Hi! I’m Jennifer Bravo, a professional food photographer and friend to Allagash. I’m here, guest posting on their blog, to share with you a few trade secrets to help you uplevel your beer pics.
If you’ve noticed the collection of stunning images on Allagash’s Instagram, you may be here reading this very blog post to find out exactly how they do it. While they are really good make all of their images look effortless, it isn’t without a little bit of know-how and a heck of a lot of practice (uh, hello endless beer supply!). So, in keeping with Allagash’s core beliefs, sharing is caring and that’s why I’m here, to uplevel your beer photos.
Below, I’m sharing 6 tips to help you take the perfect beer shot, no matter your level of photography experience. So go ahead and grab your favorite Allagash, and let’s get started!
Make some decisions.
The first thing any photographer needs to do is identify the subject and the scene. While we know that beer is our subject, there are so many amazing ways to capture it. Ask yourself a few questions like, are you hoping to get an action shot of a beer pour? A can exploding open? Maybe you want to tell a story of joy and are trying for a cheers shot, or friends gathering ‘round. Deciding your photo goal will help you envision the shot and take the necessary steps to set it up successfully.
My goals today are to take a few different shots in order to have some fun and play with different shots while taking you along for the ride, so I’m going to consider how to set up my shot to convey my messaging with you.
Pick your lighting.
I use the word “pick” because, when it comes to photography, it’s not just day and night, light and dark. There are hundreds of different lighting and shadow scenarios to explore, from bright sun to filtering clouds, indoor shooting, and everything in between. The light even changes as the earth travels around the sun, making any given season an opportunity to capture the light or the shadows in a whole new way. Just know, there are so many fun and creative ways to capture the light, don’t be intimidated, instead look around!
Let’s play out a few scenarios: Are you cracking your beer in the evening, with the beautiful golden hour sun all around? Find the direction the sun is setting in your particular situation and pay attention to the casts it’s giving. Observe how the light hits your beer by moving it around to different spots and see how it illuminates differently. What do you notice in each setting? Is the sun pouring through your beer and exposing the thousands of tiny bubbles racing to the surface? Or maybe the filtered light is highlighting that gorgeous foam top.
Or maybe you’re shooting inside like I am today, and want to capture some drama with deep shadows or texture. Again, look around and observe the light. Find a nice big window, and then look down. Where on the floor do you see a bright spot? Where in the room are there dramatic variations between light and shadows? If you’re getting really serious, pull out your phone’s compass and figure out which direction is north and find a window. This way you’re getting that nice even Northern Hemisphere light. No matter your location, be observant and try a few different spots until you get it just right.
Here, I’ve picked a nice bright, north-ish facing window to set up my table. I’ve set up close to the window in order to capture the most outside light. It’s important to note that, over time, I’ve tried almost every single window in my house, and this one is my favorite to shoot at. It may take a few tries, but once you find your spot, you’ll know.
Pick your props.
I would argue that props are the most overlooked tool in photography. While all photographers, no matter the level of experience, know that light is absolutely the photographer’s most powerful tool, food photographers know that props, too, have the power to shape your scene in tremendous ways. I’d even argue that light is in fact, a prop, but we needn’t get philosophical here.
In this case, your Allagash beer is going to serve as the main subject of your shot. Any props you use have very important supporting roles to help draw the eye to your beer and tell your story. Glassware is of course a no brainer when it comes to photographing a beverage, but consider backdrops like the table you’re drinking at, or the scenic view you’re gazing, too. Pull from what’s around and available to suggest location, add texture, give height, and tell the story.
I happen to love vintage props, so here I’ve picked a vintage beer glass with a gorgeous silver base. I prefer to use a few meaningful props rather than flood my scene with lots of pieces and because of my goal from step 1 above, I chose a minimal space to keep us focused.
Set the scene and your gear.
Begin to build the image you’re envisioning, and play around with different angles and positionings. Once you have it nailed down, set up any equipment and tools you may need. If you need an extra hand as a prop but don’t have a friend nearby to fill in as your hand model, do it yourself! Using your self timer is an awesome way to capture human touches, while giving you an even deeper acquaintance with your camera. Some of my favorite ways to explore food/beverage movement and the way light touches my images has been through using my self timer. It’s a totally different experience to be both in front of the lens and behind the camera at the same time. If you’re working on your iphone, find a wall or glass to prop up your phone for self timer.
For this shot, I’m using my tripod to capture multiple frames at a fast shutter speed, a backdrop and marble surface to keep the scene dark and clean, and a white foam board to bounce some of that gorgeous window light back onto our subjects.
If you’re new to capturing food and beverage shots, no matter your level of photography experience, I have a few suggestions to help you along. If you’re using your phone, and you want to play with your camera settings, use apps like Lightroom or Moment to tap into manual mode.
Try to keep your shutter no slower than 1/125 when shooting free hand in tricky low light. If you want to capture movement like a beer pour, you’ll likely need to start around 1/800 minimum and bump faster from there. Looking for frozen orbs of beer jetting out of a can as you open it? Try to start around 1/1600 and play around. My unique to me sweet spot is typically between 1/800 and 1/1600.
When capturing still life, consider how you see the finished image and pick your f-stop. Do you want a vivid overhead shot with lots for the eye to explore? Shoot at an aperture of at least f/4.0 and then go smaller (higher in number) from there. If you prefer a smooth, almost milky image with nothing in focus except the star of the show, shoot it wide open. When I’m capturing a straight-on beer shot, I like to play in the f/3.0-f/3.5 range for a nice and evenly focused shot with a lovely bokeh.
If you’re hoping to capture the movement of your beer in any way, make sure to adjust your shutter settings to whatever version of high speed continuous shooting mode your camera may have. This way your camera is ready for rapid shutter and you have the best chance to capture some gorgeous movement.
For these shots, I want to capture lots of movement as I fill my vintage glass and call more attention to my beer. I’m shooting in lower light, so my ISO is around 800 in order to get as much movement from a fast shutter as possible. I can always increase the exposure of my image a little in post-production, so I always choose my settings in favor of a bump or two underexposed if it helps me get my movement.
Ready your beer.
Finally, you’re just about ready to capture a beautiful image! But before you put your finger on that shutter, you must ready your beer. If you’re taking a photo of a canned Allagash beer, search for a can with the opening tab parallel to the front label. If you want to capture the signature Allagash can opening spray, shake it up and get right in there. Snap away and play around as much as you can. With anything photography related, practice makes perfect.
And that’s it! If you found this post helpful or interesting, let us know! Be sure to tag us in your beer pics so we can see your beautiful work!