Cocktail Photography


Something we've had much exposure too...

5 tips to Shooting Cocktails:




1 - Preparation

Make sure you have thought about the below points before you start taking pictures.

Camera: do you know how to use white balance, ISO, focus, f-stop, flash and shutter speed?

If so, you’re going to take some pretty good pictures!

If not, here is a low down on what these mean.

White balance:

What colour the camera thinks is white and hence bases all its other colours on


This is very important. Digital cameras don’t use film. They use sensors. The ISO is how sensitive the sensor is to light. How much light it utilises (the lower the better generally because it means your subject is better lit)


If you don’t know what this is I can’t help you. And I won’t.


A weird thing. I don’t really know exactly what it does, it changes your depth of field basically. Meaning how much focus there is...


I would advise against using this for cocktail photos because you can get glare on the glassware unless you dull the flash (put a piece of paper over it)

Shutter Speed:

The length of time a picture is taken over. Pictures of bullets going through apples etc are taken with really low shutter speeds. You need to go pretty low.

I recommend you Google all the above to get a 'better picture'.  They’re simple to grasp but hard to master.

Make sure you have the right lens, good light, prepare the image and closely examine your subject before you shoot.

Remember that your ice will melt, your drink will lose bubbles fast and start to look pretty manky within an hour. So act fast! Have a plan in your mind before you pour the drink.

You don’t have to worry too much though because you can get some pretty good photos if you act fast and you can always crop/edit photos in photoshop afterwards.

The Canon 550D is the camera I use; it’s very versatile but can be a little intimidating at first. Once you’ve grasped the above basics it gets better though.




2 - Focal Point

Find a Focal point – straw, garnish, colour? You need to think about what you want to catch your viewers eyes, try using the rule of thirds.

Try changing the f stop and your lens. If you can get just one point of the photo in perfect focus but the rest blurry it can really make for an interesting picture.

When in doubt more is better. Try taking loads of photos and make a decision in post production.

With focus try turning it on its head, focus on the straw or the garnish, the colour of the cocktail makes a good backdrop. The smallest change in focus can completely change the ‘visual dynamics’ of a photo.

Personally I have met many people who say ‘never use the autofocus’. I think this is wrong. When you take a picture you can’t really see exactly how in focus is on the little LCD screen or when staring through the lens. I prefer to mix it up. Take some with AF and some with Manual Focus.

If in doubt turn the focus ring while taking pictures and see what looks best. You’ll probably get something good!


Rule of Thirds

A popular rule in photography, basically draw imaginary lines across your photo dividing it into 9 boxes, like Sudoku. Place important elements where the lines intersect.

It helps vanquish the ‘small subject surrounded by lots of empty space’ syndrome.

However, like all rules, once you start using it you’ll want to break it, this is fine. Rules are made to be broken!




3 - Glassware

One thing people normally forget is the glassware, sugaring the rim can add a nice touch to any cocktail photo.


Misting the glass
To give it a glistening look (I use a flower watering gun thing)


Freezing the glass
Gives it chilly misted look


Remember the flash
If you are going to be using a flash be prepared to get a big reflection on the glassware, make sure to use a polarising lens to reduce glare. Also remember that ice will melt fast under big lights.


Glassware Sources
Charity shops are best. You can get loads of cheap and interesting glassware from these places.



4 – Light

Do you have sufficient light? Enough light? The right kind of light?

In a perfect world your subject will be wonderfully lit by natural daylight and you won’t need to bring any artificial light to your subject....
However, in the UK natural daylight is generally about as useful as a doily made of swiss cheese.

Daylight bulbs are the best type to use because household lights give a ‘warm’ glow, which is yellowy orange. Please see the orangey picture on the right to see what we mean.

I used to use a daylight bulb (but it wasn’t that good and it broke pretty soon). Now I use a fantastic Lumie Brightspark which provides 10,000 LUX of Daylight. Designed to mimic daylight. It’s the best, I call it the PortaSun.

You could also make yourself a light box, remember that splashes occur when shooting cocktails so use piled white A4 sheets as your base so you can easily remove any which get spilled on.




5 - Black & White

You can always try taking the colour out of your photos with Photoshop in post production. Some just look better in black and white and you can still play with the levels to your heart's content.

The picture of the cocktail sticks on the right is the only picture on this page which I didn't take. However, I did make it black and white. I think it looks far better this way.


Last tip.


Choose class. Stay away from coloured straws because they lack class, like a Blue Lagoon made from WKD and Vodka.

There, I said it.


More photos:

Heres some links to some pictures of cocktails I have taken recently

Vanilla Cocktail

Pink Gin

Espresso Martini Cocktail



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Want some inspiration for your next cocktail? Get your fix here