How to take the best holiday photo

HOUSTON – Millions of families will gather this holiday weekend, which means 10 million photos will be taken, most of them with smartphones. How do you capture the perfect portrait? We sought out the experts at the Houston Camera Exchange and asked them.

“The same rules of thumb apply with cellphone as they do with a still camera,” said photographer Butch Hall.

Butch Hall has been in the photography business for 52 years. If you have an interest in photography, Hall is the guy to talk to, whether it's about good gear or good pictures.

“First thing mom should do when she takes the camera out of her purse is clean her lens," Hall said. "Any kind of support will help-- the little hand--held tripods, the little gorilla pods-- anything that will help you hold the camera still.”

Hall advised to not zoom in with your phone. Most of them use a digital zoom, which makes the picture less crisp, he said.

Also, Hall said, tell your phone what to focus on by tapping the screen.

“Forget the flash, if at all possible. If you need to use your flash, make sure that your subject is far enough away from the background as to not cast a harsh shadow,” Hall said.

He said having too much light behind the family will cause the side-cast shadows to darken their faces. The best technique is to have the light come from the front.

Another option? Hall said try turning on HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. HDR helps overcome settings that have too much or too little light.

“Be aware of giving plenty of head room or too much,” Hall said. “Don't do any post-production with your original image. Make a dupe. Copy it, and then mess with that one.”

In other words, avoid the fun filters when taking the picture.

While all of this is great information, none of it matters if you can't get your family to be still at that exact moment you need them to be. So here's one last tip from reporter Chip Brewster:

“Set up your phone as you would to take a picture but instead of photo, switch to video and hit record. Now all you have to do is get everyone to look at the camera. Afterwards open up that video, scroll through until you find the perfect moment, then simply take a screenshot. Voila.”