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!

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