How I Shot Drinks & Beverages

Chilli-infused Margaritas

Have you photographed drinks before? Have you tried?

It’s much harder than it looks.

Telling a story with drinks is even more challenging. In today’s post, Alida Ryder of Simply Delicious shares how she shot this margarita photo.

Learn about Alida’s photography process and what gear she uses for food photography.

About  the Photographer

I always loved food and was often asked why I don’t become a chef. I just never saw myself working in a professional kitchen but also never knew about all the other careers in the food industry. I am a trained make-up and hair artist and when I fell pregnant with my twins in 2008, I had to stop working.

After a year of being a stay-at-home-mom I felt the need to live out my creativity and then started Simply Delicious. The blog started as an easy way of sharing my recipes with friends and family but after winning the South African Blog awards for both best New Blog and Best Food & Wine Blog in 2010, doors opened for me and I saw that Simply Delicious could actually be my job.

I soon learnt that a good food blog needs good food photography and went about teaching myself about the basics of photography, etc. I studied other food images and developed a style of my own (even though I am always trying new things). Because I am not a trained photographer, I think I take chances more easily and go against a lot of rules most photographers tend to stick to.

When my food photos became better, I saw an increase in traffic to my blog because sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting featured my work and now, Pinterest is any food bloggers dream because beautiful images get pinned all the time.

Her Food Photography Process

The process starts with the recipe. I find inspiration from all over. Magazines, TV shows, cookbooks, Pinterest, other blogs, my family and my own cravings and seasonal ingredients. Once I have an idea, I will develop the recipe and start to think about how I want to ‘show’ the recipe to the world.

Most often, the seasonality of the recipe will dictate which route I go with my photography and styling. A rich, chunky soup works well with darker colours and more dramatic shadows and lighting while a salad with Summery ingredients better suits lighter, brighter photography and styling.

Going with that, I then choose props and a surface to emphasize this mood. I also think about what I would be eating/drinking with this recipe. Fried chicken, burgers and tacos go well with beer while a stew, lamb pie or roast looks beautiful with a few tumblers of red wine in the background.

If a pie is served with glazed carrots or a salad, I like to have a bowl of said item in the background to show the reader how the meal could be served.  I also like using vintage cutlery, rough fabric which I dye myself (like muslin or raw linen) and little pots of salt in my food photos. They all add to the story and make the food look more homey and inviting.

Food Photography Camera, Lenses and Food Photography Props

I shoot all my food photos with my Canon 5D Mark II. I have both a 100mm macro lens as well as a 50mm lens. I prefer shooting food with my macro as the detail it picks up is so exquisite. I also have a good quality tripod, remote and off camera flashes for things like splash photography.

I use a simple foam core board as a reflector even though I have a professional reflector. I like shooting with natural light but also have a very simple, DIY soft box which I use when I shoot indoors and I want a ‘darker’ look for my photography.

I have an entire cupboard filled with props. Everything from plated in every colour, bowls, cups, saucers, cutlery, different glasses, jugs and fabric. I also love shooting on weathered wooden surfaces.

I often buy old palattes and transform them into surfaces. Some I keep ‘raw’ and natural and others I will paint and sand down to create a weathered look. I have them in a few different colours and love every single one of them.

How This Margarita Photo Was Shot

First Decisions for Shooting Beverages

WIth these margaritas I didn’t really have an idea going in. I knew I wanted to show the elements of the cocktail but the photo happened organically. I was busy making the margaritas and had all the elements in the background.

When I took the first photo, I just moved a few of the background items around to create better balance in the photo. I particularly liked the salt I had spilled while salting the rim of the glasses.

I also think the black and grey allow the Margaritas to ‘pop’ which I quite like.

Styling for Drink Photography

I used green bottomed glasses which I’ve been dying to use forever. I love the green hue they add to the cocktails.I also really like the glass container I used for the Tequila. It reminds me of lab equipment and not something you would normally use in a food photo.

The rest of the props just happened as I was shooting as they were holding the different components of the Margarita. I wanted the styling to look very natural and in a way it was. This is what it looked like when I made the Margaritas.

Even the spilled salt was just left as is.

Lighting Decisions for Drinks

I used my lightbox for this and I used my foam core reflector. I wanted soft shadows and that’s why I used the reflector. Often I want to create more dramatic shadows in which case I won’t use the reflector but with this shot I didn’t want the mood to be too dark.

Advice for New Photographers

As a completely self-taught photographer, my first photos were just horrible. They showed no technique or creativity and as my blog grew, I started playing. I think that’s the most important thing a food blogger can do.

  • Play with your photos.
  • Get messy, use interesting props, be different.
  • All trends have to start somewhere and you never know when you’ll be the one to start one.
  • Also play with angle.
  • Walk all around  your food to see which side might be the most photogenic.
  • And above all, have fun!

One Question for You

I hope you learned about how to create a photo of Drinks from this post. In the comments below, in one line (or more), tell us what was the inspiring thing that you learned from the post.

  • I absolutely love this photograph! I like everything about it… the choice of props, the backgrounds as well as the lighting and colors. It all works! A very creative shot!

  • Great picture Alida – I will start following your blog for more inspiration…

    I am also a learner. Using about the same equipment as Alida Ryder minus the external flash. I try to stick with high Kelvin light to copy the natural outdoor light. This creates very bright pictures and not the dramatic ones Alida talkes about. In my opinion light is the difficult part of foodphotography, so inspiration is good.

    Thank you – Claus Rode

  • Mukul Desai

    Sweet, tangy, cool (not chilled)* color full photographs. Green bottom of glass & foreground surface attract eyes, I m a photographer n doing function photography but now a days i am loosing interest in root in work.
    So i want to change my filled in photography. Your photograph n also photographs of other beginner n hobbits inspired me thanks to you & Neel too
    *water drops formed by ice out side glass surface is missing. this my opinion i may be wrong, what do u think?

  • Hard to say just one thing. The thought process helps me but hearing how you choose dark or light in your pre-food shooting was very inisghtful. thx for sharing.

  • I loved reading all your comments.

    Mukul, I think you are 100% right. It definitely needs a little condensation on the glass. It would’ve made it look all the more appetising.

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