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Set-up Your Shooting Station and Control the Light
There are of course many ways you can photograph a cocktail, but for starters let's keep it simple. Find a spot close to a window where you can set-up a table, background, and the cocktail, this is called a basic daylight set-up. Make sure you have a little room to spare for you and your camera. To illustrate the set-up clearly, I did not add any other props to the scene. In the photo above you can see that my shooting station is close to a window, my camera is looked on a tripod, and I am shooting tethered. (Tethered shooting is the process of connecting your camera to your computer or tablet with either Firewire, USB, or wirelessly. This allows you to see your image on a larger screen.) As you can see, I shot this on a cloudy day, which created a nice soft and diffused light. If you are shooting on a sunny afternoon and too much light is hitting your scene you can easily diffuse the light with a translucent curtain or a diffusion screen.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Find the Right Angle
Some cocktails might look better from the side, for example, a Manhattan in a tall narrow glass. If there is a lot going on in the glass it might be interesting to shoot your drink from above. Other cocktails, like the one in the photo, are best photographed from "three-quarters"—it is called three-quarters because it shows about ¾ of your subject: the front, a little side, and the top. This angel feels very familiar because it is how we are accustomed to seeing a drink when sitting at a table. Take a little time to find the right angle for your cocktail.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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Perfect Your Scene and Cocktail, and Shoot
Once your light is right and you have found the perfect angle, make sure that you still like the background and surface. It might be too similar in color, too overwhelming, or simply not exciting. This is also a good time to add props, such as a napkin, a shaker, or another glass.
By now the ice has probably melted and all garnishes are passed their prime. So, go ahead take a sip and make a new one. If you place your glass in the freezer for a little while you might get a nice "frosted glass" effect too. With your camera locked in the perfect angle and your props in place , it's easy to swap out the cocktail, add new garnishes and shoot.
You have mastered the shot — congratulations! Ready to play around a little more? Move your camera around and see if you get an interesting photo when the light comes from the back, or move your camera up and shoot your drink from above. Have fun and share your cocktail photos!