10 Steps to Better Beer Photography

Now that you’ve perfected your beer writing skills, you want to perfect your visual storytelling skills too, right? We’ve seen lots of great content out there, and it’s not only from our fans, but our own staff too! Did you know that in addition to our own resident photograhper Cambria, Brian from the Tasting Room and Colin from our packaging team also dabble in some stellar photography? We’ve pooled together our favorite tips and tricks for making the most of your photography, whether it’s shot with your phone for social media or with a “real” camera.

On to number 1 …

Lighting is everything

But you already knew that! It’s hard sometimes to get better lighting if you’re shooting at a moody fancypants bar, but thanks to some apps out there you can perfect your pictures on the fly. If you’re working with a real camera, get that ISO way up, or lengthen your exposure and find something you can rest the camera on for stability. There’s certainly a time for flash photography, but that time isn’t here. If you’re using your phone flash, don’t. If you’re using a “real” camera, your action shots of someone making a cocktail can turn out pretty great with a flash, but that same bulb on photo of a beer glass that’s half full with some hamburger grease smeared on it won’t look so great. Do some experiments with your flash and get to know when it does or doesn’t work.

Snap away

Digital photography means no more costly film. You can take zillions of photos without spending that money, so take more photos than you’ll need, especially when people and moving objects are involved. Though more photos means more editing later, having a collection of shots to work with means you’ll have a better yield of final products in the end. When you’re getting photos of a special beer being brewed, don’t miss that precise moment when the sack of spices get added to the boil. It’s happening only once and you’ll be glad later that you took 25 shots of it (instead of 1) when your subject kept blinking in half the pictures!

Frame & crop

I’ll generally take a selection of photos of the same shot — a wide, a close up, and something in between, plus a couple that are cropped on the fly in a way I like. I aim to capture an original photo to include as much information as possible so I can have more options to crop in photoshop later if need be. If you’re using a phone, take originals outside of the apps, then import them in so you’l have multiple versions of the original shot to use again later, maybe in a different way, if need be. Brian also recommends Whitagram for posting full sized photos to Instagram’s forced square format.

Don’t fear manual focus

Why let the camera decide where to put the attention in the photo? Sometimes you want something farther away to be in focus, and depending on your cropping and framing prowess, focus can add another dimension of drawing your viewer into a narrative.

Level out.

Adjusting levels in photoshop is one of my favorite dirty secrets. Washed out image? Too many dark spots? A quick tweak of the levels in Photoshop (or in Pixlr, a free online mini-clone of Photoshop that has level adjustment capabilities) is my go to tool. Depending on how you adjust, pictures will look brighter, sharper (via increased contrast) and sometimes a bit more saturated.

Unflatten your world

Assuming you’re not trying to take studio perfect product shots of beer to cut out in photoshop, liven up the image by incorporating some subtle textures or patterns. Lots of foodie photographers often do this (think of all those burlap/cheesecloth/distressed wood recipe images you’ve seen out there). A plain surface is great for some needs, but when it comes to supporting or telling a story with your photos, bland can get boring.

Tell a story

Each item in a picture has a purpose. Put on your production design hat when you’re posting about your beer adventures. Instead of just a static shot of the bottle of beer your’re enjoying on the coast of Mexico, think about setting the scene. Stick the half consumed bottle next to the coconut you’re drinking it from, perch those tasty tacos behind it, throw your shades down next to it, and tell your pooch to run through the waves in the background. That scene tells a stronger story than, “Hey, here’s a beer.” If it takes combining a couple photos, we love Picframe for splicing together a number of images to tell a complete story in one little square.

Sharing is caring

Realize that the pictures you’re putting online are available to the world. Don’t be afraid to tell people you want to be credited for your work. After all, you put the time, energy, and probably some kind of money into your pictures, and when your photo is the one that is just what an editor is looking for, they should be more than happy to credit you properly. On that same note, if you borrow someone else’s image, you know what to do! Watermarks are a great way to keep it clear that a photo is yours, but they can be cropped out … or sometimes simply detract from the awesome image you created.

Know when to put the camera down!

Better yet, know when to put the social media away! I’ve lost track of the number of times I didn’t give my full attention to a beer because I had to make sure Untappd knew I tried it at the source, when instead I should have been taking it all in. Snap away, but remember to enjoy the moment.

Bonus goodies:

More how to guides for you:

Post by Cambria Griffith, our Social Media & Marketing Manager, and ruthless self-promoter since she’s posting about herself right now. Cambria has been nerding out on craft beer online since 2009 (both for fun and for dollar bills).

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