There is something I take very seriously, coffee photography. It was, actually, a major catalyst of my current photographic path. I recently did a shoot for Luna Specialty Coffee at NAC Tower. The shoot was for the new product line up that they plan to release soon so I won’t be posting much of those here.
When shooting coffee, it is important to know about the product. If an image of a Luna Barako (Regular americano using Kape Barako beans) is requested, you need to know what it is. It is also good form to have an idea of what your client is talking about. It helps them decide on whether or not you are the correct photographer for them. There is a good book out there called God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee. It will give coffee photographers a great understanding of coffee culture. The best resource is the internet, you can find all the reference images and coffee information one needs.
If you are going to be shooting brewed coffee in cups, make sure the cups are clean, or artistically dirty (like the coffee cup was just used). No matter if you are shooting at f/1.8 with a 50mm or f/6.3 with a Tamron 18-200 Di II VC lens. If coffee cups are unclean, it will actually look disgusting. When shooting coffee you want to keep color in mind. You are creating an image of the coffee not the cup. If you are shooting black coffee, use a white or lightly colored cup for contrast. If you are shooting coffee with milk or an espresso based drink like a latte or cappuccino, you can use almost any clean cup.
To get the best looking coffee drinks one must become a barista or become friends with one. You want the product to look the best. A true barista will work on his brewing skills like a photographer works on his image creation skills. For basic coffee images, it’s good to have a French Press of a Drip pot to make that hot steaming cup of coffee.
What background you choose is very important to your image. You do not want a cluttered one. A clean background will not take away from the image. If can be in a coffee house or against a black backdrop in a studio. If you are looking to get steam in the picture, make sure the background is dark. Steam shows up better this way. If you are using colored background, they can change the outcome of you image. It can be a nice effect or ruin your shot depending on how you compose things.
A 50mm 1.8 or a 35mm 1.8 lens is great for sitting in a coffee house and getting a shot. At a table, these lenses will give you better control over the light while not knocking anything over. You also do not have to use a flash, which is better than annoying the people around you. If you do not have enough light, raise you ISO, especially if you have a Camera like the Nikon D90 or D7000. However, if you are shooting espresso pulls, you will want to have an 85mm to a 135mm f/2. You will be out of the Barista’s way and everyone will be comfortable. Do not forget to actually sit down and have a relaxing cup of coffee at some point. That is one of the best parts of coffee photography.