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Cocktail Crafty



Why the Best Camera isn’t Always the One That’s on You


Recently I was hired to do a workshop where I provided bartenders with photography tips and tricks for improving their Instagram feeds. I took the job but wondered if there was any real interest in the subject. To my surprise I was greeted with eager individuals looking to improve their “insta-game”. After receiving great feedback from my workshop, it got me thinking that maybe there are others out there looking for the same advice.

I started my Instagram account 3 years ago and today have over 11,000 followers. When I started I was fascinated by the accounts that had huge followings. Ordinary people who were able to grow their personal brands and receive great opportunities. How did they do it? Easy! They provided valuable content and took great photos.

I say easy. But if it were that easy everyone would be doing it. And everyone can! 

When I started I had little understanding as to how to take a decent photo. The term aperture and exposure meant nothing to me. It took learning my phone’s camera — then an HTC m8, and a lot of practice to create an Instagram feed worth following. 

I loved my HTC m8. (Disclosure: I’m a bit of a cell phone nerd.) At the time the HTC m8 was considered one of the best cell phones with a lack luster camera. The fact that I was able to take some pretty good photos with a camera that most experts considered subpar shows that it’s really all about knowing your tools. 

Anyone can point and shoot in the most perfect settings. Do you know how to adjust for less than perfect lighting? Which settings are best for the time of day? There’s the saying that the best camera is the one that’s on you. But what good is it (or any camera) if you have no clue how to use it?

I was given the opportunity to do my workshop in both my hometown of Baltimore and in Phoenix. One thing that surprised me in both cases was what little knowledge participants had about their phone’s camera. Many iPhone users didn’t know how to adjust their camera's exposure. Android users didn’t know the number of adjustments that were hidden within their phone’s settings.

You see, there’s no secret formula to growing a social media following. There’s no magical time of day to like and comment on a magical number of accounts.  It all comes down to work. It’s learning the tools you have at hand and putting in a little more effort than the next guy. 

This post is the start of my photography and branding series geared toward Foodies, Cocktail Enthusiasts, and the Spirits Industry. Each Friday I’ll provide tips & tricks to better photography and social branding. And each week you’ll have an assignment. These assignments are aimed at helping you hone your skills in hopes of growing your own brand. 

This week’s assignment? Explore your phone’s camera. Go into the settings and “tinker” with them. I've included Youtube links for instructional videos for the top three smartphone cameras as of the date of this post. If you don’t see your phone listed, head to Youtube and do a search.

I now have an iPhone 6 plus. It’s a great point and shoot camera. Other than adjusting the exposure you really don’t need to do much with the iPhone to take a good photo. 

Even though I’m a Apple user I am envious of the Galaxy S7 and its pro-mode. As a former Android user I miss have the ability to adjust and control my phone’s camera in any setting. In the end it all comes down to preference.

iPhone 6s -

Galaxy S7 -

LG G5 -


Next Week: Shooting in Dark Bars