Halloween Photography Tips, Ideas & Settings

Cozy Coffin Motel

kevin dooley / Foter.com / CC BY

Halloween Photography Tips

Halloween is the time for goblin costumes, freaky treats and carved faces on pumpkins. A favorite with both the young and the old carved Jack-o’-Lanterns are a must do and must have for Halloweens. By the way, they make for an excellent photography opportunity too. This article deals with how to take some exciting pictures during Halloween of the freakiest of Jack-o’-Lanterns, decorations or the young goblins doing trick or treat.

Camera settings

Almost invariably you will need to prepare for some really low light situations and in some cases light from a multitude of different sources with different color temperatures. Using basics of exposure triangle, there are few ways to tackle low light situations.

Choosing widest aperture – Selecting widest aperture (smaller number) will let more light to enter through lens. As a result you can use faster shutter speed to freeze the action & reduce camera shake. It will also allow you to use low ISO setting for clean images with minimum noise.
Using slow shutter speed – Slow shutter speed allows more lights to enter through lens aperture. It may result motion blur or camera shake. However it can be used as a nice creative tool.
Cranking up the ISO – Often cranking up the ISO would be a first natural step for some photographers. Unless you have a latest Point & Shoot / DSLR with noise correction feature you will end up with a lot of unwanted noise. So know what equipment you’re using and its limitations before setting the ISO to 1600, 3200 or beyond.
Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction – Turn it on, if your cameras or lenses have one.
Flash – Control your temptation to counter every low light situation with a dose of brilliant light from the flash, built-in or otherwise. Light from your flash will completely turn the background (even if it was visible in ambient light) dark. Resultantly your images will be shallow with no visible background. If you have to use it then follow the tips that comes later.
Tripod – Probably your best method to tackle low light situations is to use a tripod. A tripod will allow you to use a longer shutter speed, thereby gathering more light and conjure up a fantastic picture seemingly out of an improbable situation. A tripod will however be only effective against a stationary subject and if you hope to capture the young goblins, then you will have to use a combination of methods.

Magic Kingdom - Bag Lady

SpreadTheMagic / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Flash or No flash

Kind of negating the tip that was given above but it may become absolutely necessary at times to use a flash (kind of when your life depends on capturing a portrait shot of a young goblin). Well the worst thing that you can do is sneak out in the middle of the night armed with nothing but a compact Point & Shoot. The flash will be fixed, will give you limited flexibility (if at all any) and you may end up with a frustratingly long night with no good pictures.

If you’re using a DSLR camera you may like to invest in an external light and a TTL chord that will allow you to hold / mount the flash at some distance from the camera and yet get a TTL metering for the shot when you press shutter release.

One more trick you can use if to use colored gels along with your flash to set the right mood for the shot. Some photographers even prefer to set the white balance manually like setting it to tungsten but shooting in ambient light or vice versa to change the color tone.

Happy Halloween 2011

Justin in SD / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Choosing the right camera mode

Modern DSLR & Compacts come with many built in features. sometimes they become handy when shooting halloween photos.

Night Mode – Some compact point and shoots do come with a night portrait mode which is a great thing to have for Halloween. Night time portrait mode (night scene) do allow for the ambient background light and never fires too much light that can completely turn the background black. For DSLRs & Compacts with manual mode, there are plenty of options available.
Shutter Priority (TV) – In this mode you set the shutter speed & camera will select aperture & ISO accordingly. Try to keep your speed around 1/60 to 1125 sec. to prevent camera shake or motion blur. However, sometimes camera uses highest ISO available and images may suffer from digital noise.
Aperture Priority (AV) – If you use Aperture priority mode, you have to set the aperture yourself. The camera will set shutter speed & ISO automatically. When selecting aperture, choose the widest aperture available.

You could also use exposure bracketing to ensure that you have at least one usable photograph when you’re unsure about the right exposure for the shot.