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5 Tips for Better Halloween Photos

Michele Wanke
carved pumpkins

Halloween is not only a time to bust out the candy; it's also time for snap happy parents to document the transformation of their precious peanuts into ghoulish gremlins and ghastly ghosts. Not very many people realize that Halloween is the second most popular picture-taking day of the year, just behind Christmas. The annual holiday is ripe with frame worthy photo opportunities. However, it is up to you to employ effective photo techniques in order to capture stellar shots. The following 5 tips for better Halloween photos will help you take the scare out of shooting everything from spooky costumes to creepy holiday decorations.

5 Ways to Improve Your Halloween Photos

1. Proper Lighting

Exceptional Halloween photos are especially hard to snap because most of the action takes place after dark, in low-light conditions. In order to get Mother Nature to work with you instead of against you, consider snapping the majority of your photos at dusk. This "magic hour" while the sun is setting provides just enough natural light to eliminate the need for flash, but still allows you to capture the warm glow of your jack-o-lanterns and the bright colors of your child's costume minus the worry of underexposed shots.

Once the sun has set, use a high ISO setting of nothing less than 400. In addition, avoid using high-powered flash that can overpower a dark scene and ruin the spooky mood. Instead, use a tripod to steady your camera and diffuse your light source. Halloween is a great time to diffuse the flash on your camera with colored cellophane. Red is an excellent color to try, as it produces a glow that enhances scary shots. Also, consider reducing your camera's shutter speed. By choosing a longer shutter speed, you will be able to allow additional light into your camera. Finally, use a larger aperture. By widening the hole in your lens, more available light will be able to stream in.

2. Unique Composition

There's no better holiday to experiment with unique angles than Halloween. The holiday is chock full of unparalleled photo ops. Don't fall into the trap of taking static group shots or boring pictures of your costumed kid standing stiffly next to a scarecrow, hay bale or pumpkin. Focus on comprising shots so they tell a story on their own. Take photos of people doing things instead of simply sitting or standing around. Also, take aim at candid shots, such as:

  • Kids bobbing for apples at a Halloween party
  • Reaction shots as kids dump out and sift through their trick-or-treat loot
  • Pets in costume
  • Parade of costumed kids marching through the neighborhood
  • Backlit shots of Halloween decorations and trick-or-treaters in windows or doorways

3. Pay Attention to Detail

It's easy to be overwhelmed with the big Halloween picture: dozens of kids running around, loads of decorations and an abundance of bright costumes, make-up and props. To make the most of the holiday photo op, look for smaller details to round out your Halloween shots. After all, October 31st is also filled with a number of smaller photo worthy moments that are just as enticing, including:

  • Close-up shots of candy and other devilish desserts
  • Plastic fangs in your child's mouth
  • A rainbow of glow sticks
  • A painted tear on a clown's face
  • Fake cobwebs, spiders and other Halloween-themed décor
  • Baby pumpkins and gourds

4. Jack-O-Lantern Tricks

Photographing jack-o-lanterns is particularly tricky since candle-lit carved creations walk a fine line between over and underexposure. If you are planning to take an outdoor shot of your jack-o-lantern, then consider filling it with two or three candles, instead of a single light source. To capture the jack-o-lantern's inner glow, turn off your camera's flash so it doesn't overpower the candlelight. Next, use a long shutter speed and experiment with different exposures until you get the impact you are looking for. If you are feeling extra daring, then rig up some ambient lighting, such as a flashlight hitting the outer hull of the pumpkin. Doing so will create dramatic lighting effects.

5. Get Creative

Embrace the mood of all Hallow's Eve by exercising your creativity. Instead of taking boring shots of kids in costumes, help tell a story by documenting the transformation from their first make-up application to the moment when everyone is in full costume. Also, try to have your subjects maintain the same position in each photo. The end result makes for a hilarious slideshow.

Finally, one of the best ways to inject some creativity into your Halloween photo shoots is to incorporate silhouetted shots. Take photos of people holding lit pumpkins silhouetted against the sky at dusk or have a costumed werewolf howl at the moon.

Rise to the Photographic Challenge

Great photo opportunities are all around on this festive holiday, but taking awesome photos can be a real challenge when you're working in low light conditions and trying to photograph active children. Use these five tips to your advantage and produce Halloween photos worthy of your scrapbook.

5 Tips for Better Halloween Photos