I owe everything to coffee.
Now I know that sounds super dramatic, but hear me out. It’s TRUE!
I was 3 years into wedding and portrait photography when the owner of a local coffee shop (whom I later fell in love with but that’s a story for another time) asked me if I would run marketing for his new shop. My first answer was a big fat “NO WAY! I know nothing about photographing coffee and running marketing for a coffee shop! I’m a wedding photographer!”
But he convinced me my skills were transferable to coffee and well, I believed him.
I remember the night I finally agreed to take the job. I stayed up until 3am researching hashtags and scouring pinterest for photo ideas.
I came ready the next day to try my hand at styling a coffee shot. Afterall, how much different than styling wedding details could it really be?!
A LOT. It’s a lot different.
But I prevailed and proudly showed him my first image from my “styled shoot” (see below)
It worked for the time being (and because It was a free gig), but as I grew my skill photographing coffee (and my paycheck), I learned quite a few things. If you are interested in photographing coffee for a coffee shop, this blogpost will give you the tools you need to develop a clear strategy before you start!
First things first: Understand the brand
Wee baby 2018 Amanda did NOT know this. I didn’t take the coffee shop logo, colors, or brand message into consideration at all when I photographed the first image on the orange wood background. If I HAD understood the brand, I would have known that it made more sense to do darker colors, NO orange/warm tones, and more edgy vibe. Rather than my cutesy posed photo.
There are two really great ways to learn the brand of the shop you’re photographing:
1. Have the owner fill out a questionnaire. Ask specific questions about the brand like,
What are their brand colors?
What is their brand message?
What is their mission statement?
Who are their ideal customers?
2. STUDY the brand! Check their current instagram, facebook, yelp, and google pages to see what kind of company they are. This also gives great insight into who is interacting with them the most, aka their ideal customers!
If you are photographing a coffee shop that is full out pink branding, pink neon signs everywhere for that perfect ‘gram moment, florals, and fancy furniture, you’re probably not going to want to photograph their coffee on a black background, with edgy edits like the photo above. You’re much more in line with their brand by photographing their coffee/products with some sort of pink brought in, maybe the neon signs backlighting, maybe some florals sprinkled into a flatlay, etc.
See what I mean there? Okay good.
Consider Their Content
What do they need to post? Do they want to feature their retail coffee bags? Do they give free lattes to customers who tag them in posts? Did they just hire 3 new baristas and want to do an intro post?
What do they NEED?
This is where that questionnaire will come in handy again. As a brand photographer, it’s my job to figure out what content works for them specifically. I do this by asking a ton of questions and planning every detail. You want to make sure every single photo you take serves a purpose in the content world.
Incorporate Real People
This can and should be both baristas and customers! People connect to people. You want their customers to see someone sitting drinking a latte and wish they were there. You want to compel them to come get their own latte!
Get some awesome behind the scenes shots of the baristas/employees doing what they love! Pouring latte art, steaming milk, shaking up a shaken espresso. BTS shots are GOLD!
When you have your initial planning meeting with the owner (or marketing team), ask permission to get creative with a few shots. Reassure them that you will get the shots you need first, but then have a game plan to do some super cool shots! These always perform super well even after I’ve recycled them several times over the last year!
Utilize Relevant Props
Cherry lemonade gets cherries and lemons.
Peach cream cold brew gets peaches.
Super simple, and yet often overlooked! When you incorporate props that are relevant, it adds a layer to your photographs, making the photo far more interesting that just a glass of liquid sitting there. Get creative with these also! Play with background vs foreground, try cutting one lemon and leaving the others whole, etc.
Last but not least: Take Versatile Photos
Your goal as their photographer is to provide them with versatile content they can use across several platforms. Make sure the photos you deliver can do that for them! I’m including a list of versatile shots that you can totally use for your next coffee brand session:
The process of a latte (grinding beans, tamping, pulling shot, pouring milk, steaming milk, pouring latte)
Baristas laughing behind bar
Barista ringing up customer
Barista carrying latte to customer
Styled menu items (If you were hired to do them)
Flat lay of lattes
Pouring iced latte
Pouring cream into Cold Brew (Money shot…everyone loves a good pour shot)
Making a pour over/chemex/aeropress (whatever is on their menu)
Headshots of each barista
Headshots of owner/s
Owners interacting with employees
Customers drinking coffee (ALWAYS ask permission and have them sign a model release. Just do it.)
Any merch they have
Pastries or food menu items (If you were hires to do those)
That’s all I’ve got friends! I hope this was helpful to those of you that are shooting a coffee shop brand session (OR if you’re a coffee shop owner and you’re trying to DIY it!).