5 Steps to Better Halloween Photos

Step 1: Turn Off Your Flash

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 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

Step 2: 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.

Your camera has a maximum ISO value that you can 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

Step 3: Bring the Right Lens

Another important way to support the no-flash 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

Step 4: Develop an Eye for Available Light

Even with all these tips, you might still find yourself at locations where the available light isn’t enough, and everything is too dark for decent photos. The trick is to really explore your surroundings for good lighting conditions. Experiment a little by moving around, and try 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 while at the spot you’ve found, but keep in mind that a never-changing backdrop can eventually become boring 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

Step 5: 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. Website: www.fluck.de