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Cocktail Photography 101: How To Overcome Common Challenges

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As thrilling as it is to capture the essence of a perfectly crafted cocktail, chances are that you will encounter challenges along the way. Some of these obstacles will present themselves in the form of tricky lighting situations, garnishes that just won’t stay put or an inability to capture the true colours of the scene in front of you. Let’s look at some of the common challenges that you may encounter while photographing cocktails and what you can do to overcome them. 

Tackling Lighting Woes

Getting the lighting right is perhaps the biggest challenge in cocktail photography. Overly bright environments or harsh shadows can easily detract from the actual colours and textures of your drink, resulting in photographs that look bland. One of the best ways to counter this issue is to work with natural light as much as possible. Photograph beside a window, but make sure to avoid direct sunlight. Opt for soft, diffused light as it will help in highlighting the little details of your drink without overwhelming the overall composition of the shot. However, if it’s not possible to shoot in natural light, you can opt for adjustable LED lights to provide controlled illumination. Experiment with different angles to find one that is the most flattering. 

Dealing With Glass Reflections

In cocktail photography, choosing the right glassware for your drink is crucial. However, glass can be quite tricky to shoot owing to reflections. To overcome this problem, look for glassware that is matte or non-reflective. However, if you have to use reflective glass, you can strategically position your lights to avoid any kind of glare. Alternatively, you can also use a circular polarising filter on your camera’s lens. By rotating the filter, you can reduce reflections on glass surfaces, making it possible for the actual colours and textures of the drink to shine through. However, note that polarising filters don’t get rid of reflections entirely, they only minimise reflections. Experiment with different angles on the filter until you find the ideal balance.


Handling Melting Ice

Working with ice means working against time. Owing to its perishable nature, ice can be quite stressful to work with. But there are ways to counter this issue. Work in an air-conditioned environment, have all your props ready beforehand, and make sure that your glass is chilled before you add your drink and garnishes. This will help in prolonging the lifespan of the ice. The key is to work quickly and efficiently. Add the ice only towards the end, once you are done setting up the shot. Alternatively, you can consider using artificial ice cubes, which are as good as real ice and a lot easier to work with. You can also use artificial ice cubes while setting up the shot and then replace them with real ice, once you are ready to shoot.

Taming the Wild Sprig

Like ice, garnishes are just as crucial to cocktail photography but can be quite unruly and challenging to photograph. For instance, getting a citrus twist or a delicate herb sprig to stay put in a particular position can be difficult. To overcome this hurdle, always carry a pair of tweezers with you to ensure precise placement. You can also use small dabs of honey or syrup to ensure that the garnishes are adhered to the glass instead of floating away. Remember that setting up the look of your drink is a time-consuming process and patience is key here, especially when working with delicate garnishes. Take your time to make subtle adjustments until you are happy with the look. 

Maintaining Color Fidelity

There are so many elements that go into creating a stunning cocktail photograph. You will not only have to deal with the drink itself but also props, garnishes and backdrops, all coming with varying colours and textures. However, remember that amidst all this, your focus should be on the drink and how you can capture its true essence. For starters, avoid overly saturated backgrounds or props that can distort the colours of your drink. You can also use colour cards to calibrate your camera’s white balance settings to match the lighting and ambience you want to convey. Moreover, always shoot in the RAW format as it will give you more flexibility to fine-tune the colours and lighting in the image in post-processing.