I hate to bear bummer news, but most Instagram beer pictures are boring, variations on a trite template: glass of bubbly gold liquid, label shot, or glass of bubbly gold liquid beside a bottle or can. You can do so much better.
Doing so does not require a crash course in remedial photography. I should know. I used to take blah, terrible pictures, perfunctory bottle shots as bland as mass-produced lager. Did the world really need another picture of Pliny the Elder perched on a table? Answer: no. I resolved to refine my photo skills, aiming to create images every bit as compelling as a superfresh IPA or barrel-aged imperial stout.
It’s the 21st century, and social sharing (and oversharing) is as essential to humankind as air — everyone does it. To prevent beer pictures from falling through Instagram’s algorithm-created cracks, here are six common-sense tips to follow before clicking upload.
Use Natural Light
A photographer’s best buddy is natural light. I try to illuminate my pictures with daylight, avoiding mid-day’s harsh, unforgiving spotlight. If you’re at a bar after dark and want to take a picture, borrow a friend’s phone and use the flashlight function to illuminate the scene. Repeat after me: Flash is not your friend. Too much light can blow out a photo. Also, it pisses off everybody around you.
While Instagram’s photo-editing tools have greatly improved, I prefer to quickly tune my images in a third-party app. I favor Snapseed for its fair price — free — and ease of use. Use the Tune Image function to lightly tweak the contrast and brightness, as needed. They also have an auto-adjust function, if lazy. For details, tweak the structure and sharpening, up to 20 or 25. HDR Scape and Tonal Contrast can make the picture pop, but don't overdo it. A little dab will do you.
Don’t Get Bottled Up
I get it: You want to show the world that you acquired the Bruery’s Black Tuesday, or that the trade for the Alchemist’s Heady Topper finally arrived. Resist the urge to take a static picture of the bottle plopped on the kitchen counter. Bring the beer outside or pose it before an alluring backdrop, creating an eye-catching scene, not merely a digital brag.
Like a selfie, tight focus on a label is fine every once in a while. Mostly, though, remember to pull back a bit, allowing the beer to live within the scene. And don’t forget to compose your shot. Utilizing the rule of thirds, a basic compositional technique in which the frame is divided by two vertical lines and two horizontal lines; place your photo’s most important element along the intersections. (Instagram helpfully provides the grid when you post pictures.)
Show the Human (or Animal) Side
Beer is above all a social lubricant, bringing people together. Please do show the creatures with whom you’re sharing pilsners and pale ales, no matter if they’re on two legs or four, or perhaps crawling on the floor. I've lost count of how many beers I consumed alongside my scooting daughter and wagging dog.
Go Beyond Beer
The most interesting elements about the brewing industry are not always the end product — the liquid that makes 5 p.m. such a wonderful hour. From tattooed brewers to wooden barrels, shiny fermenters to hand-hewn tap handles and sacks of grains, there’s a wealth of visual treasure awaiting. Get to a brewery. Grab a beer. Look around, letting your eyes, and camera, wander. You’ll never know what you’ll see when you’re not staring at a beer.