The Betsy Hotel recently had photographer Ryan Connor, Creative Director at Shot By Ghxst, stay at the hotel, capturing Ocean Drive in all its nighttime glory. Here are his tips and tricks for photographing the sights of Miami Beach at night.
Whether you’re a beginner or professional photographer, South Beach has got you covered — Ocean Drive is one of the greatest destinations anywhere for night photography, with its Art Deco architecture and legendary neon lights. All you need is a camera and your favorite landscape lens — or even just the phone in your pocket — and you’re in for a creatively exciting vacation with endless sources of inspiration. Here are some of our favorite spots in SoBe.
The Betsy Orb
We’ve been to Miami plenty of times, and this is still one of the most unique pieces of architecture we’ve seen. As you walk outside the lobby of The Betsy Hotel, head north on Ocean Drive and make your way down the first alleyway to your left. There, you will see #TheBetsyOrb on your left hand side. The ambient lighting is perfect.
Tip: If you don’t have a great low light performing camera, we suggest setting your camera in HDR/Bracketing mode to capture three stops of exposure, in order to properly expose for your picture. Keep those arms steady so you don’t get any motion blur, because you’ll have to merge the photos in Lightroom/Photoshop later on.
If you’ve already taken a picture of the Orb, then you’ll immediately notice the next shot on our list, as it's directly overhead. The beautiful engraved rail with poetry by poets including Langston Hughes and Richard Blanco wraps around the northeast side of The Betsy Hotel. No pun intended, but it’s one for the books.
Tip: Again, we encourage HDR/Bracketing mode and keeping a steady hand! If you have the budget, snag yourself the Black Pro Mist ND filter. This filter is RAD as it adds a bit of flair to your highlights and creates a soft ‘pastel’ effect.
Head South on Ocean Drive about 100 feet outside of The Betsy Hotel and you will see your first set of many vibrant, neon lights that illuminate and give character to Ocean Drive’s iconic nightlife image.
Tip: Use the natural leading lines of the architecture and the road to create depth to your image, and remember the rule of thirds!
The Villa Casa Casuarina At The Former Versace Mansion
Formerly the house of the iconic Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, this beautiful home is located between 12th and 11th street on Ocean Drive. Quick backstory: Gianni Versace was tragically killed in his home after getting his early morning paper.
Tip: HDR/bracketing mode to properly expose all of the lighting that illuminates the house.
Popularized by MTV, the day/nightclub the Clevelander is a must see. We can’t emphasize enough… the lighting game is a VIBE in South Beach.
Tip: If you’re lucky enough to stroll the streets of Ocean Drive post-rain storm (which during the summer months you’ll more than likely encounter), then you’ll have loads of opportunity to utilize the rain puddles for some cool reflection photography. Getting the perfect shot is a game of patience as Ocean Drive is abuzz with vacationers out on leisurely strolls and enjoying the nightlife — but it’s worth the wait!
We picked this hotel simply because we loved the stylization of their letters, lighting, and the art deco look of the hotel. South Beach is known for its art deco appeal and pastel painted buildings. When shooting Ocean Drive, you can’t go wrong with any of the illuminated hotels.
Tip: ‘Shooting through’ objects gives a lot of depth and an artistic/poetic feel to your image. Use the natural landscape, whether it be palm trees, stop signs, parking poles, or even people to shoot through in order to create a nice bokeh effect in your image!
Many thanks to Ryan Connor for visiting The Betsy and capturing Ocean Drive in his unique light.