Nailing aesthetic coffee photography is an essential skill on Instagram these days!
Every other Instagram post or YouTube reel seems to feature someone pouring a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
(Either that or a close-up of those oh-so-delicious coffee beans!)
I’m a HUGE fan of coffee (or should I say caffeine) and must admit to taking a lot of coffee photography myself over the years.
Here are some tips and ideas to make your own coffee photos stand out on social media in 2023.
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What Are Some Creative Coffee Photography Ideas for Instagram?
Instagram is the place to show off everything from outfits to makeup tips to food and warming cups of coffee.
So why not kick off your morning with a fantastic cup of coffee and show it to the world?
There are many creative ways to showcase coffee; luckily, you don’t need to own a local coffee shop, be a barista, or spend all day at a café hoping to capture that perfect coffee photo.
Did you know you can even take amazing photos of coffee without coffee? Let that percolate in your mind for a bit.
Several things in your kitchen can be used as a substitute for coffee in photographs, such as dark-colored soda or soy sauce. It will work if it has that rich, deep brown coffee color.
Once you have your coffee or faux coffee ready, you can borrow some food photography secrets to really make it shine.
Here are some tips to help make your Instagram photos fabulous and ready to share:
- Add bubbles to the liquid to create a fake foam on the surface using a couple of drops of detergent or hand soap.
- Use a whisk to create a frothy appearance on top of the coffee.
- Use a fan to create ripples on the surface, or use an eye dropper to drop water to make coffee splashes (read more about how to do water drop photography).
- Create a massive splash by dropping a larger object, such as a golf ball, into the coffee, for a dramatic photo.
- Use a clear glass with ice cubes and fill it with coffee for an iced coffee photo, then add milk to create beautiful swirls.
- Add an overlay, border, or vignette to the picture using Photoshop, PicsArt, or another photo editing app.
- Use video to capture steam, a coffee drip, or the swirl of stirring it.
- Include more than just the cup of coffee by adding items such as spoons, milk jugs, coffee beans, cookies, breakfast foods, and more.
How to Do Coffee Photography at Home
As mentioned earlier, there’s no need to go to a coffee shop or other location to shoot amazing coffee photographs.
It’s possible to create stunning photos and latte art in the comfort of your own home.
To start, find an uncluttered, clean area of the home with a flat surface, such as a counter or table. Look for one where you can create images with beautiful backgrounds.
Next, you will need a smartphone or other camera, tripod, light sources, and imagination to create gorgeous coffee photographs.
White bounce cards from foam board can also help reflect additional light onto the coffee cup and other props.
Let’s continue to explore the different items you may need to help create fabulous coffee images at home.
When taking coffee photos at home, you don’t need to purchase or have the most expensive camera on the market.
The camera on your smartphone is often enough to take amazing photographs, but you can also use a DSLR, such as the Nikon D810, or a simple point-and-shoot camera, such as a Canon G Series camera.
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Check to see what you already have because photographing coffee at home does not have to incur out-of-pocket expenses or be very costly.
With the popularity of smartphones and their usage for capturing high-quality photos, companies have started making tripods designed to hold phones of all makes, models, and sizes.
Using a tripod allows you to set your camera to a small aperture providing the most depth of field, which helps define the area of sharp focus.
Additionally, tripods help reduce camera shake, which can otherwise create blurry objects or strange anomalies in the image.
White Bounce Cards
To help reflect light onto your coffee subject, try creating white bounce cards from a simple foam board. This can help bounce light onto the shadow side of items.
Foam boards work great as bounce cards because they are rigid, white, and provide great reflection to the shadow side of items which typically turn out too dark in photographs.
As an alternative for more creative images, use a black foam board to help create a deeper appearance to shadows, especially when the subject is a white coffee cup.
Lighting helps illuminate and bring your subject to life when taking photographs; however, you do not have to spend a bunch of money to create the perfect lighting.
Shooting photos in a room with a large window that allows natural light to enter the space often provides enough lighting for coffee photography.
