Tips, Tricks & Treats for Great Halloween Photos

Tips Tricks and Treats for Great Halloween Photos

What do ghosts, princesses, and superheros have in common? They will all be coming out after dark this Halloween night; you know, when our cameras struggle to capture decent photos. 

Halloween can present some challenges for photographers, but if you’re like us, you’re not going to pass up an opportunity to capture your kid looking cute just because the light isn’t right. Today we’re going to give you some tips, tricks and treats for great Halloween photos.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Halloween Night

The ideal light for photos is during what we refer to as the “golden hour.” However, all the action of Halloween Night typically gets started after that magical hour. You could just “wing it” and hope that at least one of your photos turns out, but we can’t imagine leaving anything as precious as your kid in a cute costume being left to chance. Instead, we recommend starting your Halloween festivities a few days early.

Depending on where you live, many communities offer corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin patches, carnivals and harvest festivals in which your child could easily dress up in costume. At a minimum, the events leading up to Halloween would make for a great backdrop for your photos. What’s even better – nearly all of these events are held during the day or late afternoon so you don’t have to worry about having enough light.

You can also stage a fun Halloween backdrop at home with hay bales, scarecrows, pumpkins or any other seasonal props you might find. Get creative and have fun with it. Then, on Halloween night, you won’t have to worry so much about getting the perfect shot of your kid in costume, because you’ve already gotten it.

Go Out Early

If you have young children, you’re probably going to start Trick-or-Treating early anyways. Try timing it so that you’re going door-to-door half an hour before sunset. The light will be deliciously warm, the shadows will be longer and softer, and your photos will evoke autumn. You’ll be able to get a few great shots with a higher shutter speed before you have to pull out any tricks to compensate for a lack of natural light.

If you have older children, they may or may not want to leave the house while it’s still light out (although, what kid has enough restraint to turn down the chance to get their hands on candy early?). However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t photograph your kids getting ready before the darkness settles in. Capture all the details of their costume (teeth, whiskers, sparkly shoes, witch fingers), your child checking out their reflection in the mirror and closeups of their face in makeup.

You could even have your child in costume act the part for the camera. For example, if they’ve dressed as a monster, ask them to give you their best monster growl; if they’ve dressed up as a witch, have them cast a spell on you. Just be sure to bend down to their level to capture the details of their costumes and the expressions on their faces. And also move quick, because your kids are going to be anxious to go trick-or-treating instead of posing for photos. 

Get Creative With Lighting

Ideally, you want Halloween photos to look a  little creepy and mysterious. Unfortunately, if you use your flash, the harsh, bright flash will wash out your photos and have the opposite effect. So, avoid using your flash on Halloween night (actually, avoid using your flash all the time). 

Of course, if you’re not going to use your flash, you’re going to have to adjust your settings. Start by turning up your ISO and embrace the noise. Next, dial your aperture wide open (f/2.8 or lower). In fact, on Halloween night, use a lens that has a low f-stop such as your 50 mm f/1.8. Finally, consider other light sources such as flashlights, street lamps, even glow sticks to create interesting shadows that are perfect for goblins and ghouls. 

Create “Ghosts” with Your Tripod

Once you’ve made your rounds with the kids, put your spouse on candy duty and use your tripod to capture some cool neighborhood light shots. To do this, set your tripod up in a heavily decorated area (or pointed towards an extra spooky house); then use a slow shutter speed to capture the lights. If you’re lucky, trick-or-treaters will walk into your set up and you’ll be left with some ghostly blurs.

Alternatively, you can set up your camera with a long shutter speed (8 seconds or more); then have your child sit or stand still for 5 seconds and move slowly out of the frame for a ghost-like portrait. The effect will cause your child to look like a ghost and also create a bit of motion blur, which will make the photo even more interesting.

Overshoot

Don’t be afraid to overshoot, especially if you’re using a DSLR with a large memory card. With limited lighting, you will probably get a lot more out-of-focus or bad shots than good ones. However, the good ones that you do get are going to be priceless.

Remember that Halloween only happens once a year and the annual tradition of trick-or-treating isn’t something you can redo without seriously annoying your neighbors, so keep your trigger finger ready.


Don’t forget to have a little fun yourself this Halloween night. Your child may or may not be picture perfect in their Halloween costume. Their mask may keep falling down; their makeup may smear; their costume may be too big or too small. It doesn’t matter. Enjoy the experience, even if it means that you have a crying two year old who hates her costume. Take a few photos, then take off the costume and give the kid some candy. Then of course, photograph their face covered in chocolate. Rarely do we get a chance to recreate such wonderful childhood memories, so have fun!

For more Halloween fun, check out 7 Spooky Snacks for a Healthy Halloween

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk and Matt McDaniel

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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