Five photographers share their tips on how you can capture professional photos of coffee from the comfort of your own home.
At the start of Instagram, top-down photos of stunning latte art and impeccably delicious-looking coffees took over the app. Instagram-worthy cafes popped up across the world, the perfect backdrop for that beautiful cup of joe. There are countless great images of coffee and coffee shops, and for good reason — caffeine is a subject that never fails and can be captured almost anywhere in the world. COVID-19 may have forced shops and cafes to close down or reduce their number of customers, but coffee photography remains alive and well on social media.
Capture stunning photos of coffee, no matter where you are in the world. Image by July Prokopiv.
Whether you’re shooting for Instagram or for professional purposes, whether you’re shooting with a smartphone or a DSLR, you’re reading the right article. We chatted with five Shutterstock and Offset contributors for tips, advice, and inspiration on how to take (really) gorgeous coffee photos. And, we’re so stoked to share them.
1. Photographer Jennifer Gauld
“All photos have their own needs,” says contributor Jennifer Gauld. Originally a graphic and web designer, Gauld now works as a food photographer. What started as a simple photography gig for a restaurant, expanded into a fun, creative adventure. And, when it comes to beginner advice, Gauld says, “try all types of different lights and really understand each of their quirks and how they will change the food you’re shooting.” She also suggested to “have some light coming from behind, just off to the side, to get really nice steam.”
Photograph popular coffee drinks, like the TikTok-famous dalgona coffee. Image by Jennifer Gauld.
Pro Tip: Use a Fast Shutter Speed
Gauld discussed the importance of shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed, the easier you’ll be able to capture individual droplets. Gauld noted that it’s also the hack to get “some real separation” in the image. All in all, shooting caffeine requires paying attention to unique patterns. “I really like the patterns and whirls that slowly mixing coffee and cream make,” she shares when asked what she loves the most about coffee photography.
2. Photographer Bongkochrut Rojanatreekoon
Based in Thailand, Bongkochrut is big on traveling and photography. Shooting often in manual mode, Bongkochrut says one creative beginner tip is to “find the spot on the coffee cup that impresses you the most.” This is to say, look at the cup from many angles.
This tip is actually pretty useful, especially now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic. It’s not just about the cup anymore. It’s about the entire coffee shop, the distancing of the people — the new vibe. So, when shooting at public spaces, study the relationship of your drink with the background and the colors.
Taking a good photo of coffee requires you to be quick and accurate with your camera settings. Image by YKTR.
“I think it’s worthwhile to experiment and play with the sharpen tool,” he says when asked about editing. Bongkochrut typically uses both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. The latter is best used for adjusting the image exposure while he uses Photoshop for adjusting other details, such as color tone.
For Bongkochrut, creativity in the coffee itself is the best part of coffee photography. He actually owns a coffee shop, but still frequents local shops when he travels, admiring their latte art. “I love photography as much as a cup of coffee in a nice and comfortable place.”
3. Photographer Elena Veselova
Russian-born photographer Elena Veselova shares that photography started as a hobby for her when she was around nine years old. Now based in Georgia and with three kids of her own, Veselova does food photography for restaurants, stock agencies, blogs, and food brands.
Understand your light and use contrast to make your coffee pop. Image by Elena Veselova.
Pro Tip: Know Your Lighting
“The main thing with all drink photography is knowing your light,” she shares. “Coffee is not transparent, so I mostly use side light or a combination of side and back.” Veselova also noted the importance of shutter speed, especially when trying to capture pouring shots or “freezing those fantastic milk swirls.”
For shots like this, she says it’s important to have a fast shutter speed. And, when it comes to focus, Veselova says manual is the way to go. “Auto focus tends to get the rim of the glass instead of the drink itself,” she shares, adding a recommendation to “use manual mode and focus on that cream on top of the drink or condensation on the side of the glass, whatever you are trying to showcase.”
Use manual focus to keep the key elements of your coffee image in focus. Image by Elena Veselova.
