Feature photo by Mickie DeVries
Halloween is one of the most photo-worthy holidays all year. Between pumpkin patches, adorably spooky costumes, rich fall colors and tons of fun props, Halloween is a photographer’s dream. Plus, it might be one of the only nights that your kids actually want their photo taken!
But, we can’t ignore the fact that Halloween photos are notoriously difficult! Low light, color casts (so. much. orange.) and fast moving subjects make getting that perfect shot just a little difficult. Lucky for you, we got 10 photographers to share their best Halloween photo tips!
We suggest pairing this post with that bag of Halloween candy you bought for trick-or-treaters (we see you). But not candy corn. Never candy corn.
1. Photograph costumes in advance of Halloween.
I like to do a costume trial run a few days before Halloween to make sure we have everything we need. I use this time to get one good picture so I don’t have this stress on the night of Halloween when the kids are eager to get out the door for trick-or-treating. This also allows us to use the best light and location to complement their costumes.
I started offering these sessions to my clients, too, and they love the chance to get their kids’ costumes photographed before Halloween so they can relax and enjoy the fun.
2. Match your Halloween photo location with the costumes.
One of my favorite Halloween photo tips is to coordinate the location with the costumes. Last year we were fortunate enough to live near the Castillo de San Cristobal which was the perfect backdrop for our Harry Potter costumes. My kiddos had a blast pretending like they were actually at Hogwarts and were thrilled with the final results!
3. Use street lights and porch lights for low-light photos.
I love to capture our trick-or-treat night in town. I always try to use the artificial lighting of street lights or porch lights to help set the mood. Watch your settings in the low light and don’t be afraid to crank up the ISO. Also, it’s tricky to grab focus in low light. To help me see what I’m focusing on, I like to use live-mode on the back of my camera. That way I can even zoom in to make sure I got the focus right and manually adjust to quickly fix it.
4. Embrace the autumn colors and dramatic light.
My Halloween photo tip is to make photos vibrant and dynamic by embracing the light! I like costume poses in dramatic light, with lots of shadows and highlights to bring the subject, setting, and season to life.
I start by selecting a backdrop with lots of seasonal color. In this case it’s a forest with colorful foliage. A pumpkin patch, garden, or a pile of leaves in your front yard works great. I often use my 35mm lens so I can incorporate more of the environment into my scene. I’ll shoot in the mid afternoon (before the trick-or-treating begins) so that the background is illuminated. I then expose for the background to retain detail and color. I lighten my subject in post, and warm up the entire image to accentuate the beautiful yellow and golden hues of autumn.
5. Choose a simple background for Halloween costume photos.
Halloween is all about the costumes in our family. As a photographer, my goal is to capture the creativity and personality of my kids in costume; and have some fun! I do not want any other distractions, so I place my kids next to a blank wall, a sea of blurred green outside, colorful leaves, or in front of our white garage (which is my favorite spot for photos before trick-or-treating). These blank canvases as backgrounds help tell the story but do not distract from the main focus, which is my children.
6. Think about the story you want to tell with your photos.
I love to add the element of location and color to help make my kiddo’s costume stand out! It is especially fun to include a historical or abandoned building from your local area to give it that extra “spookiness.” I lived on Roosevelt Island, New York, which was used to quarantine smallpox patients decades ago. We still have remnants of the hospital that is in disrepair and the laboratory that was used. I had my son stand in front of the laboratory that is still accessible by the public and loved how the door color popped my son’s costume. It will be a fun story to tell in the future when we look back on the photos!
7. Document fall activities and natural moments.
I LOVE photographing Halloween! There are so many opportunities to photograph fun activities and memories. I do plan a couple of shots of my kids in character before Halloween but mostly I want to capture them on the fly. That is really where the good stuff is in my mind. I like to set them up with an activity and then just wait for them to do something funny or memorable. My job is to be ready to capture them having fun and hopefully do it in an interesting way. Anticipation is everything!
8. Play with props and special effects.
Halloween is the perfect time to get more creative with our photos and to utilize props or special effects that we might otherwise not have the opportunity to play around with the remainder of the year. It’s fun to push our creative boundaries periodically and this is the ideal time to take advantage of that. I love to play with colored smoke bombs at Halloween and my kids know that this is the one time of the year that we buy them and get creative with them. They look forward to it and so do I.
Tip: If I want to find smoke bombs quickly, I’ve had the most luck purchasing them locally at paintball supply stores.
9. Try glitter brushes, fog overlays and other unique editing techniques.
Halloween is the perfect time to get the kids on board — their ideas might be even better than yours — and really push the boundaries of your creativity. My editing is normally pretty realistic, but Halloween is the perfect time to go a little crazy in post processing. There are so many fog overlays, glitter brushes, light rays, etc. available online, either for free or for sale, on sites like Etsy and Creative Market, that even a blank wall can be turned into something magical! I like to ask my daughter for her ideas and then watch her beaming smile when she sees the final transformation.
10. Use double exposures and creative editing to make spooky photos.
I love to experiment with long exposures at Halloween to create a spooky look. I set up my tripod and start my exposure with my subject not in my scene, then I have my subject walk quickly to the predetermined spot and freeze. This creates a ghostly look perfect for Halloween! Make sure you try this at dusk or use a neutral density filter to help block enough light to be able to use a long exposure. 15 seconds for my shutter speed usually works well for me. I then count to five before my subject enters the frame. The longer you wait for your subject to enter the frame the more see through they will be. I always convert mine to black and white to up the spooky factor. I like to play around with out-of-focus shots too.
Another one of my favorite Halloween photo tips is to create composite images to make my children’s costumes come alive. I generally photograph the kids in costume against my garage so I can black out the background easily. I then use stock images, images I create myself and/or effects I create in Photoshop to make their chosen character come alive (as in the feature photo at the top of this post).
More Halloween photo tips just for you!
Yep, we created a whole Pinterest board full of Halloween photo tips, costume ideas, editing inspo and other spooky ideas. Come see it and then give us YOUR best Halloween photo ideas. Also, we NEED to see your kids (and pets!) all dressed up in their adorable costumes! Tag us on Facebook @CMclickmagazine or IG #clickmagazine.
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