshop CC is a great way to edit out those distractions. You can also use other image editing programs or apps, as well.
There are always ways to work around these little imperfections to make sure that your beer gets the attention it deserves.