Photographing Hot and Cold Food and Drinks

It’s a food blogger’s dream to make food look just-cooked and good enough to eat.  Often, it can be as simple as adding a garnish of herbs, a brush of oil or a spritz of water to bring out the freshness.  But sometimes, you’re photographing food and drinks where you want to emphasise the hot or cold temperature – think tea, coffee or hot chocolate and lollies (popsicles) or ice cream.  It’s a much more challenging shot to get right and you’ve got to move quickly before your hot drinks cool or your frozen treats turn to a puddle.

Today’s post is a skill-based article that shares tips and examples from working food bloggers all about how you can bring out the hotness and coldness in your pictures.  Take a look at these delicious recipes for inspiration and try using some of these techniques for your next recipe shoot.

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Shooting hot…

#1 Keep it hot as long as possible

Set up everything you will need in advance and then only bring the drink in at the last minute.  If necessary, use a cold version to balance your props and lighting and save the steam for the right moment.

Look at the beautiful curl of steam coming off this piping-hot coffee
Photograph courtesy of Gina from Kleinworth & Co

#2 Capture the steam

Light your setup from the back to bounce the light off the steam, making sure that it’s pointing only up at the steam and not also lighting your drink.  Then, when you’re ready, pour boiling hot water into the cup or glass and shoot fast, ideally from a tripod for stability.  If you pour hot drinks into cold cups and glasses then you get additional condensation on the side of the glass, which can be really beautiful.

If necessary, you can cheat with a damp ball of cotton wool quickly microwaved or a blast of steam from a steam iron or cappuccino machine.

Using cotton wool to fake it
Photograph courtesy of Kelly from A Side of Sweet

#3 Embrace the colours

Natasha from Mad Tea Club told me that to really “show the color of the beverage, glass teaware is the best. Even the most basic glass mug looks elegant and appropriate in many settings. If you manage to catch natural sunlight in a glass cup of tea, it can look absolutely magical and mesmerizing”.

Capturing the beautiful golden colour of Darjeeling tea
Photograph courtesy of Natasha from Mad Tea Club

#4 And for styling…

Steam shows up best against dark backgrounds so consider this when styling your shoot.

Steam against a dark background – mulled white wine
Photograph courtesy of chef jenny dorsey


…And shooting cold

#1 Keep it cold as long as possible

Food stylists will often keep a tray of ice next to their workstation to hold the lollies or scoops of ice cream in between shots.  To minimise the time you need the food on set, try setting up the shot with a stand-in item or a piece of paper to mark the spot (as above).  Better still, try photographing them actually on the ice.

Placing your lollies on ice helps them stay cold for longer – these are Pimms flavour!
Photograph courtesy of Diana from Little Sunny Kitchen

#2 Use the best equipment and work as fast as you can

Scoop your ice cream into perfect balls or loosen your lollies from their moulds in advance (popping them on that ice tray again) and then place them into the shot at the very last minute, taking your photographs immediately.  Ideally, try to keep your lights off in between shots too (or better yet – use natural light), so you’re not melting the goodies under hot studio lights!

check out those perfect balls of chocolate coconut-milk ice cream!
Photograph Courtesy of Sarah from a saucy kitchen

#3 If it does all start to melt, embrace it!

Sometimes drips and drizzles can be beautiful and they definitely make your audience hungry.  Use a macro lens and get right in there to see the food at its edible best.

Look at all the melty goodness of this fudgesicle!
Photograph courtesy of Shelley from Two Healthy Kitchens

#4 And for styling…

Try popping the bowl that will contain the ice cream (or the plate you’ll be laying the lollies on) in the freezer for 15 minutes too – you don’t want the crockery to be the source of the melting!  When you do get those first few drops of perspiration on the ice, don’t panic!  Pop a light behind them and enjoy the shine bouncing off them.

Notice how the light bounces off these beautiful Tropical Sunset Lollies?
photograph courtesy of Kate from The Veg Space

Over to you

Why not try adding some hot/cold shots to your blog?  And post them below for us all to see!

What’s your best tip?  Did I miss anything out?


    • Editor says:

      Thanks, Kelly. Photographing hot and cold – and managing to actually make it look hot or cold – is quite the skill, isn’t it?! Thanks for your contribution 🙂

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