Make it hot: Top ways to depict temperature in your food and beverage photography

Post by
Yota Chelf
Make it hot: Top ways to depict temperature in your food and beverage photography

When temperature is a factor in food photography, the key to success is –as in most cases- in the preparation.

While a decadent piece of chocolate cake can wait, you can’t afford the luxury of time when you are aiming to shoot the perfect drip of ice cream or the dancing swirl of steam coming from a bowl of soup.

From frozen treats to a hot cup of coffee, there’s always a bit of prep work required to capture the moment with your camera and trust me, in the end, it's worth it!

Practice makes perfect:

When you have a limited amount of time to get the perfect shot, consider using stand-ins for practice purposes. That could be a less attractive version of your subject or a similar colored/sized prop that will allow you to find the best angle, camera settings, and composition before you bring out the hero subject. This way you will be ready to capture the perfect shot and save yourself a lot of frustration and melting ice cubes.

Cold: How to handle cold and melting food

Hands Off: I don’t mean to be rude, but hands off the food. Always use a spatula or tongs, as the heat from your body can be enough to melt it. The right equipment and a little planning ahead will save the day.


Fake crushed ice being styled by Alexandra Mitsiou of am foodstyling


Start with a dry glass at room temperature and an ice-cold liquid.

Using a straw blow hot air around the glass. This will add more natural condensation for the perfectly frosted container.

Fake it till you make it! You can create fake, long-lasting condensation on a glass, regardless of the temperature of your drink, in two simple steps.

Cover the top of the glass with a piece of cardboard and spray the outside surface with Krylon Crystal Clear spray to add texture. When it dries, mix one part of corn syrup with one part of water in a spray bottle, shake well and spray on the glass. The textured surface will hold the droplets and create a photorealistic effect!

Fake condensation applied to beer bottle in this image for Tiger by CreativelySquared

So cool, so simple: Frost is a form of condensation which you can achieve easily for your photo-shooting needs! Simply spray your glass containers with water and freeze for 15-20 minutes.

A few minutes at room temperature and there you have it! A perfectly frosty glass.

Real frost and ice in this image for Tiger Crystal by Creatively Squared


When working with frosty surfaces, you should always be mindful of fingerprints and how you handle the glassware.


Hot: Some like it hot and I can't blame them

Nothing beats a comforting image of a cup of coffee with curls of rising steam. Well, maybe the actual coffee, but today we are here to talk about photography (while we are indeed sipping coffee).

Capturing the steam may sound challenging but fear not. There are easy ways to capture the real thing or fake it post-production, depending on your needs and available equipment.

Real Steam

Intricate steam effect captured by Indu Vishwanath Singh

Fake Steam

Missed the steam? Be cool! You can add steam post-production with overlays and a little bit of editing.


Simply download a few overlays. I found a few interesting ones at Rawpixel which came in handy quite a few times.

Think about your subject. What would the real steam look like? Find something relevant.

Open your image in Photoshop and drag and drop the overlay on top. Adjust the size and play around with the opacity. You don’t want the steam to steal the spotlight, but to blend in naturally with the rest of the food. Use the spot healing brush tool to correct the parts that look unnatural, or to sharp. Then use the blur tool to smooth the edges.

Brush Tool

The easier approach would be to install a set of smoke brushes on Photoshop.

There are gorgeous free options to download online.

Open your image in Photoshop and use the brush to add the smoke or steam. I recommend using two or three different styles of smoke on the same image, lower the opacity, and create unique shapes that fit the specific image that you are working with.

Again, use the spot healing tool to smooth certain areas and blur the edges if needed.


As always experiment with different techniques to transform your pictures into work of art and figure out what works best for you! Have fun with it!

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