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How can you not love a holiday that encourages you to dress up in costume, invites children to go from home to home demanding candy from strangers, and promises the annual rising of the toy-laden Great Pumpkin?
Yup, Halloween is pretty darn great.
And now that it’s just around the corner, we’ve put together a guide to help you get great photos on our favorite holiday.
Read on for creative ideas for Halloween shots, tips on how to carve your pumpkins to make them more photogenic, even instructions for making an anatomically-correct thoracic cavity cake!
Get out your glowsticks and get to work!
Halloween is a particularly difficult holiday to shoot because most of the action occurs after dark, when low-light conditions make it difficult for your camera to get a sharp shot. You’ll get your best Halloween photos at dusk. For that hour or so while the sun is setting, you’ll have enough natural light to easily forgo your flash while still capturing the glow of your jack-o-lanterns and the bright colors of your costumes.
After dusk, use a high ISO setting (400 or more) and hold your camera as steady as you can (or use a tripod) to capture action without a flash. The rich, dark colors characteristic of Halloween are essential in setting a spooky mood, so make sure your flash doesn’t overpower them. Remember, Halloween’s not a bright holiday; and dark and creepy shots can work in your favor.
Jack-o-lanterns make for a unique and beautiful Halloween subject, but capturing their inner glow can be tricky. This is a case where it’s crucial you turn off your camera’s flash so it doesn’t overwhelm your candlelight. Your jack-o-lanterns are not going to move, so your best bet is to use a long shutter speed and set your camera on a steady surface or a tripod.
If you’re photographing outdoors and your shots only capture the glow of the jack-o-lantern and nothing of its outer shape, try creating some makeshift lighting with a flashlight raked against the outer hull of the pumpkin–you can generate some pretty dramatic lighting effects this way!
Design your pumpkins for photographs
Brighten your pumpkins’ glow
Quick tip: If you still can’t get the inner glow bright enough and you’re shooting indoors, try lowering or turning off your room lights to compensate.
Ghouls, goblins, and grown-ups
If you’re taking pictures of the living undead, you may find you need to rely on your flash to get sharp exposures. Remember that the best flash photos (especially when you use the flash built-in to your camera) are those taken close enough to allow the flash to light everything in the frame. And don’t forget to fully charge your camera (and flash) to make sure you’ve got the extra juice those flash shots will require.
Using an off-camera flash unit? Try putting a red or orange gel (or colored cellophane) on the flash to match your natural lighting and eliminate artificial flash tones.
Makeshift lighting tricks work here, too. Use a powerful flashlight pointed up and aimed at the face to give your subject a telling-a-scary-story-by-the-campfire look. Make the effect even more dramatic by shooting from below to make your monsters appear larger than life.
Quick tip: Don’t forget to get pictures of everyone with and without their masks! Otherwise, you’ll find it hard to identify people in your pictures as the years go by.
Photo credit: Jack-o-lanterns image by Nathan Walls
Amit Gupta is 27 and lives in Manhattan. He spends his days making Photojojo awesome.
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