Beverage Photography Tips: Invest in Cubes
For anyone who has worked with beverage photography, they will all tell you that ice cubes are a real pain to shoot. First of all, unless you have a professional grade Kold-Draft ice maker (which will set you back quite a few bucks) you’re most likely stuck with those ugly half moon “cubes” from your fridge – clearly these will not work for beverage photography. Ugly ugly ugly. A cheaper alternative to a professional ice machine is to make pretty cubes that are actually cubes by using square ice cube trays – from which I’ve gotten decent results. However, it is fairly difficult to get beautiful, clear cubes even if you have a method of crafting the correct shape for your particular shot.
Even if you can make yourself that perfect cube out of actual frozen water, there is one distinct problem: real cubes melt. This may work to your advantage for some shots (particularly editorial shots) but for commercial shoots you just want a clean, beautiful cube that won’t be going anywhere while you perfect your shot. This means using acrylic or glass cubes. Sadly, professional level artificial cubes do not always come cheap. There are cheap alternatives, but you have to be very careful: most inexpensive acrylic cubes are meant to be display or background cubes, not the hero of your shot. Note: display cubes can be used for background shots where the beverage in question is out of focus, your mileage may vary.
For the whiskey photograph above, I used a single irregular shaped acrylic ice cube from the small collection of cubes I purchased from Trengove Studios in New York for the bargain price of $40 each. These cubes are made by hand and are simply lovely. Beautiful shape, beautiful clarity, and they make a simple whiskey shot like this one really shine. I wish I had fifty of these bad boys.
The bottom line is that if you want to get that perfect look for your beverage photography, be prepared to drop a little coin on your props. Invest in the cubes!
Side note: The glass in this shot was a gift to me from Dr. Fiance several years ago, and is a replica (replicant?) of the glass that Harrison Ford uses in Bladerunner. Badass.