Selfies are here to stay; everyone wants that perfect family portrait and how the hell do you get a good smartphone photo of nighttime Christmas lights or the sparkling family tree? 

The Keys Weekly asked local pros for some tips for better holiday photos this season. We thank them for sharing their expertise with us mere mortals….

By Mandy Miles, Sara Matthis and Jim McCarthy

3 holiday photo tips from Key West photographer Mark Hedden

“The great Robert Capa once said, ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.’ Of course, Capa was a famous war photographer and he was talking about fearlessly leaping into action while bullets were flying overhead, but the principle applies for holiday photos, too. Worry more about your subject (the foreground) than the background.

“On-phone camera flash: The big lie. Never use the flash on your phone – unless you’re going for that caught-on-the-ATM-security-camera look. No one and no thing looks good lit by the flash on your phone. If you need more light, drag a floor lamp closer to your subject. Use an extension cord. Save yourself the emotional turmoil of a horrible photo.

“If you’re trying to take a holiday pet photo, you have to be quick. There are some great canine and feline models out there who understand what their job is, but they probably don’t live in your house. They’re going to knock the antlers off their head or move out of the carefully crafted lighting scenario in about two seconds. It really helps to have at least two people – one pet wrangler, and one photographer. Pro tip: If you’re trying to get a dog to look at the camera, hold a dog bone right above it. They may be in it for the snack, but there’s a chance it will look like they are staring adoringly at the lens.”

2 holiday tips from Marathon photographer Barry Gaukel

“If you’re taking a photo of a big group of people, use the ‘four second’ rule. Explain to the group that they are going to close their eyes and on the count of three open them, and on the count of four the camera will snap. That way, everyone is photographed with their eyes open, and looking at the camera. Also, with a large group of people, it’s helpful to have a liaison — that one person who knows everyone in the group and can organize them for the camera. It’s like herding cats, sometimes.

“Posed photos are great, but I also like to take candid photos as well. The best shots are the candid ones, especially with kids and older folks who tend to force a smile that doesn’t look good. A photo of a kid with great-grandma, and they are having some type of interaction, those are priceless ones and everyone wants a copy.”

3 tips from Upper Keys photographer David Gross

“When’s the best time to shoot? Dusk. Before it gets completely dark. Start your adventure a little before sunset.

The sharpest images will be achieved using a tripod. If you do not want to use a tripod, try to stabilize your arm.  

“Night mode is the key to great shots at night. For Android: Activate the camera. Scroll to “More” and select. Night mode is on the menu of options. For iPhone: Tap the arrow at the middle-top of the screen after you turn on the camera.  At the bottom of the screen are some options. The halfmoon is the one you want. Tap it. The word “night” will appear at the lower right side. Night mode automatically turns on when the camera detects a low-light environment. The night mode icon at the top of the display turns yellow when the feature is active. Depending on how dark the scene is, your iPhone might take a night mode photo quickly, or it might take several seconds. You can also adjust your exposure setting.

Make sure that the flash is turned OFF. You are now ready to take some pictures. It’s OK to experiment.  Get close. Move back.  Shoot across the highway as cars are passing by.”

Must Read


Big Pine Key’s Blue Hole is a wonderful place to get outside and appreciate nature, but there are some things you just can't do...
- Advertisment -