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13 Halloween Photography Tips



Avoid using flash, except for the portraits for grandparents.

They don't see the glare; they want to see the faces.

Check to see if your flash pops up automatically.

If it does, press it down and see if it stays down.

If it doesn't, use a custom function to keep the flash from popping up.


On the other hand, use your flash with a colored filter.

You can buy a filter, or can look around for a substitute, such as a red plastic cup.

Using flash all by itself will give you dark backgrounds.

If you want to include the background, use the night portrait or night landscape icons on your camera.

The flash exposure is set for the person near your camera, and then the shutter stays open longer to capture the light in the background.

If your subject is moving, such as a vampire lunging toward the camera, he or she will appear sharp (from the flash) and blurry (from the slow shutter speed), all in the same picture.


And on yet another hand, use your flash to get more red eye.

You'll get more ghoulish red eye if you . . .

a) Photograph in the dark—when the person's pupils are wide open.

b) Use the flash on your camera.

The best way to get red eye is to use a ring flash.

A ring flash encircles the lens.

They're used for macro and medical photography, because they produce almost shadowless lighting.


Change your ISO:

a) Set your ISO on your digital camera to 800 or 1600.

b) Use ISO 800 print film.


If you're a film-camera user, use the multiple exposure feature to make ghosts.

a) Use a tripod or set you camera on something.

b) Set your camera to take two photographs on the same negative.

c) Take the first exposure with the person in the frame.

d) Take the second exposure with the person not in the frame.

You'll be able to see through the person.

You can also mix the person with something else.

For example, photograph a blow-up skeleton sitting in a chair.

Then, remove the skeleton and photograph the person sitting in the same position as the skeleton.

In the photograph, you appear to see the person's skeleton.


Use exposure compensation to bracket your exposures.

For example, let's say your photographing a Jack-o-Lantern.

If you use your camera on the program, that single exposure setting may or may not be the best.

Using exposure compensation, take several exposures at 0 (no compensation), -.5 and -1 (darker), as well as +.5 and +1.


Use the S or Tv exposure mode to use slow shutter speeds.

For example, photograph a twirling ballerina at 1/8th of a second.

That shutter speed appears as 8 on your camera LCD screen, with no quote marks like this 8".

Don't use 8". That's 8 seconds.


Use very long shutter speeds to paint with light.

a) Find a location that's dark.

b) Use a tripod or place the camera on a surface.

c) Set the exposure mode to S or Tv.

d) Select a shutter speed of, say, 2 seconds (2" on your LCD screen).

e) Have someone press the shutter for you.

f) When the shutter is open, move a flashlight back and forth on the subject.

g) Experiment, as there are many variables, such as the ambient light, brightness of the flashlight, how close it is to the subject, and how fact you move the flashlight.

For examples, go to Painting with Light.


Don't forget to use fundamental photography tools.

a) Get closer.

Because the background is often dark, you may ignore how much is in the frame.

If the background isn't adding anything to the photograph, crop it out.

b) Use vantage point.

A two-year-old monster will look more menacing if you photograph his or her from a low vantage point.

c) The direction of the light is important.

For example, cuts, scars, warts, and other Halloween textures, will be more evident if lighted from the side.

Also, lighting from below will make your subjects more Halloween-ish, because we rarely see light coming from that direction.


What you see is not what you get in a photograph.

When you look at a Jack-o-Lantern, your eyes can see a wide range of contrast.

You can look inside at the bright candle, and then can see the much dimmer face of the pumpkin.

So, when you're photography a scene with contrast, you've got to add light to the darker areas.

For example, light the exterior of a Jack-o-Lantern with candles.

Of course, a silhouette of a monster against the sky may not need more light.


Mind the white balance, if you're using a digital camera.

You can use automatic white balance (AWB) if you're going to be in changing lighting situations.

If the color of the light is more constant, switch the white balance to the appropriate icon, such the light bulb icon or the florescent tube icon.


If you're shy about photographing strangers, Halloween is a good time to become more comfortable doing so.


Be sure to ask permission before taking a photograph.

Have a reason in mind before you ask, such as, "I like your fake blood," or, "It's for my photography class."


Be sure to photograph friends and family who are wearing masks twice—with and without their masks.

Here are two more tips.


Especially with children, interact as if the child actually is the character that they're playing, for the initial photographs.


You can photograph a sequence, such as telling a story.

For example, beginning with the purchase of an overpriced pumpkin in the Hamptons and ending with the pumpkin in the trash.


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