Photo Trick: Use Hydrochloric Acid and Ammonia to Create Opaque Steam for Hot Drink Photos

When it comes to food photography, particularly beverages, one of the most difficult things to capture is steam. Not only do the drinks not stay warm for very long, but the steam is often nearly transparent and hard to catch on camera.

Thankfully, photographer Phillip McCordall has a clever trick that’ll solve this problem for you — that is, if you don’t mind working with hydrochloric acid and ammonia.

As McCordall highlights in the four-minute tutorial above, mixing these two chemicals together and carefully placing them into the glass you’re using will create steam that’s far more opaque and lasts longer than normal steam.

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Of course, it goes without saying that you’re going to want to be very careful if you try this out, considering these aren’t exactly household chemicals you’re working with. But if you go about it with patience and diligence, the results should impress.

As a bonus tip, McCordall also briefly illustrates how using salt water can help items float if you’re photographing objects that typically sink in water.