Real ice (left) and fake ice (right)
If you’ve ever tried to photograph a cold, iced beverage you probably realized how quickly the ice melts away. This is one reason that many food photographers and stylists will use fake ice in glasses of cold drinks. This is not only used in still photography … the next time you are watching a movie or TV show with someone holding a drink, take a look at the ice … it’s probably fake. It’s just not realistic to expect the ice to last during the time-frame that it takes to style and phtogoraph an image (or complete a TV/movie scene.)
Not only does the ice melt, but oftentimes it will end up looking foggy. In the image on the left I used ice from the ice-maker in my freezer … pretty standard house-hold ice. Some ice won’t look foggy like this, but if it’s not foggy then that means it probably will melt much more quickly. Fake ice, on the other hand, has a more “glassy” appearance and just looks better. You can find all sorts of shapes of fake ice for sale online—some are really expensive (the fancy, acrylic custom ice and splashes, for example). However I’ve had really good luck with some inexpensive fake ice … I usually just buy mine from Amazon.com (here’s a link to some ice I recently purchased for about $20.)
The down-side to a lot of fake ice is that it tends to sink to the bottom of the glass. Since most ice floats, then the way I get around this is to fill up a glass fully with ice … I’m typically using small glasses so this hasn’t been a problem so far.
BTW, if you want to learn more about food photography, I’m writing a book about it! Check it out here. :)