Additionally, for natural light shots, take your photo session outside, where you have plenty of light from all around and can have fun shooting coffee in nature.
Other lighting ideas include using flashlights, removing shades from lamps, or desk lamps. It’s best to use white lights and avoid fluorescent or colored lighting.
It’s best to have a sturdy table to work on, but if all you have is a countertop, that can also work.
The table does not have to be big; it only needs to be large enough to hold your subject, lighting, and tripod.
Chances are you have enough coffee props in your home.
Check your cabinets and look for items such as coffee cups, your favorite coffee mug, sugar cubes, brewing devices, and food.
(If you’re using food as props, don’t forget to check out these tips for stunning food photography as well.)
Painter’s tape or transparent tape is optional but can be very useful when taking any kind of still life or food photography.
The tape can be used to help hold props in place or together and can also help keep wires out of the way and boards in place.
Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Coffee Photographs at Home
Now that you have all your supplies gathered, it’s time to get ready and start snapping photos.
Here is a step-by-step guide to taking coffee photographs at home:
- Set up the table: Set up your shooting area, including tripod, lighting, bounce boards, etc.
- Set up the subject: Arrange the coffee items you will be taking photos of until you are satisfied with the setup.
- Check the lighting: Use the bounce board and work with the lighting and your setup until you are happy with how the subject looks.
- Adjust the camera: Check your camera’s settings, set the white balance to auto, turn off the flash, and set image settings to the highest quality.
- Take pictures: Take some sample pictures and evaluate them for appearance and quality before taking down the setup.
- Upload photos: Transfer the images to your computer and, if necessary, use post-production software such as Adobe Lightroom to retouch your photos, creating the final product.
- Resize photos: Photos for Instagram should be 1:1 square shape and 1080 pixels x 1080 pixels. (For other platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest, visit this post about social media image sizes.)
What should I use as a coffee photography background?
Finding the perfect background for coffee photography depends upon the overall visual story you want to tell.
Selecting the best background helps set the scene and make a massive difference in your photographs.
Some popular and unique backgrounds perfect for coffee photographs include:
- Kitchen settings
- Pile of coffee beans and sacks
- Natural elements outdoors, including trees, lakes, grass, etc.
- Stack of books or magazines
- Comfy oversized couch or armchair
- Bustling coffee shop
- Stacks of sugar cubes
- Passport and travel brochures
- Solid backgrounds
- Notebook and pen
- The sunrise
- Carafe of coconut milk
- Rustic oranges or other fruits
- Brewing equipment
Once you know the story you want to tell, finding a background will be easy.
For example, if you want to share the story of a busy mom, place a calendar, watch, or day planner next to the coffee on a tabletop and toss in a kids’ toy or pacifier.
You may want to say good morning and share that you are ready to start the day. For this photograph, set the steaming cup of coffee on the windowsill with the sun rising in the background.
Another amazing background option is to add a human element and shoot coffee photos with cups being held by someone or someone smelling the hot coffee.
13 Influencer Tips for the Most Aesthetic Coffee Pictures
Are you ready to start taking more aesthetic coffee pictures? We have expert tips to help you take the best sharp, warm, inviting, and aromatic photographs.
By the time you’re done reading more about coffee photography, you’ll be ready to shoot your own using some of the expert tips and tricks below.
Treat the Coffee Like a Model
Though you may be photographing an inanimate object, look at the coffee and the props as if they’re a human model.
Do everything in your power with lighting, props, and other elements to make the coffee look as gorgeous as possible in the photo.
Consider Outside Elements
When setting up the scene to tell your visual coffee story, think about unseen subjects, such as who is making the coffee and who the coffee is for.
Add elements to the background identifying a coffee shop barista or the person who will enjoy the coffee.
For example, if a teacher is getting their morning coffee, add materials such as pens, pencils, or other school supplies.
Or, if the coffee is for a construction worker, add a hard hat to the image.
Clean Your Equipment
Before starting your coffee photography, check your equipment and ensure it’s clean, especially the camera lens.
