Depending on your age and station in life, Halloween can be a spooky, silly, or serious event. Regardless of how you feel about this holiday, it comes only once a year, which makes it all the more important to get photographs of this event whenever the opportunity presents itself. Here are a few tips and tricks for taking memorable photographs of the images that combine to make up this season.
Always have a focal point.
Because Halloween comes with a lot of visual clutter, from trick or treating children to fake spider webs to jack-o-lanterns and other accessories, it is a little too easy to simply try for an overview of the scene. Keep in mind that all photographs must have a focal point—without exception. Identifying this focal point will help you to build a better photograph around it. Once you know what you are photographing, you can use the rule of thirds, leading lines, and other photography principles to create an attractive overall picture.
Fill your frame.
This helps to reduce the visual clutter that can overtake this holiday. It also adds maximum impact and allows you to maximize any emotion associated with the scene. Whether scary or cute, you can bet that your subject will be even more so when they dominate the shot. Make sure you bring lenses that allow you to get up close and personal.
Light from a different angle.
Try using flashlights (with or without a covering to diffuse the light) and glow sticks to light your subjects from the side or from below. If no lighting sources are available, you can turn your camera so the flash is coming from another angle. This will give a spooky effect or a contemplative one, depending on how you build the rest of the shot. It also will create a subtle sense of originality that can make the photograph really pop.
Light in a different color.
Because we are used to seeing white light, light in different colors looks a little “off”, even if we don’t really register why or how. This may not be attractive in your average portrait, but it can create some very creepy Halloween effects. Glow sticks come in a variety of colors but may not actually give off enough light. You can also try putting colored cellophane over a flashlight, your flash, or another light source. Black light can also create fun effects, especially if your subject has a lot of white or neon colors.
Anyone can take a picture of a pumpkin—just look at your favorite photo sharing site the day after Halloween for a few thousand examples. However, capturing the same objects from a new perspective is what makes you a pro. This holiday tends to be a little extreme, so don’t be afraid to go overboard in trying a new angle, such as from the very top of your subject. Before you take a photograph, look at the object from a few angles. This will help you to evaluate what perspective will be the best and which aspects you want to emphasize in your photograph. Think outside the box and build your photograph; this will give a more pleasing result with a professional quality finish.
Focus on details.
A single piece of candy corn, a pillow case full of loot, or an open but uneaten candy bar: these are just three of the thousands of details that create this holiday. Why not focus on the details for just a few shots? These will round out your collection, and in many cases become the stars of it.
Tell a story.
Unless you are a carving expert, your jack-o-lantern will likely be almost identical to everyone else’s. Instead of making that your subject, take photos showing the process of carving the pumpkin, from children scooping out seeds to the intricate dance of trying to get a lit candle inside the gourd. The same strategy can be used for putting on makeup, fitting a costume, and other events that define the holiday as much as the finished product. Don’t forget the ‘after’ shots with chocolate smeared children being carried home by parents and drunken partiers leaving their gatherings.
Catch a silhouette.
This will be easy considering that this is a nighttime holiday with a variety of lighting sources. Catch the silhouette of children as they stand in a neighbor’s doorway receiving candy or a car sitting in a window watching the festivities. These tend to give a ghostly and spooky effect that is definitely complimentary to this holiday. They also allow you to focus on general forms and shapes while ignoring overly complicated details.
Make some noise.
As a photographer, you probably spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid noise and other grainy effects. However, at Halloween this can create a fun and spooky effect. Shooting with high speed film (or the digital settings that are equivalent) will help overcome the dim lighting of the occasion while creating a little noise. You can use digital programs to lighten your pictures later, which will emphasize this effect.
We often hear children warned of the dangers of Halloween, but there are very real dangers that adults face as well. Don’t creep around hiding in bushes with your camera unless you want to face the wrath of an upset parent. Be sure to show caution when around the many distracted drivers that are out on this busy night. Keep a cell phone on you and stay in well lit areas. Last, respect the safety of the children around you as well, who will be excited and not as aware of their surroundings.
Halloween is a fun and festive time, so why not enjoy it? Better yet, why not capture it in all its spooky and kitschy charm? Hopefully these tips will set you on your way to a more interesting and attractive portfolio of Halloween pictures.