Many people start and finish their days with lattes, especially in cities like New York. There are some out there who like to share their latte art experience through photography. If you take your time to think things through, and pay attention to a few details you will get good latte images every time. With latte art, you don’t have to look too hard for a simple image. However, you can make a simple image better. If we take the same shot of our lattes each time, it can get boring. The idea is to show it off and make it look good. Latte images can become so much more with a little thought and composition. The idea is to create interesting photos of things people are already familiar with. Some folks just use phones, many use cameras. Here are some tips to take better pictures either way.
Choose the Right Lenses
If you’re creating your latte art images with a camera phone, this may not apply to you, but do make sure your lens is clean.
If you are using an interchangeable lens camera like a Sony NEX or a DSLR, here is something you want to keep this in mind: No matter their quality, or cost, big lenses, like a 24-70 2.8 or a 70-200 2.8 are not necessary when it comes to latte art photography. Big lenses just get in the way at an already jam packed coffee house. You also don’t need long focal lengths like an 85mm or 105mm. While those lenses are great for portraits, they require you to step back a little to get your image. Coffee houses can be small places or very busy at times. When there is not a lot of room to work with, a small compact prime lens should be considered. Kit lenses are okay, but there are better options available. Lenses like the 50mm 1.8 (available for many DSLRs), the Touit 32mm 1.8 (for Sony NEX 7 or Fujifilm X-Pro 1) or Sigma 30mm 2.8 for Micro four thirds are ideal for quick latte art shots. They allow you to get close to your subject. If you are working an advanced point shoot like the Fujifilm X100s, or Sigma DP3 you just have to worry about composition.
The barista spent time making your latte art, give a little thought to the composition of your image. To me, the best latte images are simple and clean. The basic idea is to fill the frame as much as possible showing the detail and texture of the latte art.When you look through the view finder or at your LCD screen you should be able to taste it, you’re so close. Use the cup as part of the composition, letting it create a frame in your image. You are working with a short window of time also. So the easiest thing to do is to keep the rule of thirds in mind. Remember everyone has their own interpretation on what latte art is or what it should look like. Express your views through your work, and don’t let your image blend in with everyone else’s. Just don’t take the typical top down image either work with diffren angles. Try to show your view of latte art. Look at your images carefully, making sure its pleasing to your eye.
Position for the Light
You walk in to a coffee house to get that latte art image, but it comes out too dark, or grainy. You probably shot your latte art in a dark location or did not meter things correctly. Not all coffee house light is created equal. You may think “I should use a flash”, but actually it’s not necessary or may not be wanted by those around you. A flash can also bring unwanted attention. It’s all about our place in a coffee house. Look at your environment and all the sources of light at your disposal. During the day, if you are near a window,make the most of it. It’s a fantastic light box. Windows are great natural light sources. If you cannot get near a window, you just have to look at the ceiling, try to sit under a light source. Quickly get your latte under a light, while not being rude. In latte photography simple lighting works.
Understand Your Camera Settings
While all cameras are not created equal, they all, especially the newer ones, can do some pretty amazing things with low light. Understanding your settings will help you obtain your images faster in challenging lighting situations. One of the most important things to consider when creating latte art images is your exposure triangle. Because most new cameras like the Nikon D7100, the Sony NEX6, Olympus OMD, or even a Fujifilm X20 have decent ISO performance. This will allow you to keep a decent shutter speed (1/100 of a second and up) so that you can keep your images nice and sharp. I personally leave my cameras on auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 125. My ISO’s max is 6400 because I don’t mind a little grain in my images.
Go in Prepared
Don’t go into a coffee shop and have to pull out your camera, set it up etc. Be ready. Have your camera on a strap. My preference is the black rapid rs7 at the moment. Have your lens cap off, camera turned on, and settings preselected. This will enable you to get your shot faster and enjoy your coffee. When your latte is prepared you can create your image quickly and get out of the way of others.
Don’t Forget the People Around You
Don’t be rude. Don’t get in the way of other people’s coffee experience. Get your shot and move on or take your latte and move it out the way. Then get a few frames. Taking too long to get your shot can get you shunned by the establishment also, especially if you are making things uncomfortable for other patrons. If you are going to a coffee house, specifically to create a latte art image, try to choose an off peak time which allows for a more relaxed shot.
If you are not instantly uploading your images to instagram or facebook, play with them. In software like Lightroom you have a better chance of making your latte art image a little bit more artistic. Don’t be afraid of showing your image in black and white or sepia. There are other filters available also if using a phone as well. Play and have fun.
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