There’s a reason the #foodporn hashtag on Instagram has well over 100,000,000 posts and counting: People love eating, but more than that they love proving to other people how much they love eating and how #amazing all the shit they eat is. It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy — eat to Insta, Insta to eat.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that people are into snapping the perfect beer photo, too. After all, there are, like, a million craft breweries in the U.S. right now; it was only a matter of time before the social media one-upmanship permeated the ranks of #craftbeer.
Which is fucking great, if you ask me. Great beer deserves to be shared. One issue encountered all too often, however, is an Instagram stream populated with mostly terrible beer photos. The intention was great, but the skill set — perhaps a bit lacking.
“Good photography is important because it opens a door to the inside world of what we do as employees of the brewery, and as people who live in Maine. And when we say ‘good photography’ we’re referring to photos that tell some sort of story,” Mat Trogner, creative manager at Allagash Brewing Co., tells me. “Whether that means documenting a part of the beer-making process, finding a cool moment at a brewery event, or even just capturing a gorgeous sunrise, it all counts.”
Consistency of quality is a good mantra to live by when photographing beer, or anything else for that matter. For a few more specific tips, we turned to Brooklyn-based beer photographer and man behind Instagram handle @bkbeerguy, Cory Smith.
“I don’t think there’s any one solution, silver bullet idea to making a great beer photo. So many things can factor into what people react to,” Smith tells me. “So for me, I just try to make the most interesting image I can with the beer and conditions in mind.”
Smith’s Top 3 Tips:
1. Make the frame interesting. There’s more to an image than just the beer, and any number of external elements can help make the shot appealing. Consider lighting, consider backgrounds, consider surface texture. All of these things go into the totality of the shot.
2. Have a story. This may or may not work for everyone, but as a writer, I love to read why a shot was taken and I suspect many enjoy that contextual information as well. A beer on a table is a beer on a table. But a beer on a table, at the grand opening of a new brewery, with groups of happy people all enjoying the new space creates a story for the viewer, it puts them in the moment. In the “double tap, swipe up” speed of Instagram, this may not always work. But for those who stick around, it’s rewarding.
3. Have a central character. Too often there’s a lot we want to communicate in one photo. The constraints of Instagram, particularly size, can diminish photo effectiveness if you attempt to capture too much. I always try to create clear focus. Sometimes the focus is the entire image, and that’s okay, but going into the shot with that in mind is helpful.