Smartphone Photography: Capturing Your Cocktails
Ah, the smartphone. No longer a convenient (and intrusive) way to take calls everywhere so we can annoy our fellow humans, they’ve become increasingly advanced photography and videography studios that (mostly) fit in the palms of our hands. They have also become much more than a tool we use to tell the world what we’re up to and into at a moment’s notice on Facebook, Twitter or Instragram. No, in the right hands they’re an effective marketing tool.
Natalie Migliarni of Beautiful Booze shared her best practices during the 2016 Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas to make you or someone on your staff a marketing guru with only the right smartphone and a bit of know-how. Want to take your marketing to the next level? Follow her tips and tricks and people will think you shot your cocktails with a top-of-the-range DSLR and a staff of photographer’s assistants.
We mentioned “the right smartphone” in the above paragraph. Natalie recommends a quality phone with at least an 8-megapixel camera. That translates into just about any flagship phone manufactured no earlier than 2013. Also, make sure the software accompanying the phone’s capabilities includes tap to focus. This is something that Natalie is quick to point out that most people neglect to take advantage of when snapping photos.
Next, make sure you have the right glassware. Clean. Polished. Correct fit for your cocktail. Interesting. Unique. You’re trying to impress, to entice potential guests to visit your venue, so let’s not ignore the fine details and photograph your drinks in spotty, boring glassware. Think of the glassware as the outfit and your cocktail as the model. And since we’ve determined that the glassware is the outfit, garnishes are the accessories, so make sure they’re the appropriate size for the model. Also, Natalie suggests not photographing the cocktails with straws in them for a cleaner capture. For a quick review: cocktails are the stars, glassware and garnishes are props.
It’s likely you’re aware that lighting is crucial to any photographic. Lighting sets the scene, from vibrant and energetic to gloomy and brooding. Natural lighting is best, so set up your cocktails either near your windows or outside. Also keep in mind that your cocktails are real items on your real menu, so don’t over-promise. Do not stage your cocktails with garnishes that aren’t involved with their builds, and don’t put them in glassware in which you don’t serve them.
Now, that isn’t to say that you can’t get creative. Natalie certainly encourages creativity. Avoid boring photographs by using the neighborhood in which you’re bar is located as your studio. Not only does this keep your photography fresh, it adds a recognition factor among your patrons and target customers. It’s also a great idea to incorporate props, such as placing your cocktail, for example, in a cage.
While lighting is crucial, timing is also key. Set up your shots before you build your cocktails so that the ice isn’t melting and the glass isn’t covered in condensation (unless that’s what you’re going for). Timing also relates to posting. Post your cocktail photos at a good time of day, and be consistent with your posting times. For example, post before happy hour starts, or right before a lunch break.
When actually taking photographs, use multiple shots. If you need multiple quantified, Natalie suggests taking 40 shots and deleting the bad images. While taking these 40 pictures, use options. Top down, for example, looks completely different from a straight-ahead capture. Highlight the garnish and the glassware in some of the shots. Speaking of glassware, understand that stemmed glasses are difficult to shoot because the stem can be difficult (and frustrating) to make look centered.
To give off the appearance of a professional shoot, use downloadable apps to edit and enhance your images. Natalie suggests Lightroom, Camera+ and the filters and editing capabilities built into Instagram, which she uses most often. Don’t get too carried away, though: use small tweaks. Crop to remove background noise and when using adjustment tools that offer incremental adjustments, just tap on the end to slowly adjust your image. Take care to edit brightness, contrast and saturation without overdoing it. Particularly with saturation, getting carried away with editing can make the image look fake. Other adjustments are highlights, shadows and sharpening. Highlighting is a fine tuning tool. Shadows are the textures in the background of your image. And sharpening an image adds clarity and is meant for fine tuning.
Now that you’ve staged your photo, snapped a bunch of shots, deleted the bad images and edited the keepers, you’re read to post. Engage your followers with a call to action, such as, “Pick your poison.” You can also overlay text so that you’re not limited to the caption area, allowing for greater creativity. Tag users rather than adding them in the caption area, and use unique and popular hashtags (think 5 per post). Natalie points out that images with geotags receive 79% more engagement so make sure to leverage them for your benefit. Cross-post/share to Twitter and Facebook when using Instagram (and vice versa), post consistently, and set reminders to post to maintain that consistency. Finally, interact with followers and potential guests through engagement and commenting back to them, and repost relevant photos.