How to Take Better Coffee Photos

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All images by Jon Low. Used with permission.

Everyone loves shooting photos of coffee, and it’s a big hobby of photographer Jon Low’s. Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Jon begun shooting wedding professionally in 2007–since then it has been his source of bread and butter. In fact, Jon was member of WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographer International), and have since scored numerous accolades and 2nd placing in Bride/Groom Alone category.

Like every photographer, Jon has a type of work that he keeps special and dear to his heart–coffee photography. He loves the intricacies and documenting it all in the lifestyle fashion way that folks love.

Jon likes to tell his clients that he loves taking pretty pictures and offers some serious advice on how to take better coffee photos–like being a barista for a while.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Jon: Between carrying 17″ CRT monitors up and down as an IT professional, I find carrying 3kg camera a lot more manageable, and more satisfying. I love technology, and I love art. Photography marries both.

I started photographing weddings as a freelancer, juggling between my day job as an System Engineer, and Photo warrior by weekend photographing weddings. Started to learning the craft, run a small gallery place in Malaysia. Here I am going around photographing weddings.

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Phoblographer: Folks usually just like taking snapshots of their coffee and uploading them to their favorite social media sites, but a lot of your work looks like there is care and love involved. To you, what makes for an excellent coffee photo?

Jon: I do that myself. I take snapshots of my coffee, like anybody else would too. It helps that I love travel, and I love coffee, and above all I love photography. Some cafes with thoughtful interiors certainly help to make pretty pictures. I love cafes that go all out for finesse in delivering a coffee experience.

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A very big part of my coffee story came from a close buddy of mine. He was working his rank up to become a barista, and at this moment, he is rather good. A crowned champion ;). If I sound any intelligent when I speak coffee, that’s because I echoed him. On the occasions when I speak stupidly about coffee, well, that’s me adding salt to the coffee.

Hence, these experience, couple along with my travel, I took on a photo story project to photograph some of my favourite coffee joints in Melbourne. I am still at it though. I want to be back to photograph more. Not coffee cup, but the melting pot of coffee culture in Melbourne. Quite a shame, because it is rather self serving; but I love doing it.

To what makes an excellent coffee photo, you asked? To me, that experience of being part of the coffee culture, that’s the best part. With that, I think I would produce some really interesting work.

Phoblographer: True or false: Not every situation lends itself to the best coffee images. Why or not why?

Jon: False.

I like to tell my clients, or people. I only take pretty pictures. It’s true… well, partially true. I try my best to filter and show my best work for showcase. It’s the oldest photography trick I reckon.

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To me, when I photograph coffee images, I want to be photographing not just the coffee, but a series of photographs that give the sense, the vibes and a story of location.

The cafes, I’ve visited thus far, have no qualms in us photographing whilst having our cup of joe. As long as they allow us to photograph, I don’t think we would lend ourselves to get bad coffee images.

Phoblographer: Lots of coffee photos are all about a natural light look and something more familiar. But do you ever get tired of this? Have you ever thought about a different way of presenting the images?

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Jon: You made me think. I am not a food photographer by trade, or would I be. Natural light was by instinct and convinience. The cafe that I visit, generally has great direction light. Or if not, I’ll figure out where there are interesting lights.

I would like to intiate a portrait of a barista holding the cup of coffee they brew. It can be an independant project by itself.

As to lighting the cup of coffee altogether, I have no plans. Maybe if a good idea come by, I would. Dry ice. The fog surrounding the cup of joe, that can be a pretty picture.

Phoblographer: Let’s consider you as a coffee photographer one year ago and you today; what are you doing differently and better? Elaborate, be specific.

Jon: Tough question to answer as I am not a coffee photographer. I’ll probably part time and learn up coffee. Be a barista, get into the culture, and photograph the coffee like they haven’t photograph before.

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