Photographing Beer — tutorial

I’ve often wondered how they got those very attractive pictures of the beers in Michael Jackson’s 500 Great Beers book, and I’ve also been increasingly frustrated at how bad my own photos are. They tend to look like this:

badpic1.jpg

So I spent a few hours trawling the web for tutorials on how to photograph food — this was a great one — and then tried to use some of the same techniques to photograph a nice pint of beer using my very basic digital camera. Here’s the result:

fixed_perspective.jpg

I’ll tell you how I did it after the jump, if you’re interested.

Firstly, I set up a very primitive white room in the lightest place I could find (the patio) using a large piece of white cartridge paper and some blu-tack. Then I dug out the tripod and attached the camera, lining it up nice and square on the “set”.

setup2.jpg

I cleaned a nice glass *very* thoroughly, dried it, and polished it with a lens cleaning cloth.

I chose a beer I had two bottles of — Summer Lightning — and put one (with cap) on the table. Then I carefully poured as near a perfect pint as I could. Without too much delay, I placed it next to the unopened bottle and started snapping away. I took about 15 photos, hoping that one would turn out OK. I didn’t use a flash — this puts big white spots on the bottle, and just looks weird. This is the un-tinkered with photo:

untreated.jpg

Then, using GIMP, I cropped the picture down to just the good stuff.

I then adjusted the levels of white (Layer > Colours > Levels). Auto did quite a good job, but I manually set the paper background to pure white (see this tutorial for more on GIMP’s levels controls).

after_levels1.jpg

Then, to further boost the image, and bring out the colours, I duplicated the layer and set the top copy to “overlay”.

after_overlay.jpg

That looks pretty good, and if you don’t like fiddling about, you could leave it there. But I spent 10 minutes carefully painting out the grey in the background, using a mixture of “magic wand” selections and careful work.

white_careful_erasing.jpg

Finally, I played with the perspective feature (Tools > Transform > Perspective) to straighten the image up a bit.

I’m quite pleased with the results. Next time, I’ll add more light using reflectors — the bottle is a bit dark. I don’t know if I’ll do this *every* time I photograph a beer, but it really didn’t take too long, and the finished product looks very appetising. I’m drinking it now!

8 thoughts on “Photographing Beer — tutorial”

  1. Great pic. Though I disagree with Stonch and Al. I think it definitely looks better without the gray. That Stonch is a real asshole, if you don’t mind me saying.

    (a joke)

  2. Pingback: Ninedays Blog
  3. Great post. Usually I can’t take the time to do a setup like this, so my beer pictures end up being taken on the kitchen table! The results of the effort (or lack thereof) are quite clear when compared to what one can get with a little more effort. Thanks!

Comments are closed.