How to get paid as a drinks photographer, and other freelance advice with Christopher Pearce

Christopher Pearce is Australia’s most prolific drinks photographer, and here he shares career advice (and how to get your drink photos looking ace).

How to get paid as a drinks photographer, and other freelance advice with Christopher Pearce

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We live in a world stuffed full of photos. Everyone is walking around with a camera in their pocket courtesy of their smart phone, Instagram has one billion active monthly users, and the advent of digital photographic equipment and apps means that the standard of photos taken by the general public has never been higher.

But all the apps and tech in the world can’t guarantee a great photograph — the mastery of light and technique is something that professional photographers have over the rest of us hoi polloi. It takes experience, technical knowhow, and a way at looking at the world to be a good photographer.

It’s even more difficult when it comes to shooting drinks, I reckon, and that’s something that Christopher Pearce knows well. He’s someone I worked with over a number of years when I was the editor of Australian Bartender magazine; each month I would meet Chris at a bar to shoot the drinks that would go into the magazine for that issue. Although Chris had shot food and drink before we began working together, shooting cocktails regularly helped him to specialise further into that realm — and in the process, he is likely Australia’s most prolific drinks photographer. I like the way he captures drinks — the images are interesting, and his work is always evolving. That’s not easy to do with a static drink that often has one colour and one texture.

So below, I’ve pulled out a few bits of advice from our chat — Chris nows the ups and downs of the freelance life well, something that applies not just to photographers but content creators, writers, bar consultants, and just about anyone who doesn’t want to have a boss.

And if you listen to the chat in your favourite podcast app, Chris not only shares his tips for taking better photos of your drinks, but also his tips for serving a stakeout as a photographer.

When it comes to bar and drinks photography, there's none better than Christopher Pearce. Photo: Supplied
When it comes to bar and drinks photography, there's none better than Christopher Pearce. Photo: Supplied

”Never say no when you’re starting out.”

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get paid to shoot drinks, this episode may disappoint you. As Chris makes clear, there are no shortcuts to success — it takes time and experience and mistakes to make great photographs.

And to do that, it helps to be open to all opportunities that come your way. When Chris was starting out, if he was offered gigs shooting weddings, portraits, events — whatever the job was — he would say yes. That decision was for two reasons: one, when you’re starting out as a photographer, you never know when the next paycheque is coming in; and two, it helped to develop Chris’ skills as a photographer, one that is comfortable adapting to whatever situation you throw at him.

I think there’s something in that experience for anyone going into a creative, freelance type of role. And as Chris says on the podcast, “you never know where something leads.”

”You have to enjoy the time off, rather than fret about it.”

If you thought that a career in hospitality can be insecure, then just wait for that #freelancer life.

Although Chris now has people knocking on his door with jobs,  and he’s in a position to mostly pick and choose his clients, it wasn’t always that way. The ebb and flow of work — and what to do with your time when you’ve got no jobs — is something that any aspiring freelancer needs to come to grips with.

”People are still trying to do it all.”

During the pandemic and after speaking with his wife, Chris decided to pare back some of the jobs he was getting to focus purely on food and drink photography. In other words, rather than doing it all, Chris saw a benefit in specialisation.

“The benefits are, for a freelancer, is that down the line, you’ll get consistent work because people think you’re a specialist,” he says. “No one’s coming to me to shoot a wedding or to shoot car ads, because I’m not a specialist [in that].”

But when it comes to drinks and food photography? He’s at the top of the list, because that's what he's good at.

Elsewhere on Boothby...

Meraki Arts Bar is combining proper bar knowhow with a killer performing arts space
The new three level bar and entertainment space aims to breathe life back into Oxford Street (and Sydney’s creative life, too).
WTF is chill filtering? Can you really taste the difference?
Can we really tell the difference between non-chill filtered whiskies and those that are chill filtered?
Joey Tai & Sai Hamsala on bringing big city cocktails to Port Melbourne
What happens when top bartending talent comes to the suburbs? Clooney by XO in Port Melbourne has the answer.

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