Matthew Ward is a panelist at FML Fest 2020, our collaborative virtual craft beer festival with Oozlefinch Beers & Blending. Tickets for the festival are available here.
By day, Matthew Ward is a business owner, managing Redmond, Oregon’s premier craft beer bottle shop: Beer Stop. And by night (or at least once his wife returns from work), he’s @Bendbrewdaddy, one of Instagram’s most talented beer photographers.
Ward, whose primary role as a stay-at-home dad influenced his social media persona, has been shooting photos for years but found a way to combine his passion for photography with his love of craft beer on social media. As a result, Ward is part of the growing community of craft beer fans that use their cameras to bend and twist the limits of what beer can look like.
Recently, we chatted with fellow Instagram photographer Eli Traks. Like Traks, Ward creates little universes with each shot, telling a visual, eye-catching story.
But unlike Traks, whose adept editing and post-production skills take the reins in the final product, Ward’s photos are captured in the moment. Both Traks and Ward have two very different skill sets, but both yield stunning results. Ward takes a more acrobatic approach, balancing glassware and aluminum cans in wild stunts.
We sat down with Ward for a brief Q&A to learn more about his inspirations, his photography style, and when he knows a photo is complete.
An Interview with Instagram Photographer Matthew Ward
John A. Paradiso: How did you first become interested in craft beer? Do you remember any early favorite beers?
Matthew Ward: Aside from drinking Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale while growing up in the Bay Area, I didn’t really fall in love with craft beer until we moved to Bend, Oregon in 2009.
Back then, there were only a handful of breweries in Central Oregon. Early in my craft journey, I realized that I liked hoppy beers. Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Squeezed and Hop Henge were amongst my go-to’s. Boneyard’s Hop Venom and Notorious were also in heavy rotation.
JP: And how did you start your photography work?
MW: I’ve been holding a camera for much of my life but never seemed to find the right fit for my talents. It wasn’t until I started my craft beer journey that I started to experiment with beer and my lens. Being a stay at home dad in 2013, each night when my wife Lisa would get home from work, I’d escape to the front porch with a beer and my camera while she got baby time. I would post my photos on Instagram, tagging each brewery. That’s how it all got started. Smashing two passions together!
JP: When you’re not shooting photos of beer, what are you doing?
MW: I am part owner of an amazing taproom/bottle shop in Redmond, Oregon called Beer Stop (@BeerStopRedmond).
Beer Stop is my second home. We have the best selection of craft in Central Oregon, and we have amazing customers and mug club members. My business partner and best friend Chris and I are opening up a Portland location later this year, and can’t wait to serve the Portland community!
Aside from work, I love spending time with my family. Lisa and I have two beautiful boys: Zoen, eight-years-old and Aden, five months. We love exploring the outdoors here in Oregon.
JP: Are there any photographers that you look up to?
MW: I’m always inspired by others. I use the hashtag #ArtInspiresArt. I’m inspired by the art of beer making. And I’m also inspired by other photographers. On Instagram, I’m particularly blown away by:
JP: Do you consider yourself a talented photographer?
MW: Yes. I believe I’m a talented photographer with a solid base knowledge. Most of my success as a photographer has been with beer on the opposite side of the lens, which makes me the happiest guy in the world.
Shooting beer has made me think outside of the box a bit with regard to setting up shots. It’s definitely made me a more well-rounded photographer.
JP: Do you have a single photo or photos you’re most proud of?
MW: I do! Photos like Make IPA Clear Again or Rippin’. All my work is shot in real-time; there are no post-production tricks, aside from basic color and light tweaking.
JP: How would you describe your photography style?
MW: Beerscape. Laughs. Really though. I believe I create beer-soaked landscapes. I’ve also used the hashtag #CraftBeerAcrobat to describe my work. It’s very acrobatic in its presentation. There are lots of perspective shifts and mind-bending theatrics. It’s a style all my own: #BendBrewDaddyStyle!
JP: How do you approach each photoshoot?
MW: Step 1: Look outside.
Step 2: Go to the beer fridge to pick a beer to match scenery and mood outside.
Step 3: Pour, shoot, drink!
That’s pretty much it. I get inspiration from how it looks outside. My beer fridge is usually pretty loaded, so it’s just a matter of finding the right label or style or name or whatever it is. Once the beer is picked, I typically get a few shots at a few different angles. I never spend more than five minutes shooting, as I have to get that beer in my mouth! Laughs.
JP: In your mind, what constitutes a good photo? When do you feel like you’re finished with a photo?
MW: A good photo just feels done. There’s no other way to describe it for me. Plus it has to have good composition and a readable beer label. I’ll usually tweak a photo in Adobe Lightroom before I decide it’s ready for posting. Sometimes, I’ll like a few different angles and process up to three or four shots for one beer.
JP: Do you have examples of photos that you’ve found particularly challenging, or photos that have pushed you?
MW: There are many challenges with my style of photography. And with all of the gravity-defying tricks I try, I lose a lot of beer to the ground. Black Butte and Tough Love were tricky shots that made me work extra hard.
JP: Anything in photography that you consider a serious “don’t”?
MW: In photography in general, there are a LOT of don’ts. And, in beer photography, there are definitely a few:
- Clean up the background of your shots. We don’t want to see your electrical outlets with cords hanging all over the place or your dirty dishes! Your beer deserves better!
- Don’t shoot with the label facing away from the lens. We want to see the beer you’re drinking!
- Don’t use dirty glassware. No explanation needed.
- Don’t forget to have fun! Shooting craft beer should be an exhilarating experience!
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