The Challenges of Beer Photography – Light and Reflection

This was my first food and beverage photography session. Fortunately the subject was one of my favorite beverages in the whole world:  CRAFT BEER! At Digital Relativity we are fortunate to have started working with local craft brewers, Bridge Brew Works.

Excited as I was to get started, there were going to be some challenges. We only had a few hours to do the shoot. Knowing it’s best to resolve potential issues before the shutter is released, the clock was not in my favor. A few minutes of pre-click work can save an hour or two of Photoshop editing.

Before: The Challenges

Location was a challenge. Most Bridge Brew Works beers are only available on tap so we had to shoot them at the brewery. Unfortunately, shooting at the brewery limits our control of the light. We were at the mercy of the existing settings.

Wrangling the Light

The aluminum-colored coolers, stainless steel fermenters and mash tun are beautiful in their reflective shell.  However, they bounce powerful light photons at the shiny surface of pint glasses and bottles.

The darker the beer, the more pronounced the reflection. Attempts to diffuse the reflections were minimal. Their contrasting grey and white values embedded themselves deep within the chocolate bottles and organic hues of the brews.

After: The Finished Product

A Myriad of Reflections 

The ceiling of the brewery features skylights. Sunlight may keep the brewers happy while they are crafting beer, but can create unmerciful reflections. Ultimately they distract from the subject, the beer itself. The rich, all-natural color of beer demands center stage in the photo.

Ambient light illuminated surrounding objects. Some of those objects were people, myself included.  Even the piece of cardboard I held to block a strong light became a reflection itself!

Future of Beertography

From this experience I learned a valuable lesson: Never underestimate the powerful effect of reflected light. To capture the true character of the subject, take every step available to control as much light as possible. The ideal situation is to construct a portable, light-controlling, box-studio. One that is inexpensive to build and maintain, but is also easily transportable.

One thing’s for sure, I am looking forward to the next beertography session. Stay tuned for further updates as the saga continues….