5 Tips to Make Your Beer Photography Memorable
In beer photography, as in every commercial or advertising image, the main goal to achieve is emotion. In just very few seconds we need to get the attention of the viewer, communicate a message and tell a story that everyone will remember. But what are the technical sides behind? What do we need to pay attention to when we shoot a bottle or a glass of beer?
In this article we will:
- Know what shooting with different focal lengths implies
- Learn how to get a wet and matte look
- Understand the importance of the backlight
- Know which gear makes the difference in beer photography
- Understand the importance of compositing vs one shot images
1. Pay Attention to the Focal Length
This could be the most obvious aspect, but hey… Just wait a second and think about it.
Do we need a flat image just to show the bottle? Or are we looking for a dramatic and outstanding picture, maybe for a campaign or a catalog? As almost every time “there’s no silver bullet”, as flat pictures can be ok in some occasions, but some general rules deserve to be considered.
Shooting with a 100mm lens could be great if we want to make some close-ups or get a flat look (maybe for ecommerce catalogs). But as said, shooting this way will lead to flat looking images. The pictures will show the product and… no more.
Taking pictures with a 70mm, 50mm or sometimes 30mm lens will introduce an increasing pleasant distortion and make our bottle or glass literally coming out. Curved lines, especially for the front part and the label, lead to a more dramatic and outstanding effect.
2. Obtain a Wet and Matte Look
The wet look for our bottles is what gives the sensation of fresh. If we think about advertising or commercial, we’re used to see it. How is this effect created in studio? Are water drops enough?
This time the answer is no! Studio strobes are hot and the water goes away very fast this way. Like food photographers usually do, we need to recreate the drops using some tools. Two must-have props are the solution: dulling spray and glycerin.
The Dulling Spray works as a base for the drops and helps to get sexier reflections and colors on our bottle. Plenty of products are available online, a great solution is this one.
Glycerin is what we need to create drops: mix it with water (almost 2/3 of water and 1/3 of glycerin) and vaporize it on the bottle (or on the glass). The result is stunning: the water drops will get a beautiful round shape and will not evaporate for a long long time (even for days). And it works even if our bottle has a paper front label, it will remain perfect!
3. Play with the Backlight
Pictures of bottles and glasses stand out if the colors of the beer are stunning. Green, yellow or whatever the colors could be, we need to make them brilliant, a bit saturated and with gradients.
The backlight is what we need to work on. Reflecting our strobe light on the background is the starting point. And trying to move it from a side to another, or making it coming from the bottom, is the next step. It will lead to create different kind of gradients inside our subject.
But we need to pay attention. Our beer is a liquid, and the liquid works as a lens. So our bottle/glass will refract the light and we’ll see it on the opposite side! If we suppose to place the backlight on the rear left side of the bottle, we will see that light on the right side of it.
Just play with the backlight position to find the better color gradient for your beer.
4. Don’t Forget This Must-Have Gear
Attention to details makes the difference. It’s true for everything, not only for beer photography, but if we want our picture to be really different, we absolutely need this gear!
Beauty-Dish : yes you read right, a beauty-dish! It is useful to get a diffused light for portraits. But it’s great for beer photography too, to get a great diffused light on the label and to illuminate the water drops.
Especially for high-res photos, water drops catch the attention and they need to be lighted in the best way. The beauty dish creates soft, gorgeous spots on our drops, which makes the difference.
Diffusing panels : especially if we shoot a subject on dark, we need to separate it from the background. And we need edge reflections. Using strobes with some diffusion material in front of it, we can obtain sexy gradient edge lights.
Generally speaking, for product photography translum diffusing paper (in the heavy version) is a great solution. It can be molded, cut and adapted to any situation (and works well both as a diffuser and a reflector). For beer photography a white thick plexiglas is certainly a good and a bit cheaper alternative.
5. Compositing is Better Than a Single Shot
A standard studio setup for taking a shot of a glass or a bottle consists in three lights working simultaneously: background, right side and left side. But… We need something different, right?
It’s simple but shooting with one light at a time can make a lot of difference. Each light interferes with the others and it takes time to set everything properly. Even only diffusion panels can soften the shadows, we will lose contrast and the final result will not be what we planned.
Just taking a main shot of the bottle, one for each side and compositing everything in post-production will save time and will get a way better result.