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The 4 Bs of Bourbon Photography

In Banter by 8 Comments

We all have our favorite little things that we enjoy about bourbon.  Obviously drinking it is number one.  For many there is also the thrill of collecting it and the reward of sharing it with friends and family.  For me, photographing whiskey lands somewhere in between impressing friends with bourbon trivia and savoring the beautiful smell of empty whiskey glasses the next day.

There’s something very gratifying about sharing images of our precious prizes. There’s no better way to inflict your buddies with a bad case of FOMO than by posting an image online of the beautiful amber elixir that you’re enjoying at that moment. I thought I’d share a few tips for making your whiskey photos pop and grab attention.

Bokeh, or Blur

“Bokeh” is a buzzword that photographers use the way whiskey aficionados use “non-chill filtered. “  That creamy blur in the background that perfectly separates it from the subject of the photo is ideal for most portraits and also for whiskey shots.  It grabs the viewer by the eyeballs and forces them to look directly where you want.  For a purist like me, there is no replacing the shallow depth-of-field of a wide aperture lens, but many people get convincing results from the “portrait mode” on their phones.  Since most of us are likely not going to invest hundreds-to-thousands of dollars into these fancy lenses, exploring the blur options in your phone is worth checking out.


Whether or not you blur out the background in your photo, the background still can take up more than half of the total image. That is why it is important to pay attention to it while framing up the shot. We have all been guilty of subtly sneaking in some fancy bottles in the background to show off, and while that is fair game, it detracts from your foreground of the photo. A strong background can add elements of composition or color that vastly improve the attractiveness of the image.


There is something really enticing about a whiskey with a beautiful color, and it can be very difficult to effectively capture that color. That is where you have to start thinking about your light sources. At the end of the day, photography is all about light. Specifically, it is about catching light as it bounces off or passes through our subjects. If you really want to titillate your friends and get them salivating over the drink you are sharing, make sure some light in the background is shining through the glass and bottle.


It can be difficult to think of new ways to capture images, but it is important to challenge yourself. Show off your creative side by using odd perspectives or arrangements. Use your whiskey glass like a filter or arrange the whiskey in a playful manner. Have fun with it. I find myself getting more adventurous when I have only my phone and can’t rely on the crutch of great lenses.

There are a handful of other B words that didn’t make the cut but qualify for honorable mention:

  • Bottle – I like to incorporate bottles in different ways.  Take advantage of varied bottle shapes and striking labels.
  • Balance – Play around with the composition of the photo to get a nice balance to the image.  Sometimes I’ll play around with a few arrangements before landing on my favorite setup.
  • Big – Fill the frame with whiskey.  Get up close and show some detail.

And finally…

  • Bottom’s Up – Have fun out there and capture the great memories, but don’t forget to drink it!
About the Author

Shawn Jackson

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Shawn was born and raised in Houston but followed his wife to Nashville where they spent a wonderful and exciting decade. It was there that Shawn established his photography company, Sundel Perry, which was focused primarily on serving the music business. While living in Nashville, he fell in love with bourbon and co-founded a club in 2010 called The Bourbon Trust with some of his neighbors and friends. He orchestrated several barrel picks for the group from different distilleries before returning to Houston in 2015 and has been there since. In addition to drinking, talking about, and writing about bourbon, he loves capturing the visual beauty of bourbon in photos. His wife and his two young daughters are all very supportive of his bourbon obsession. For now.

  • […] The 4 Bs of Bourbon Photography Bourbon & Banter Posted on Monday, March 19, 2018 1:10 am 0 Bourbon […]

  • Bryan Wayne says:

    Very informative. Great read.

  • Craig Collins says:

    I like the way Shawn expresses his ideas/photos on Bourbon Photography. My background in photography has me nodding my head in agreement with where he is going with this. Good read and pics. Keep him.

  • Justin Milligan says:

    Great article that I will be sure to apply to my next social media post. Thanks for the suggestions and short photography lesson!

  • Amy Prunty says:

    Just when I thought there was nothing new under under the sun when it comes to bourbon blogging, this comes up! Creative & interesting, and I’d love to see more of your photos!

  • Sean weissinger says:

    Nicely written, I feel these are things that aren’t taken into account enough when people are taking photos of their own, hopefully this will help some people.

  • Tyler says:

    Great, unique topic I hadn’t come across in the bourbon space before – keep up the creativity!

  • Teresa B says:

    I thought I was the only one that enjoyed torturing my bourbon buddies with these photos. I’m going to start working on my technique.