Jordan Burnett (above left) and Brett Wilson (above right) and became mates through work, bonded over craft beer and, thanks to a chance meeting with a beer photographer at an excellent but now-closed craft beer bar in Geelong, started sharing their beer photos on Instagram in May 2019.
Indeed, they say they "had no idea that there was a beer photography thing going on"; however, in the two years since, they've wholeheartedly embraced the online beer scene.
In particular, it's the sense of digital camaraderie, particularly during the last year, that's drawn them into the Beerstagram sphere.
"I live out in Torquay, in a paddock, and mostly drink a beer by myself," Brett says. "Through Instagram, I'm drinking with a community."
As part of our ongoing Aussie Beerstagrammers series, Guy Southern talked to the savvy snappers about all things @beers.2.review.
How did you get into sharing your beer love on Instagram?
Brett: It all started with a chance meeting between Tom Sheehan (@beer_australia) and myself at our local bar at the time, Big Ears in Geelong. We chatted over a few beers and exchanged Instagram accounts.
I had been photographing toys and posting on Instagram since 2013 and that led to Tom hitting me up to help photograph a Dainton's Stormtrooper themed beer with toys. A few days later we met back at Big Ears – Tom with beers, me with toys, both with cameras – and photographed together. Following that day, Jordan and I decided that we should give it a crack as well.
Jordan: We’d been mates through work for years and had bonded over good beers. If we weren’t sitting at a bar together drinking the wide variety of beers and talking about them, we were sending photos of beers to each other saying things like “You’ve gotta try this” or “I’ve tucked one of these away for the next time we catch up”, so why not got a little bit further, take some better photos and share them on Instagram instead of just with each other?
We’ve both got art and design backgrounds and an interest in photography, so the transition from taking snaps of beer and sending them to each other to sharing photos on Instagram made sense. We roughed out a plan for what we wanted the account to be, and off we went. The realisation that we could do it and that it would be a lot of fun was the clincher.
What’s your typical setup like?
Brett: We’ve both got pretty similar setups, with some subtle variations, which is a boon when we get to hang out together to photograph beers. We both shoot with Canon EOS 800D camera bodies, one with an EF-S 35mm F2.8 Macro Lens, the other with a EF-S 50mm f1.8. For lighting, we both use Softbox LED Lighting Kits with additional diffusers. One of us uses a Godox Speedlite for additional lighting, and the other uses a Lume Cube LED.
Jordan: We started out with zero photography gear, just using our phones, and we just built into the kit over time. It does make it quicker with the right gear, but you don’t have to invest thousands to get a good result. Neither of us has invested much in to the kit that we've got.
Modesty aside, can you describe your style and suggest a couple of images that best represent your account.
Brett: We always photograph the can or bottle and the beer poured for our posts. It’s all about the beer so you need to see what the beer looks like. Our photos tend to be themed around the beer label design, beer style and the brewery. We both dig playing with light to highlight areas of importance in a shot and to separate foreground from background.
For our accompanying story posts, we try to photograph the can or bottle on its own or a different angle of the feed photo, rather than just a different crop of the same photo.
Jordan: The photo should tell the story, put some soul into it: what's the essence of the beer?
Our styles are pretty similar, although I tend to play with colour and vibrancy, whereas Brett tends to play with texture and mood. We try to split it up as for whoever has more interest in a beer. Brett normally goes for the Dollar Bill type of beers, whereas I go for the triple IPAs, but we’ve had many folk struggle to pick who took what – which is cool!
Changes to social media platform algorithms can create headaches when it comes to engagement. How do you stay on top of this constantly shifting digital sand?
Brett: Oh, trying to keep on top of the ever-changing algorithms can do your head in!
We’ve given up trying to work out how to build numbers and exposure by slaying the algorithm beast and simply focus on the content we post and interacting with those we follow.
What Instagram accounts do you follow and what makes them special?
Brett: Obviously @beer_australia! Not only did he start this whole thing for us, he’s an amazing photographer and a top bloke.
@sipsandsessions is another local beer photographer who crushes it and is also a top bloke.
Jordan: We know we’ve forgotten some amazing photography accounts. Apologies to those we left out. We also follow a bunch of beer folk that aren’t necessarily photography focused – excuse the pun – but still have really engaging content based on the beers they post and the words that accompany them.
Hashtags are synonymous with Instagram yet have zero influence on Facebook. What are some of your favourites and what’s one of the weirdest ones that you’ve seen or used?
