Three glasses of mojito on a cutting board with lime and fresh mint leaves

Portfolio project – Mojitos

Mats Assignments, Food photography, Inspiration, Macro, Pre-production Leave a Comment

I’m building my food and drink portfolio and i wanted to create some drink shots. I made it a little personal project to shoot mojitos.

Mojito – what’s that?

If you don’t already know what a mojito is, let me enlighten you. To make a mojito, you begin by putting lime slices or wedges in an empty glass. Then you add mint leaves and caster sugar. Now you bring out a bartender tool called a muddler and you crush the lime, mint leaves and sugar on the bottom of the glass. Then you fill the glass up with ice, white rum and soda water and ta-daa, you have yourself a mojito.

Three glasses of mojito on a cutting board with lime and fresh mint leaves

The shot list

OK, with the recipe out of the way, let’s look at the plan. I wanted to create a couple of portfolio images of mojitos. I had a long ambitious shot list, but i decided to trim it down to three photos to create:

  1. an overview of making mojitos, a 45 degree shot
  2. an overhead shot of finished drinks, a 90 degree shot
  3. closeups, macro bonus shots of ice, mint leaves, lime and whatever looked good when 1 and 2 were in the bag

For the overview shot, i wanted to tell a story of someone making drinks. I don’t want it to be the typical tidy still life that you see on the stock sites. It should be believable. I won’t bring in a shaker, because this is not a drink you shake. There will be no measuring cup, because this is a situation where you eyeball your liquids.

I set up a basic composition while handholding the camera and took a few shots to make sure the exposure was right. When it looked good, i locked my camera on my tripod and plugged in into my computer using a tether tools USB cable. I use Control My Nikon for these kind of situations. Being able to control the camera from the computer and see the incoming photos is invaluable.

In the slideshow below, you can see how the overview image evolved from the first test shots through the whole shoot. There’s a lot of subtle focus changes, aperture/flash power changes and moving things around. Also, there are little light and shadow manipulations using white and black cards out of the frame.

The overhead shot

This is how i made the overhead shot. When shooting glasses, it’s good think to have the near the center of the frame. Otherwise, things tend to lean in all directíons in a weird way.

Three mojitos sitting on a cutting board with mint leaves and lime


Well time flies when you’re having fun. After about half an hour, the ice was turning into water and brought in my macro lense to take a few close-ups.

Closeup of a fresh mint leaf on a cutting board

Closeup of a green mint leaf with ice in a mojito drink

Closeup of a green mint leaf with ice in a mojito drink

Lessons learned

Shooting with glass, metal and liquids, there’s always the risk of highlight clipping. I didn’t pay attention to this as i was working on the photos, but when i brought them into Lightroom, i noticed some of them had clipped highlights. Oh well, i learned how to get histograms and clipping warnings in Control my Nikon, so that was a good thing.

In closing

No alcohol was wasted during this project. The liquids are mostly water with some sugar added for viscosity.

Music enjoyed during the work: a Spotify list of excellent songs by Chris Cornell, Nick Drake and The Valkyrians.

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