By Brian Devine
CraftBeer.com asked some of the featured photographers from that story to share their tips to take better photos and not a single one requires an expensive camera. “You don’t need fancy equipment…some of my favorite images have come from my phone” says Cory Smith (@BKBeerGuy), an advertising industry creative director whose beer photos often look billboard-ready. “Some of my favorite images have come from my phone.”
So grab whatever lens you have handy, and lets get going!
To begin with, ask yourself why you are taking pictures of beer in the first place. Many of our featured beertographers started doing it as a personal quest to document the wide variety of beers they encounter. Some focus on the beer itself, while others like to capture certain aspects of the experience, whether that be the environment or the people they are with.
Your beertography perspective may change over time, but being able to articulate your motivation with each shot will help you to focus your eye and develop a signature style that others can latch on to. Beer and food blogger Jessica Rice McNew (@BeerAndBaking) suggests that “keeping a theme for your followers helps keep the contiguity.”
“A beer photo does not have to be a closeup of the bottle or can and glass alone,” says Jose A Cruz (@jomando). When your shots include some of the surroundings, he says, “it places them in time and makes it easy to recall when and where you enjoyed that beer.” By providing clues about the time and place of the image, you add an emotional factor to the image that your audience can connect to more easily than a sterile product shot.
A good way to do this is to “zoom out, way out” offers Michael Kiser (@GoodBeerHunting) “Put your audience in the photo — don’t put the photo in their face.” Kiser continues, “Often the context or the interaction around a beer is just as interesting.”
Are you in a bar or out on hike? Is the place crowded or a dimly lit dive? Thinking about these elements can help bring the experience to life.
What differentiates your grandma’s vacation pics from a National Geographic photo? Most of the time, it’s that professional photographers find unique ways to look at things. Shooting a scene from an uncommon angle can add a dynamic factor to your photos. Try shooting from extremes like a bird’s-eye or worm’s-eye view.
Matthew Ward (@BendBrewDaddy) likes to “get below the beer” to make it “look bigger than life.” Like many photographers, he can usually be found “laying on the ground to get the perfect shot.”
“The less cluttered, the better,” notes McNew. Some of the most intriguing shots are often simple, even barren. We’re used to a cluttered world, so a scene of relative inaction can be a striking counterpoint. Try subtracting the messiness by leaving it outside the frame.
Depth of Field
Playing with depth of field can create some really interesting images. Putting a primary foreground element out of focus, for instance, can draw attention to background details that wouldn’t otherwise be noticed.
If you’re lining up a shot that has some objects very close to you and others that are very far away, try focusing alternately on the foreground and background and see which one gives you a more unique perspective.
Rule of Thirds
Often our natural tendency is to put the focus of a picture directly in the center. This is kind of an “in-your-face” approach that produces more of a snapshot than an arthouse photo. Next time, try using the rule of thirds to provide some variety.
Mentally divide your viewfinder into a grid of three columns and three rows. Placing objects of emphasis at the intersection of these lines can create dynamic images that demand more than a quick look.
“Natural light—always use it,” recommends Dee Stecco (@BeerLivesHere), whose hands-off approach to lighting contrasts nicely with her flat and geometrical compositions. “Please never use flash, it takes away from the colors of the label and beer itself.” This is a sentiment echoed by photographers across the globe. Flash photography washes out the background and only focuses on highlights.
Mike Donk’s (@BrewBokeh) experience as a concert photographer taught him a thing or two about the importance of adapting to whatever light you find. He says photographers should “spend less time trying to stage a shot and more time looking for ways to utilize the available light.” If it’s too dark where you are, look around for a light source that you can use.
It might sound like a lot to take in, but just keeping a couple of these principles in mind next time you line up a shot will go a long way towards making your beertography pop.
Brian Devine is a full-time traveler who seeks out beer stories all over the country via a Class C RV. Using craft beer as his compass he has visited over 400 breweries in 40 states and seven countries on three continents. He is a freelance designer/illustrator who also writes about his travels at The Roaming Pint and founded the Society of Beer Travelers.