Let’s admit it, when ordering a cocktail, we’re not just looking for a delicious drink but also an eye-catching presentation that’s fit for ‘the gram’. Those 30 odd pictures of a single cocktail are proof of the struggle it takes to get that perfect Instagram shot. Snapping pictures in a dimly-lit bar is all the more challenging, often leaving you with a mediocre version of that captivating cocktail standing in front of you.
To do justice to that beautiful drink and your Instagram profile, we spoke to the pro himself, Alok Verma. Verma is a food stylist and photographer. He’s the owner of the Instagram handle @allaboutthatpalate that won him the Best Food Stylist award at the Indian Food Bloggers Awards 2016 & 2017. Here are his tips and tricks to get your cocktail photography skills up a notch.
The Lighting Issue
Most bars are dimly-lit, which means that light isn’t going to work in your favour. Verma prefers to use his camera on manual settings with a higher ISO to tackle this problem. He adds, “If you want to go that extra mile for a beautiful photo, look for an area with just the right diffused light, not too harsh, nothing that would cast too many shadows and snap your drink there.”
The Set-Up For The Frame
The cocktail might be the main focus of your photo but the background plays an important part in building your overall frame. Verma advises to shoot against backgrounds and with props that work within that restaurant’s colour scheme. Here are some of his set-up tips.
- “Marble or wood make for a good background that makes your cocktail glass stand out beautifully in the foreground.”
- “In a crowded bar, use the restaurant’s decor for inspiration. If it’s a neutral space, opt for richer, deeper colours to contrast.”
- “Don’t shy away from taking your cocktail glass to a spot with just the right light and a textured background.”
- “While the bartender is pouring another drink or performing one of his stunts, place your cocktail glass against the bar counter and with the bartender in the background (slightly blurred with a higher depth of field), grab that drama in your shot.”
The Right Angles
Verma suggests a classic 90-degree angle if there are layers or if there’s enough detail within your cocktail. His pro tip is to shoot at a 90-degree angle to the cocktail against an area where you might manage to capture a bokeh in the background. It doesn’t require too much of an effort and you end up getting a good, dramatic shot.
If the garnish is prettier than the rest of the cocktail which might just be one plain colour, he recommends shooting at a 45-degree angle. “Shooting this against a background of a contrasting colour than your drink will look more appealing”, he adds. Manage to place your cocktail glass against a wooden or marble surface, place a coaster underneath and bring to the frame other elements that you might quickly have access to, like a small flower vase or a food plate.
Setting Your Settings
When shooting on your phone, Verma recommends using the latest portrait mode that most smartphones are now equipped with. He says, “The noise and the chaos in a busy bar can be avoided with the portrait mode by making sure the focus is only on your drink.” Top that off with a good editing app to enhance the effect further.
The Final Edit
Let’s admit it, even the best pictures need a little editing to get that “wow effect”. Most professionals, including Verma, use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. However, he suggests Lightroom, because it’s user-friendly and does not need too much study. If you’re using your phone to edit, he recommends the Snapseed or VSCO apps.
To Flash Or Not To Flash
Flash may or may not work to a photographer’s advantage. Verma says, “The use of flash may highlight the details of the drink or the glass that you don’t need highlighted, like a chip on the glass or some dust particles or some extra highlighted fizzy bubbles. It could also cast some really ugly shadows of the glass, if you’re shooting on a lighter coloured background.” He advises that you rather use the flash setting on someone else’s phone and point it to the best details of the cocktail while shooting without flash from your phone. This way the necessary details get highlighted and the unwanted shadows can be avoided.
- “If you have company at the bar, it’s always good to shoot both your cocktails by keeping one blurred and focussing on the best-looking cocktail.”
- “Use of human element (well-manicured hand) in the frame adds the extra drama”
- “Take away unnecessary clutter, including plates, forks and spoons, water glasses as they add nothing to the frame but only create chaos. It’s good to stick to minimalism when the hero of your shot (the cocktail, in this case) has a bold or vibrant appearance.”
- “Try taking a tablescape flatly if there are a lot of good looking cocktails, some food elements, pretty flowers and contrasting table napkins against a complementary base.”
Try these photography tips the next time you order a fancy-looking cocktail. And, tag us @liveinstyle.insta on Instagram to show us your masterpiece.
Image Credits: @allaboutthatpalate/Alok Verma