5 Steps to Better Halloween Photos

Let’s start off with a somewhat controversial piece of advice. Shooting in dim light without using flash? Yes, if you ask me, that’s one of my favorite ways to shoot. Just think of all the flash light pictures your friends took at your last birthday party. It’s great of them to do this, but when it comes to capturing the special Halloween mood, I suggest interfering as little as possible.

Equipment: Canon EOS 20D & Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens
Settings: ISO-3200, 1/320 sec., f/1.8

Know Your Limits When Shooting with High ISO

By choosing a higher ISO number in the camera settings, you increase the sensitivity of your image sensor. This is a great option to have as it allows you to snap pictures with less light available. However, the high ISO comes with the price of greater interferences known as image noise (or grain). The higher the ISO, the stronger the noise. Now your camera has a maximum ISO value that it allows you to choose, yet for most cameras this is not the limit I’m talking about. Unfortunately, camera manufacturers allow you to set the ISO to values that produce unbearable amounts of noise. You need to find out for yourself how far up you want to go. A few experiments should help you to clarify that.

Equipment: Canon EOS 50D & Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens
Settings: ISO-3400, 1/200 sec., f/1.4

Bring the Right Lens

Another important way to support the non-flashlight route is through the use of large-aperture lenses. The aperture of a lens is comparable to the diameter of a pipe. The larger the diameter, the more water can flow through the pipe at a time. The same is true for a lens and the “amount” of light it can pass to the image sensor. So far, I’ve had good experiences shooting Halloween pictures with lenses that allow for maximum apertures between 1.4 and 1.8. Such lenses are also great for isolating your subjects from busy backgrounds.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II & Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens
Settings: ISO-6400, 1/100 sec., f/1.4

Develop an Eye for Available Light

Now even with all these tips, you might still find yourself at locations where this is all not enough and everything is still too dark for decent photos. The trick is to really explore your surroundings for good light conditions. You need to experiment a little by moving around and trying different angles. Once you’ve found really good light and your pictures start to look really neat, you might be tempted to remain where you are. It’s a good idea to remain for a good while at the spot you have found, but keep in mind that a never-changing backdrop can become boring after a while for the viewer as well as for you, the photographer.

Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II & Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens
Settings: ISO-6400, 1/500 sec., f/1.4

Be part of the night

Here is a less technical piece of advice that can have a large impact on the quality of your photographs: enjoy the party! Dress up and become part of it. Your subjects will look more natural if they enjoy interacting with you, rather than perceiving you as an outside observer. Happy Halloween!

Oliver Fluck Oliver Fluck is a German photographer and computer scientist currently residing in California. Besides his last name, his photo blog is receiving increasing attention.

Website: www.fluck.de


  1. says

    thanks for the great tips. I own a pro-sumer and compact camera, whenever I try to increase the ISO to have brighter capture in night scene, the photo will simply become blury and lots of noise. Perhaps DSLR with external flash can solve this problem.

  2. says

    Great tips, but were you aware that putting suicide images on the web can be harmful? First, it is painful to people who have lost someone to suicide. As well, there is some thinking that suicidal people can be negatively influenced by such images. I wonder if you would consider replacing the image with another one that illustrates similar settings? Thanks, Carol

  3. says

    I think you should also bear in mind what you are shooting for. If it’s only for online and websites, it’s easier to get away with high ISO. You probably never show your photos online at 100% of it’s original size.
    But if you know it will be published or added to a (large size) album, you should be more careful i think so.

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