glass of starbucks iced coffee photo by Mark Mawson

The Art Behind Food & Beverage Photography

Cocktail Anyone?

You know the images, the ones that make you look at your watch and ask “Is it happy hour yet?” At Sally Reps we are in the business of creating images that evoke a feeling, so when my teams of food and Cocktail Anyone?

You know the images, the ones that make you look at your watch and ask “Is it happy hour yet?” At Sally Reps we are in the business of creating images that evoke a feeling, so when my teams of food and beverage photographers, stylists and retouchers work on projects they aim to make the viewer’s mouth water. But like any gorgeous art, creating images that make the tummy rumble and the tastebuds tingle is no easy feat.

Cold drinks with crackling ice, carbonated bubbles that reach for the surface, frosted cocktail glasses and beer steins with condensation are often needed for a great beverage image. There are reflections and melting ice to consider as well as unforeseen lighting challenges and wilting garnishes.

“It’s all about planning,” says renowned director/photographer Mark Mawson. “When I shoot stills, I usually shoot with layers in mind. I always try to shoot as much as possible in camera. When I need to, I shoot splashes, spills or pours as separate frames which are layered together in post. We need to pay attention to consistent shadows and light."

When it comes to shooting liquid videos, Mark Mawson sets out to tell a story using different shots, angles and camera movement.

“I enjoy the movement of the liquids, particularly in slow motion, but lighting drinks in video is more of a challenge. The glass of liquid or the camera are moving, I’m not able to use little hidden lighting tricks that I can in stills, for instance putting a little piece of reflective card behind the glass to light up the liquid as it would be seen when the glass moves. With video there are just so many other variables that come into play."

When asked for her perspective on these types of shoots, food and beverage photographer Sarah Flotard said“The biggest thing to consider when shooting cocktails is the construction of the beverage and determining how long you have before the drink goes south on you...Does the drink have foam that will dissipate? Are there any muddled particulates that will settle to the bottom? Do you need to show condensation? If so, how much? What is the ice supposed to look like? For a client with a tight budget with little room for retouching, I work fast and try to get all the cocktail stars to align and 'one and done' it."

For those with more time and funds to devote to post work, capturing different features of a beverage and compositing is a great option. In that instance I like to include the retoucher in the planning of the project so he/she can anticipate what they'll need in order to meet the client’s goals. We then discuss any layers that I will need to capture separately, which usually includes puddles, bubbles and splashes.

The next time you see an image of a bubbly Pepsi or a cold beer consider all the planning and talent it took to create that image.

To learn more about the talented roster of artists at Sally Reps click here.

Starbucks Iced Tea and Summer Soda by Sarah Flotard

Starbucks Iced Coffee and tipping scotch glass by liquid photographer Mark Mawson