Brett: Generally, we’ll add the brewery, beer name and beer style as hashtags to a post, together with a bunch of others including #beertogsau, #beersofinstagram, #keepinglocalalive, #askforindiebeer.
The #beerfamilyisthebestfamily hashtag is one of our favourites. Fi (Nolle) from Dollar Bill Brewing told it to us when we shared a story with her about the positive impact sharing their beers had during COVID restrictions and shutdowns here in Victoria.
Jordan: Pop culture beer name references used as hashtags sometimes have a big impact on engagement. Bright Tank’s Big Red Smeg Head for example gained a bunch of traction because we included the #reddwarf hashtag.
A lot of businesses see social media as time-consuming. How long do you typically spend on your posts and what could a new brewery do to stand out on Instagram?
Brett: It depends. Some of our posts are set up, photographed, edited and posted in minutes. Some take hours of planning, test shots and editing. Generally, we try to get the actual photo done as quickly as possible once the beer’s been poured. We’re not wasting good beer!
Jordan: Even though every photo is different, our processes have been refined and streamlined over time. We spend a lot less time setting up and shooting now than we did when we began. But, for those photographs that do take a little longer to set up, there’s always another beer in the fridge to tide us over until we get the shot done!
How do you choose which beers to feature?
Brett: Generally, it’s local and independent beers we enjoy and want to drink. We try to keep the beers we post relevant with new releases.
We support and post a bunch of photos of beers from our local brewers, Valhalla Brewing and Blackman’s Brewery. They’ve been amazing to us so, naturally, we want to return the favour.
We also post a heck of a lot of Dollar Bill beers! That’s because we have a Rare Oak Society membership, we absolutely love their beers and they’re lovely folk.
Jordan: We’re also lucky enough to be sent the occasional beer in the mail from brewers too, so of course we’ll feature those beers, making sure we acknowledge they’re samples.
Instagram has the potential to engage brands beyond traditional marketing methods. What do you see as the benefits for beer businesses getting involved with Beerstagrammers?
Brett: Sure, it’s free publicity and promotion of their product, but there’s so much more. When breweries engage with a beer photographer it shows they’re involved with Instagram, checking out what photographers are doing with their beers, and taking an active interest in what’s going on.
Jordan: We still get a huge kick out of a brewery liking, commenting on, or sharing our photos. It’s those breweries’ beers that we’ll be looking out for next time we’re shopping for beers to shoot.
Plus, you only need to scroll through some of the amazing beer accounts we mentioned earlier to see that Instagram beer photography space is a great resource for breweries to connect with photographers.
What trends have you seen in the Beerstagramming scene? And, where do you see this heading?
Brett: Still being relatively new to the whole Beerstagramming scene, we didn’t know it was a scene or there were trends!
However, in our short time posting beer photos on Instagram, we’ve noticed breweries seem to be paying more attention to the photography side of things. We’ve been really fortunate to be asked to photograph some amazing beers to be used by breweries for their Instagram feeds and for use outside Instagram.
Getting asked to photograph Dollar Bill’s Gold Teeth and send the photos to Fi (Nolle) just hours before it was crowned Australian Champion Beer 2021 at the AIBAs was such a hoot and an honour.
I finished the bottle off as the award was announced, which was just a little bit special.
What tips do you have for anyone keen to, as they say, crush their Beerstagram game?
Brett: It depends on how you interpret "crushing the Beerstagram game". For us, it’s not about huge follower numbers – sure, we appreciate every single follower, but that’s not why we started doing this. For us, "crushing our Beerstagram game" means getting better at what we set out to do, take good photos of great beers.
It’s a shame that Froth ain’t around anymore. They ran a great series of articles with photography tips and tricks tailored for beer photos.
Jordan: The Beer Photographers Australia Instagram and Facebook group are also great sources of information, inspiration, tips and tricks for beer photography. Oh, and ask questions! We’ve picked up so many amazing tips from other beer photographers simply by asking.
And any Instagram faux pas people should look to avoid?
Brett: Obviously always credit where credit is due. Credit the source of the beer, whether it’s where it was purchased or who supplied it as a sample. And, if you repost a photo, credit the person who created it.
One thing that irks us is the use of gender-biased language, especially feminine pronouns, in beer reviews. English doesn’t assign gender to inanimate objects, so we shouldn’t be assigning gender to a beer.
Note: It should go without saying but all photographs published in this article are the work of @beers.2.review.
You can find other entries in this series here. If you would like to be featured – or have an account you love and would like to know more about – let Guy know. You can also check out Guy's beerstagramming at Goodtimes Craft Beer.