Costumes, make-up, props, interesting lights: the spookiest day of the year is also a perfect opportunity for photographers! But there’s a catch! Being Halloween, everyone (and everything) only emerge after dark, which can pose a problem when capturing photos. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you use darkness and shadows to your advantage to create some seriously creepy photos.
Test out your low light photography When you think of Halloween, perhaps the first image to come to mind is a carved pumpkin with a flickering candle lighting up his creepy, carved face. If you’ve never given low light photography a go, now is the ideal time to try it!
As your camera relies on light to create a photo, when there isn’t much light available, you’ll need to adjust your settings to allow your camera to work with what you’ve got. The best way to do this is to let as much light in as possible to achieve a well-exposed image.
Open up your aperture by selecting a low F-stop, such as f2.8 or f4.
You will probably find that you’re using a shutter speed of under 1/100th second, which means it will be hard to take a handheld photo without experiencing camera shake and blurriness. A tripod will keep your camera nice and steady, or you could even rest your camera on a table/stable surface in front of the pumpkin.
If you find that the scene is a little dark to take any effective photos, you could experiment by adding candles inside the pumpkin, or even around it, to create a soft, orange glow.
Use props to tell a story
Costumes, make-up and outfit details are all props to help your photos tell a visual story. If you have kids that have chosen a character to dress up as, they could use a prop such as a wand or fangs to strike a pose in front of the camera.
Sometimes the best props can be the ones that are not immediately obvious. Subtle nods to a theme can be a great way of creating an atmosphere or story without being too cheesy or tacky.
Capture spooky portraits using torchlight It’s great to remember that all photography is, is playing with and capturing light, so have fun with it! A great way of photographing spooky portraits is to hold a torch under someone’s face, so that it creates interesting shadows and highlights across their features.
As you’ll be working in low light, it’s a good idea to use camera settings that will maximise the amount of light entering your lens.
To add even more of a creative edge to these portraits, you could experiment by moving the light around the face, or adding coloured cellophane to give the light a warm or cold hue.
Photograph ghostly figures Ever wondered how you can create ‘ghosts’ in your photos? It’s actually surprisingly simple! All you need is a tripod or a steady surface for your camera to sit on, and to use a slow shutter speed, such as 1/10th second. A slow shutter means that your camera’s lens is open and capturing the image for longer, so if the subject is moving through the frame, it will leave a ghostly trail in the photo. You could even get your ‘ghost’ to hold a lit candle or torch to leave a light trail!
Create light trails with a long exposure
As your shutter is open for an extended period of time, you’ll need to adjust your aperture and ISO to ensure that you avoid an over-exposed (too bright) photo. Select a high f-stop for your aperture, and take your ISO down to a lower number to balance out the lighting. Alternatively you could use shutter priority mode (TV) so that your camera will do all the adjusting for you once you’ve picked a shutter speed.
Play with shadows and silhouettes
There's just something terrifying about seeing a shadow creep on you, and not knowing who/what the culprit is! If you don't have a studio light, use a lamp and a volunteer to project some interesting shapes and figures onto a light coloured wall, or glass.
Don’t be afraid to use black&white Black and white photography can be used to create dark, old-worldly scenes. It's also great for when you want to really up the contrast between light and shadows.
Even the most 'normal' looking of buildings can be made to look mysterious when photographed in black&white.
You could take inspiration from the early days of photography, and recreate a family portrait. Back in those days, the camera shutter was open for so long that the subjects often didn't smile as it's hard to hold a smile for a long period of time, hence the often expression-less faces.
Remember that it's always best to photograph in colour and transform the file into black&white after, so that you have both versions to choose from.
Find a creative edge You can almost guarantee that on November 1st, there will be hundreds of pumpkin photos taking over your social media, so how do you make yours stand out? The best bet is that all the photos will be of the pumpkin looking straight on to the camera, so get creative! Find interesting details and angles of your vegetable character, or of Halloween in general.
You could photograph children stocking up on their sweets after a busy session of trick or treating, or a close up detail of gory looking make-up.
Embrace darkness We’re not asking you to join the dark side, but don’t be afraid of using the dark and shadows in your photography. Not all photos have to be evenly lit and perfectly exposed, especially when you are aiming to create a scary atmosphere.
Dark areas can give your images a mysterious feel, and will leave the viewer wondering what may lurk within…