Tips To Improve Your Beverage Photography: Secrets Of The Craft

This week I wanted to  share a few of the tools we commercial photographers use to create our tabletop images. Particularly the items used in photographing beverages. There's a lot of trial and error when it comes to this sort of photography, often times we find ourselves using things in ways far from their originally intended purpose. Having said that, there's a lot of things that have become kind-of standard practice in food/beverage photography, some of those items I'll share with you today. 

I certainly don't claim to know everything, as most of these techniques come from years of experience working with [food] stylists and even other photographers, a learning curve that never ends. I attribute much of what I've learned about food/beverage photography to my mentor Rob Grimm, one of the masters of this genre. Another source for knowledge on prepping food for the camera is a great book called "Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera" by food stylist Delores Custer, that has many more tips and tricks beyond what I've discussed here. If you want to know more, I'd recommend picking up a copy.

Below I've outlined the items mentioned in this video, most of which is available at drug stores and/or grocery stores.

Tacky Putty
Microfiber Cloth
White Cotton Gloves
Tacky Wax
Orthodontic Wax
Canned Air
Atomizer
Glycerin
Krylon Crystal Clear
Goof Off
3M ScotchBright Pad
Acrylic Ice
Rubber Funnel
Kitchen Bouquet
Ice Powder

I look forward to seeing what the viewers do with these tips, and hope you'll share your images on our Fstoppers community. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to hit me up on social media.

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30 Comments

Spy Black's picture

Lots of great tips here, thanks so much for your time. I'm curious about two things, one is how long do "ice cubes" last before they are too scratched for usability? I know these things need to be handled carefully, but as I'm sure you know, shìt happens. :-)

The other thing I'm curious about is what is the toxicity of the frost powder? Can it be handled by bare hands, and how is it disposed of? What is that stuff? It seems not unlike and ice version of John Carpenter's The Thing!

Thanks again for your informative video and links.

Tony Roslund's picture

Acrylic ice lasts a LONG time. Once it's submerged in liquid, you don't really see the scratches. But if you do happen to get larger noticeable blemishes, they can be buffed out on a bench grinder.

In regards to toxicity, you can handle with bare hands, it's the same stuff in diapers (although I recommended this to Fstoppers founder Pat Hall recently in a pinch and he busted open a diaper and said there was nothing granular in it, so the recipe may have changed).

DO NOT DUMP THIS STUFF DOWN YOUR DRAIN! You will be calling a plumber. Wipe it out of whatever bowl/dish you mix it in with a paper towel and throw it in the trash.

Spy Black's picture

Thanks for your reply. So there's no real knowledge of what that ice powder is. I'm just curious whether it's biodegradable, or whether it's just something else that lies for eternity, or if ingested by rats turns them into velociraptors. You know, stuff like that. :-)

Inasmuch as I'm sure far nastier things wind up in landfills, the thought just crossed my mind, as that's pretty weird stuff!

Tony Roslund's picture

I will check the label. It's no more toxic to the environment than any diaper that fills the landfill. Probably smells better too. ;-)

Ken Kotch's picture

The Trengove ice powder says it is "Odorless, Biodegradable and non-toxic if used externally."
Though it also says it can be disposed of through the sewer, which I disagree with unless you like paying your plumber.

Tony Roslund's picture

yes, same thing, but they may not all include that anymore. Some have different insides.

Spy Black's picture

Man, there's something about that stuff that is just frightening. :-)

Yeah! Beverage photography! All good things here!

Tony Roslund's picture

Most of this stuff Rob and I covered with you in the Bahamas workshop, but hopefully there was something you hadn't heard before. ;-)

True, true, but it's still good info for people who haven't heard it. :)

I love your tips and videos Tony! I might have a tip for you. Switch out the glycerin with liquid glucose, mix it 50/50 with water and stir it together, coat your glass/bottle with artist gloss vanish and your drops will get rock solid and stay hard. With glycerin they have a tendency to evaporate leaving only the sticky sugar left, leaving some weird and ugly looking droplets..

Karl Taylor's picture

If you are interested in this type of photography then you can also watch this previous f-stoppers post that shows you how to light these type of whisky shots https://fstoppers.com/studio/amazingly-depth-video-tutorial-product-ligh...

Tony Roslund's picture

Yea guys, Karl is another master of the genre. I posted about some of his other videos a couple weeks ago here: http://fstoppers.com/education/photographers-karl-taylor-and-urs-recher-...

Karl, if you ever have anything special you'd like to share with the Fstoppers audience, hit me up and I'll get it posted for you.

Karl Taylor's picture

Thanks Tony, will do. Cheers

Christopher Sztybel's picture

This article and video is stellar. Informative and makes me appreciate the work that goes into things we can take for granted.

Burt Johnson's picture

This was fantastic! Good, solid hints given in a concise manner. Of course it cost me a bunch as I logged onto Amazon and other sources to buy all these great supplies, but I guess I can't blame Tony for my lack of self control, can I? :)

Tony, thanks for the tips! To remove silk screen labels soak in CLR and in 15 minutes it wipes clean.

Tony Roslund's picture

You're my hero! That's an awesome tip man! A game changer for me.

No worries mate, glad I could help.

Jonas Sundgren's picture

CLR ?

CLR is Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover

http://www.jelmar.com/CLRbasic.htm

Jonas Sundgren's picture

Thanks!

Matt Berkowitz's picture

Tony,
Did you get any BTS footage from the shot that shows up on this post? of the Black Heron Whiskey? I'd love to see that!

Tony Roslund's picture

I'll look Matt, not sure if we have anything from that shoot. We're planning to do a beverage vid soon though. I'm also going to be doing a workshop on this in Seattle before the end of the year, if you're anywhere close.

Tony, I would be interested in your Seattle Workshop. Where could i find more info?

Tony Roslund's picture

Ramiro, follow me on Twitter/Facebook for updates. It's going to be at BlackRapid's Seattle HQ.

Great post, Tony. As for the comment from Spy Black regarding acrylic cubes getting scratched/hazy with use, an old school trick is to buff them using Colgate toothpaste. The abrasive in the paste gets them sparkling.

An alternative to the ice powder (possibly mentioned in the styling book you listed) are Deco Cubes. Likely made from the same or similar material as Ice Powder (non-toxic, biodegradable), as the name would suggest, they come in cube form and increase around 20x in volume after being submerged in water for an hour or two. You can smash, squish, or use a blender to achieve the desired consistency. They are nearly invisible when submerged though so not an alternative for ice cubes.

That said, since these products absorb water, they constantly sweat when not submerged which provides for poor adhesion, especially on smooth surfaces and styling can be problematic (as you mention in the video). An alternative, depending on the size/consistency you're after, is Trengove's floating ice product, crumbled into small granules, and mixed with glycerin or corn syrup as the viscosity of those two agents will provide better adhesion to high gloss surfaces.

Been following your website for a while now and admire your work. Plus, I am also originally from Spokane so we have that in common too.

Tony Roslund's picture

Erik Skaar! Got a lot of your work saved in my "inspiration" folder man. I've thought about reaching out for a beer when I'm over in Seattle, but always seem to forget until I get back home. I'm over for work a few times per month, if you're up for it . . .

Great tips on the Colgate, just like taking scratches out of old CDs. I usually just use Novus scratch remover and a buffing wheel on the old bench grinder, but your way sounds easier. I'll try the crumbled floating ice mixed with glycerine for sure. I hate trying to get this ice powder to stick, even after coating the bottle with Crystal Clear. I'd actually thought about mixing some glycerin with the ice powder to see if that would work . . . ever tried it?

Alf Nielsen's picture

Awesome tips, thank you