5 Tips for Taking Better Halloween Photos

We've all been there. Excited to capture Halloween's best moments, most of which beg to be photographed, only to be disappointed once you survey the day's images. Since Halloween only comes once a year, it's crucial to get it right the first time. These tips should help you capture better Halloween photos.

1. Don't Wait Until Dark

Daytime and especially twilight make for some great Halloween photographs. Too many of us wait until the lights are out to start capturing images of the day. Also, some of the most photo-friendly activities of Halloween take place when the sun is still up, such as decorating and pumpking carving. Start early and record the whole day.

halloween photo tips
Daytime produces some of Halloween's best moments.

2. Turn off Your Flash

Once nighttime arrives, you're likely going to need your flash at some point. That is, unless you have a pre-production model of Canon's new 1D X. For the rest of us, there's a good chance a shot or two will come a long where flash is a necessity. The important part, however, is to minimize the use of your flash. Halloween is all about mood, and the mood of Halloween isn't washed out photos with harsh shadows. The spooky tones of night, the natural shadows and highlights of nighttime and Halloween colors like warm orange, amber and yellow tones are what you're looking to capture.

To avoid using flash, bump up your cameras ISO settings and/or use a wide aperture lens and be aware of ambient light. As long as you keep your shutter speed above 1/60, you should get relatively sharp photos.

3. Don't Pose

Like #1, this is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Whether taking pictures of your kids or friends, you're likely going to want at least a capture of two of everybody smiling and acknowledging the camera. However, I'm a firm believer that candid shots capture memories better than posed shots. Halloween is filled with candid capture opportunities: getting dressed in costumes and applying makeup, interacting with neighbors during trick or treating, surveying the night's plunder and more. As a photographer, make yourself a part of the night instead of an interruption and you'll end up with better pictures. I promise.

better halloween photo tips
With a steady hand, even at shutter speed of 1/25, no-flash night photos can be acceptably sharp.

4. Get in Close

Don't be afraid to get in close. Halloween is all about detail. Costumes, makeup, decoration, lighting and more. The Halloween environment often a chaotic one in terms of detail. Each of these details often warrants capturing, and getting in close can help you let a particular decoration, costume or individual shine. More importantly, trying to fit too much in one frame often gives the viewer little to focus on and doesn't allow any one aspect of the photo to shine. Don't try to capture to much.

5. Get Jack-O-Lantern Photos Right

Everyone loves a good shot of jack-o-lanterns, but they're tough to get right. Even people who don't normally mind flash in nighttime pictures know that a picture of jack-o-lanterns under flash light does not even begin to set the mood right. Yet, turning off the flash often fares no better, the resulting pictures are underwhelming compared to what your eye is seeing. Here are a few tips for getting jack-o-lanterns right.

  • use 2, 3 or even 4 candles to accentuate the inner glow of the jack-o-lanterns
  • use a tripod for longer exposure times and steady shots
  • bracket your exposures, trying different settings increases the chances of a good shot
  • experiment with ambient lighting: off camera strobes, candles to accentuate the outer hull of the pumpkins, or even flashlights can produce great effects
better halloween photo guide
Take your time photographing jack-o-lanterns.

Have you own tips for aspiring Halloween photojournalists? Leave them in the comments below. Good luck shooting!

Tag: Halloween, News, Tips