How to Photograph a Cocktail

Classic Club Cocktail Recipe
Michael Blann / Stone / Getty Images
  • 01 of 04

    The Perfect Cocktail Photo

    Cocktail with genever, orange & raspberries.
    Helen Yin/Getty Images

    If you are a drink stylist, you know how important a photo can be—it can make or break the beverage. By planning ahead and following a few important steps, even an amateur photographer can achieve some wonderful shots.

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  • 02 of 04

    Set Up Your Shooting Station and Control the Light

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    A basic set-up. Evi Abeler Photography

    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 yourself and your camera.

    To illustrate the set-up clearly, no additional props were added to the scene. The shooting station is close to a window, the camera is locked on a tripod, and the shooting is 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, this was shot 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.

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  • 03 of 04

    Find the Right Angle

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    Window light set-up. Evi Abeler Photography

    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 3/4 of your subject: the front, a little side, and the top. This angle 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 with the tripod.  

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  • 04 of 04

    Perfect Your Scene and Cocktail, and Shoot

    How to shoot a cocktail
    Evi Abeler Photography

    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 also is 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!