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