Prop Talk – Beer

It’s prop talk time! (For those of you who are new to this blog: once a month I write a post about some of my favorite food photography props. You can see all previous prop talk installments by clicking the Behind the Scenes tab in the menu at the top).

Today’s post is about beer. Beer is a wonderful prop. It can also be a subject, of course, but I’ve only ever photographed it as a prop, meaning as a supporting character in the background, not as the star of the photo. What I love about beer is the action and immediacy that it adds to an image. When you see beer with a nice topping of foam you know someone must have just been there to pour it. That tiny cue breathes life into an image in a way that few other props manage to accomplish (one exception to that is steam, which I will talk about next month).

Beer isn’t easy to handle though. For once, you have to be ready because the foam disappears quickly. I always have my shutter remote control in one hand, a freshly opened beer bottle in the other and start to snap away as soon as I pour. It usually takes a few tries to get it the way I want it so I always keep a large empty glass next to the set to pour “used” beer into.

Another crucial aspect is the color of the beer. Some beers are so pale they look thin and almost colorless in a photo. To avoid that I use fairly dark beers (New Castle Brown Ale is my favorite). If you want to give the shot extra action appeal you can fill only part of the glass to make it look as if someone had just drunk half of it. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to drink too much “used” beer while still in the process of shooting, it will impact your photographic performance. :)

Below are a few examples of how I’ve used beer as a prop:

Beer as a food photography prop.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

From post Chicken Salad.

Chipotle Shredded Pork with Raspberry Habanero Jam

From post Chipotle Shredded Pork Tacos with Raspberry Habanero Jam.

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10 comments

  1. Cheryl says:

    Those ribs look riotously good! I love using beer in shots – especially with some backlighting, mmm, gorgeous! I try to use warm beers because they foam up more and often will pull up the foam on the side of the glass RIGHT before taking the shot. Looks immediately “just drunk”!

    • Nicole B. says:

      Riotously! What an awesome word in the context of food. :) I personally like how cold beer frosts up the glass, that’s why I don’t usually use warm beer, I have heard a lot of photographer say they shoot with warm beer though.

    • Nicole B. says:

      Absolutely! Well, maybe beer doesn’t go perfectly with, say, vanilla pudding, but other than that, bring on the beer I say! :)

  2. Maggie says:

    Great photos and thanks for the tips! I had beer in my picture too, but like you said, the foam disappear too fast! There is one time I even used a glass of tea to fake beer, because they look the same without foam in the final picture! It was not cool at all…
    I really like the last picture. Not only the beer, but the cilantro looks so vibrant and fresh in the picture that bring out the best of the dish! I always have problem shooting cilantro, since they are so delicate and easy to wither.

    • Nicole B. says:

      Oh, I know, cilantro is one of the worst herbs as far as bruising and withering goes (followed closely by basil). I always need to switch in fresh cilantro (or basil) right before the final shot… :)

  3. Nagi@RecipeTin Eats says:

    I keep meaning to use beer in shots, I’ve noticed it in alot of luxe magazines and I get why they use it, it works so well with the foam on top which gives extra interest to it as a prop. But every time I though “jeez I should add beer in this shot” (e.g. obvious things like when I did wings!) I never had any left in the fridge! Grr. I should keep a stash and label it “DO NOT TOUCH, FOR PROP PURPOSES ONLY!!”

  4. Emily says:

    I just came across your blog and am absolutely smitten! Your prop talk series is wonderful and your photos and recipes are so inspiring! I’ll definitely be back for more :)

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