You don’t have to wait until October 31st to create a spooky photograph. I thought it would be a great time to talk about 7 Halloween photography tips and tricks if you love taking all-year-round horror photos.
Given that Halloween begins as the sun sets, this can become terrifying for us photographers, especially if you’re new to this genre. Don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world; there are various ways to overcome this horror.
When the lights go out, grab your emergency torch, bring down those Christmas fairy lights early, hunt the house for glow sticks or simply transform your desk lamps into fearful Halloween lanterns.
Halloween has lots of fantastic subjects to shoot, from the trusty Jack-O-Lantern to the classic cackling witches over a cauldron.
The tricks (and treats) to Halloween photography is not all that different to what you have been practising already.
There are however some key features that you may want to keep in mind to get those frighteningly good photos: focal point, rule of thirds, framing, angles, detail, white balance and flash.
When photographing your classic Jack-O-Lantern, you may want to consider using three or four candles inside, to make sure there’s enough light in your image. You could also try using coloured LED lights for those vivid effects. However, be careful not to over or underexpose the candle, as this will be the key point of our image.
To make sure you capture the most detail in the pumpkin, you may need to use a slower shutter speed and even consider using that three-legged monster; the tripod. Using a slower shutter speed will allow more light to enter the camera, making it easier to capture your subject.
If a tripod is not an option for you, try positioning your camera on a hard surface as this can work just as well. Use a self-timer and a tripod to avoid camera shake.
For this dark Halloween photography, I would recommend using spot exposure metering. Use spot metering over matrix metering in images similar to this one to give us the advantage we need in order to shoot in darker situations successfully.
Although, it does require more effort than matrix metering. To change the metering on most cameras, you can do this by going into the shooting menu or metering mode; spot metering is shown by a small dot in a rectangle display.
If your camera has the option to, I would use the Auto Exposure lock button (AE-L), especially if you’re in Aperture Priority, as this will then tell the camera where you want the exposure to be read from. Make sure that you turn off the Auto Focus lock (AF-L) in the shooting menu, as these are often combined.
Next, you will need to choose from your composition where you want the camera to read the exposure from; I would advise somewhere lit up by the candle and not the candlelight directly. Then you can lock in this exposure using the AE-L button and continue with your shot.
To make sure that your exposure is spot on, you could play it extra safe and use exposure bracketing. This is where the camera will take three shots every time you release the shutter button at different exposure levels.
Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) takes three separate shots, one at normal exposure, one intentionally overexposed and one underexposed; look for the right balance of highlight and shadow.
To let the most light in as possible, you will need to use a low F/stop (wide aperture). For those of you who have completed the module on aperture, you will know that this means a shallow depth of field. (This is where the subject is in focus but your background will have a nice blurred effect.)
It is important when shooting this way that you are focussing your camera in the right way – otherwise the wrong part can become blurred. You can do this by leaving on your Auto Focus Lock (AF-L) when setting the exposure, or by manually selecting your focus point. This is different for every camera so you will have to have a quick scout around.
By using a small F/stop number you are telling the camera to open the lens as wide as possible to let light in for a long amount of time. This should mean that you won’t have to boost your ISO too high in order to achieve the low light image you want.
Therefore, taking photographs this way will reduce grain or noise in your images, unless it’s the gruesome grain you’re after.
Why not add some eerie effects to your photos with white balance? The white balance setting you use in camera is designed to make your pictures warmer or cooler. Average white balance of daylight lighting is around 5000K (Kelvin).
A lower Kelvin number will make your colour balance appear warmer, and higher number will appear cooler. Adjusting your white balance is often most effective when shooting in overcast skies, or under fluorescent bulbs as the white balance will counteract the colours.
However, you can use the in-camera pre-sets to change the colours of your lighting. For example, candlelight is going to be warm (low on the Kelvin scale) so use an incandescent or fluorescent pre-set, your image will appear much cooler.
If you’re still not getting the images that you want, try a low-wattage lamp to add a warm glow to the outside of the pumpkin. You could also try adding an orange coloured gel to enhance the depth in colour.
Or if it’s easier change the current bulb to an orange coloured bulb in the lamp. Also, consider adding more candles out of the shot to illuminate the orange skin with a similar glow.
If you have willing models, who can work with a slow shutter speed, another Halloween photography trick you could try, would be to photograph your subject under candlelight or other low light conditions.
You could push your imagination over the edge, dress up your subject to look as deadly as possible, and add a stream of LED light to illuminate them very slightly.
For example, take a dark room and something as simple as a cauldron, inside place your lights and place your model directly behind. If you haven’t got lights to put inside the cauldron, try positioning it at an angle and place the light behind the pot. Make sure to set up your composition so that there are no unwanted objects visible.
We expect to see drama, colours, lighting and deathly amounts of creepy compositions! Remember that Halloween photography only comes once a year, unless you’re a huge horror fan!
Grab your gear, switch your imagination to scare, and go and get that ghastly snap.