It’s also best to check coffee cups and other props for any marks that need cleaning – these marks may not look like much to the naked eye, but they can become more noticeable in a photograph.
Don’t forget to check the background and surrounding area that may be captured in the photograph to ensure they’re clean as well. A busy, dirty background can distract from the overall image.
Freshen Up Old Coffee Beans
When photographing coffee beans as part of your setup, you’ll want to make them look shiny and appealing.
If you only have access to older beans, which may appear dull or discolored, there’s a trick to bringing them back to life for coffee photography.
Place the old coffee beans in a plastic bag and spray some cooking spray over the beans. Shake the bag to create an artificial sheen on the beans, giving them a beautiful look while making them camera-ready.
Use a Higher Shutter Speed
When capturing action shots, such as splashing coffee, steam rising, or stirring in coconut milk, set the camera to a higher shutter speed.
The higher shutter speed will freeze the motion, allowing you to capture the perfect moment.
Take Multiple Coffee Photos
Don’t be afraid to take multiple coffee photos, even if many of them look the same.
You never know which one will turn out to be the best photo, and taking multiple images increases the chance that one of them is the perfect coffee photograph.
Watch the Color Scheme
With coffee photography, it’s best to keep the photograph uniform, using the same color scheme throughout.
Most photographers follow the color scheme associated with coffee and coffee with cream, sticking to dark browns, milky beiges, rustic oranges, and deep crimsons.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to add pops of color to create an impact in the photograph while helping tell your story.
Keeping the same photo setup but adding unique elements to change the pops of color can create different images with less effort.
Pops of color can come from fruits, flowers, foods, different colored coffee cups, and other elements you want to add to your coffee photograph.
Use Manual Focus
Autofocus cameras tend to focus on one thing, and when shooting coffee, the camera tends to focus on the rim of the coffee cup.
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Because of this, switch to manual focus for the best image results if you are using a DSLR.
Manual focus lets you experiment by focusing on various elements in the shot, such as the foam, condensation on the glass, coffee drips, etc.
Monitor the Timing
Time is essential when adding cream or milk to your coffee, especially when shooting lattes or cappuccinos.
To capture the brilliant swirls in the coffee or the beautiful milk foam on the coffee before it becomes “dead coffee,” it is vital you shoot quickly.
Use a Softbox
If natural lighting from a large window isn’t available, a softbox can help recreate studio-looking images by surrounding the subject with light.
When shooting coffee photography, allow light to come at the subject from all sides to create a balanced look. A whiteboard can help bounce light to where it’s needed.
Backlighting a coffee cup lets you capture the steam rising from the hot coffee.
Additionally, backlighting helps add drama and mystique to your photos and can create a dramatic image by casting strong shadows on the front of the coffee cup.
Use Different Angles
Experiment with how you shoot coffee using different angles to show various aspects of the scene.
Try shooting from above, from the side, and then from an angle slightly below the image’s center.
Take Your Time
Don’t rush the process.
Set your equipment up and create the scene with your subject, props, and background.
Don’t be afraid to move things around, take test photos, and try a different light source or position.
Don’t Ignore the Coffee-Making Process
Add elements to the image showing various aspects of the coffee being made, including brewing and pouring the coffee into a mug.
Other coffee-making photography ideas include exploring the various steps to make coffee, including grinding the beans to creating expert foam touches and designs.
Now, Grab Your Favorite Coffee Cups and Head to the Coffee Shop!
So there you have it! All the coffee photography tips you’d ever need to make a mouth-wateringly good photo set for Instagram.
The thing is – every new Instagrammer wants to photograph coffee, so you really need to stand out from the crowd.
Add coffee splashes and rising steam. Add some eye-popping colors to a sugar cube. Focus on some hot water and brewing equipment, and don’t forget to add a human element, especially when shooting in coffee shops.
Coffee photography is fun and easy, and at the end of it all you’ve got a freshly brewed cup of Joe to reward yourself with!