Veselova is also big on Lightroom and Photoshop. She shares that Lightroom is her first go-to editing software, usually for balance, exposure settings, and gradient filters. Color tools also, when needed. Then, she exports to Photoshop for sharpness and removing unwanted spots.
“I think coffee is a great subject! You can make the craziest kind with syrups and whipped cream and toppings. The options are limitless. And, you get to use different glasses,” she shares, admitting jokingly that she has props-hoarding problems. “Coffee is my go-to subject when I don’t have anything else to shoot. And, it never disappoints!”
4. Photographer Visnja Sesum
“When shooting coffee, think about how important coffee rituals are to people all over the world.” Visnja Sesum is a professional food photographer based in Novi Sad, Serbia. Driven by her passion for photography, she now works with various brands.
Pro Tip: Coffee Connects Culture and People
Sesum highlights the importance of understanding the connection between people and caffeine in creating a story in your shots. “Think about what feelings drinking coffee brings to people and why it is essential to many of us on a daily basis. After that, think about how you would create a story that evokes those feelings and how to capture the smell, the texture…,” she shares. Seeing coffee photography from this lens of connection can make a huge difference in your shots.
Turkish coffee is a cultural staple globally. Image by Visnja Sesum.
Pro Tip: Shoot a Variety of Images
Aside from paying attention to the background, texture, and props, Sesum also suggests to shoot in variety. “Capture the process of making the coffee, grinding coffee, sipping hot coffee in the cup. Feel free to explore how coffee is actually made before it’s on our table,” she shares. And, for her, editing on software is only the “second half of one perfect shot,” though it’s as equally important as the shooting process.
Use a variety of background types, textures, and props in your coffee images. Image by Visnja Sesum.
Sesum usually uses color presets she made when editing, which is quite creative, especially in terms of building your unique style. Not to mention creating presets is a fun project. She also shares that today, social media is fairly important in business development. And with COVID-19, it’s safe to say the role of social media has gotten bigger. That said, when you can, post regularly. “I try to post regularly and post photos that represent my work in the best way,” Sesum shares.
5. Photographer Anna Efetova
Ukrainian photographer Anna Efetova‘s love for photography started about the same time she entered medical school at age seventeen. “For seven years, I combined my studies and career as a photographer. When I turned twenty-four, I decided to end my medical career. But, this was also when I started to feel very tired of commercial filming. I liked photography, but I wanted more freedom in it.”
Today, Efetova contributes to stock agencies and she admits she was quick to realize it was “exactly what I needed.”
Pro Tip: Take Photos Quickly
When it comes to tips and advice, Efetova says speed when shooting plays an important role. “I believe there are two critical things about coffee photography: 1. This drink must be loved. 2. You should take your photos quickly. There is such a thing as ‘dead coffee’ — when bubbles appear on the milk foam. It takes up to three minutes,” says Efetova, adding that “at this point, it is too late to take pictures.”
When it comes to technical parameters, Efetova says it’s best to close the camera diaphragm at 2.8. “Coffee loves a wide depth of field.”
If you take shots that are well-lit and perfectly exposed, you won’t have to post-produce as much. Image by Anna Efetova.
Efetova strives hard to take shots that require minimum post-processing. Though, she noted how colors and style of photo processing are “parts of the author’s identity.” Just like many photographers, Efetova loves contrasting photos. And yes, she loves coffee too.
“The most pleasant thing about such shooting/filming is the anticipation of the first sip,” she shares. It’s been five years since Anna Efetova first contributed to stock photography. She says it’s now part of her life and in her exact words: “It is an organic addition to my life, its continuation.”
Top image by AliceCam.
For more tips on shooting cool stock photos, check out these articles:
Tips on Capturing Instagram-Worthy Photos in Cafes5 Photographers Share Pro Tips on Creating Top-Down Still Life ImagesHow to Create a Still Life and Food Photography Home StudioHow to Create a Home Photography Studio with Joanie SimonThe Art Behind the Perfect Flat-Lay Photo
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