Simple Tips for Better Halloween Photography

Jack-o-lanterns, spooky decorations, and costumed children are clear signs that Halloween is at hand. What does this mean to photographers? It usually indicates the opportunity for low-light photography, unique compositions, and even some experimental techniques.

When someone thinks of Halloween they usually envision the carved pumpkins called jack-o-lanterns, and while these photograph quite beautifully in the daytime lighting due to their brilliant orange hues and whimsical designs, they are really most remarkable during the evening hours when candles make them glow. The trouble with photographing these icons of the season after sunset is that they can present the photographer with the risks of over and underexposure.


Halloween Photography
Photo by Patrick

There are a few things that can be done to allow the photographer a few good exposures, including positioning the camera so the flame of the candle is not in direct sight of the sensor, adding a few more candles to strengthen the power of the glow inside, and even covering the flash unit with colored cellophane in the red or orange hues to allow extra light of the right color group.

Additionally, a photographer will have to use low-light settings for recording house decorations, trick or treaters, and any landscapes that are appropriate to the season. This means that the ISO, shutter speed, and f/stop or aperture must be adjusted to meet the needs of the setting or moment.


Halloween Photography
Photo by D’Arcy Norman

If the photographer wants to easily make their camera a bit more sensitive to ambient light they can simply bump up the ISO, but this comes with the risk of adding “noise” or graininess to the picture. A good alternative is to open up the aperture on the camera by dialing the f/stop to a low setting such as f/1.4 or f/2. This, however, does dramatically shorten the depth of field and is best used when foreground and background can be out of focus. Lastly, the photographer can slow down their shutter speed to let more light into the sensor, but everything in the image must remain completely still to prevent blur – unless this is the desired effect.


Halloween Photography
Photo by Jeffrey Jose

Where composition is concerned, the season presents a photographer with an enormous range of opportunities, but for many Halloween photographs the details often make the image. This means that it is a good idea to get in close and fill the frame. Consider the effect of a close-up photograph of a child in their Halloween makeup, or an image that captures all of the textures of a recently carved pumpkin. Don’t forget that Halloween is also a wonderful opportunity for colorful and interesting group shots due to the many parties and special events that occur. Instead of taking a shot of a clustered group of people in costume why not use a different perspective such as getting down low and shooting up at their faces?