Taking pictures of food and drink is a great way to improve and practice our photography skills with a subject we all know and love. Today we talk about coffee shots, not only those to drink, but also to shoot. Coffee is the undisputed star of morning shootings around the world, so today we will explain how to take the perfect coffee shot.
For a professional set-up you will need:
- A tripod (even makeshift)
- A light source (LED lights or natural light)
- DSLR camera, but the smartphone can be a viable alternative.
- Coffee beans, hot water and your favorite cups or mugs.
Whether you want to shoot for your own feed or for pure personal pleasure, here you’ll find some tips for setting up and taking the perfect coffee shot.
Mise en place
Shooting a cup of coffee is like photographing a still life. The goal, whether it be food or drink, is to depict objects in such a way that they appear attractive and appetizing. This means that you will have to set up the scene to bring out the main subject of the photo.
Start by experimenting with the arrangement: what is the setting of the story you want to tell? If you find yourself in a bar, take advantage of and be inspired by the atmosphere or aesthetic that the shop owners want to convey. If your coffee shot is set indoors, think carefully about how to place the cup, whether to place it on a table or on a window sill or take it outdoors, the result will change dramatically. Tip: If you plan to shoot outdoors, remember that cloudy days have better natural light which allows colors and lines to appear soft and even.
The careful choice of a background opens up a world of possibilities. If you don’t want to divert attention from the coffee, you can create a plain white background or photograph it on a table. If you want to get creative, think about how coffee can blend or emerge based on the chosen background.
Get creative with props
Props help create context and story for the coffee shot. Homeware and antiques can help make the photo more visually interesting, the same goes for the shoot. A glass coffee mug easily matches any background. A simple porcelain coffee mug becomes a blank canvas to tell your coffee story. Try mixing and matching porcelain with different backgrounds for a vintage look. Then you can obviously be daring and use colored cups and mugs of the most disparate shapes. The color or pattern of the cup can help enhance other aspects of the scene.
Coffee making equipment has its own aesthetic appeal and connects us between different cultures. Consider the elegance of a French glass press, the intricate carvings on the wooden handles or the copper body on an Arabic coffee pot, or the geometry of an Italian Moka.
Tell a story
The way you use light, colors, scenes and props makes all the difference. More muted, uniform colors and natural light suggest a dreamy Saturday morning with coffee in bed. Sharper contrasts and angular surfaces are synonymous with inspiration; the image of coffee is transformed into an exchange of ideas. Coffee beans, alone or combined with spices like cardamom or cinnamon, turn the story into a recipe.
The texture of the canvas in the background suggests the journey that each cup of coffee takes, from the source to the cup. If you want to add some dynamism, you can pour milk into the coffee or capture the steam it gives off.
Tips tips tips
When composing your shot, you’ll want to leave plenty of room above your cup so that the steam has a place to go. It’s the direction where your viewer’s eyes will be drawn, as well.
The angle at which you photograph your cup of coffee is also very important to consider when capturing the steam itself. Get closer, pull back, tilt the phone camera left or right to make sure it’s appearing the way you like it in the image. Once you’ve found an angle you like, lock it in. A tripod can help set up a shot and keep a steady focus.