Halloween Photography: Tips and Tricks on How to Take Spooky Photos
Every year on October 31st, many countries celebrate one of the most awaited holidays in the world today: Halloween. Originally an ancient festival of Samhain, it was celebrated by the Celtic culture through bonfires and costumes designed to ward off evil spirits and ghosts of the departed.
Today, people follow almost similar but modernized rituals, such as dressing up in scary costumes or unique cosplays of their favorite fictional characters or celebrities. Kids also go out with their friends and family for trick-or-treating, knocking on doors for candies and treats. Houses display figures and decorations, especially the holiday-signature icon, jack-o’-lanterns or hollowed-out and carved pumpkins, to mark the occasion.
Getting Started with Halloween Photography
Halloween also provides an opportunity for professional and beginner photographers to show off their skills and add images that highlight the spooky icons and haunting themes of this season. From hair-raising creative scenes to blood-curdling portraits, these ghostly and spine-chilling images surely add a twist to a newbie shutterbug or a professional lensman’s portfolio.
This article will help you get started with Halloween Photography through basic tips, camera settings to use, and specific tricks that you can apply in your first Halloween photoshoot.
Let’s start with some camera photography fundamentals and some examples to properly explain these details.
Halloween Photography Tips and Photoshoot Basics
Whether preparing for a devilishly cute or terrifyingly thought-proving photoshoot for Halloween, it’s crucial to have the following Halloween photography trips and photography basics in mind.
1. Conceptualize your subject and choose your location.
The first part of any photo shoot should be planning and conceptualization. Plan on what subject and themes you want to focus on. Then, you’ll decide on the perfect location that will enhance the story that your subject wants to represent. Your goal is to capture an image that stands out.
For the subject, it can be a model in costume, a significant object relevant to the theme of the holiday, or a landscape scene that gives you that spooky and otherworldly Halloween vibe.
For your location, you’ll have a lot of options. Make sure that they are accessible and open to the public. Most importantly, they should be safe and free from hazards that could ruin your photo shoot, harm your model, or break your expensive camera equipment.
Some examples of Halloween photoshoot locations are eerie woods, dark alleys and subways, abandoned buildings and houses, foggy mountains and riverbanks, among others.
Once you’ve decided on your subject and location, you can apply the camera tips and tricks that we have for you in the following sections.
2. Take advantage of the elements of light and darkness.
No, we’re not talking about supernatural beings, but literal light and dark elements in your photographs. When doing Halloween photoshoots, you have to find the perfect balance of highlights and shadows.
Shadows or darkness will set the mood of your image and forward the scary theme of the season. Highlights and using the right light source and directionality, on the other hand, emphasize your subjects and create a unique mood that you want to express. The resulting contrast between dark and light delivers a mysterious, sinister, and haunting image.
A. Halloween Outdoor Photoshoot
You can use natural light or the lack of it, for example, during a full moon or a few minutes before dusk or dawn if you’re doing an outdoor photoshoot. For this type of setting, you can make use of directional lighting coming through a building’s window or focused light sources, such as strong bands of light from gaps and slits of surrounding structures. You can also make use of ambient lighting from dimly lit street lights and bulbs.
Let’s look at one of the perfect examples of vintage Halloween photos. The photo above shows the eerie atmosphere of a weakly lit subway tunnel. You can take advantage of the soft lighting and the streaks and strobes of red lights behind the scenes to create a scary movie-themed shoot. Complement the background with a familiar Halloween costume in reference to famous slasher movie icons.
B. Halloween Indoor Photoshoot
You can also take advantage of the control that a dark basement or indoor studio offers. Just make sure you have the complete light sources, such as flash guns, strobes, or spotlights ready for the shoot. Strobes, flash units, and spotlights can help you capture dramatic and high-speed photos in complete darkness.
You can make things simple. For example, a complete dark photo studio with a single flash unit can be more than enough to deliver a simple yet powerful scary Halloween photo. You can use a skull, a popular symbol of the season, as your subject. Find the perfect angle and let the stark contrast of light and shadows do the rest.
3. Tell a story through proper framing and composition.
Halloween photography is a form of creative photography known for the visual narratives that its photos tell. To achieve this rich story-telling, you have to know the right framing and composition to use for your photos. How will you do it?
Deciding on a visually-interesting foreground, a well-defined subject, and a complementing background can give your images depth and unique layers. The combination of these three elements can help you accurately tell the story that you want to portray.
Let’s further explain it by example. If you’re shooting a cemetery scene, you can choose a subject positioned behind blurred-out tombstones to give emphasis on the subject, such as an old stone monument on top of a grave marker. The background is thick foliage of trees illuminated by the almost vanishing rays of sunset.
The positioning and focus on your solitary subject against the cold foreground and supported by the detached background deliver a thought-provoking and sinister story to your audience.
4. Be more creative with unique camera angles.
Perspective and angles in photography are two relevant elements that help photographers stand out and capture unique images, especially among millions of competitors. When capturing scary Halloween photos, leveled, low-angle, and high-angle shooting are different perspective options that can add more twists to your images.
For example, aiming your camera lens upward can make your subject seem powerful and intimidating. Haunted houses, tall and eerie buildings, and models in terrifying costumes are just extra scarier.
On the other hand, shooting from a higher location and positioning your lens low towards the ground does the opposite. You can use this to describe and portray fear or vulnerability and imply danger or imminent doom, among other bone-chilling scenarios.
You can also try framing your images in out-of-the-ordinary angles to portray chaos, panic, and other surreally bizarre perspectives. This unusual point of view can make the observers feel that something is not quite right.
5. Experiment with your image’s visual texture.
Make your photos as realistic as possible. If you want to take totally scary images, experiment with texture. Aside from adding depth to your shots, textures can also add character to your photographs.
What are the visual textures that you can try? For example, you can look for the rich textures of abandoned or dilapidated buildings, such as peeling paints, rusty metals, broken windows, and crumbling walls. You can also take advantage of the otherworldly haze and dust of a sleepy city at dawn or dusk. If you’re shooting indoors, drapes and other thin fabrics can mimic ghostly apparitions and movements.
Adding to the texture are props that help you tell your visual narrative better. We’ll talk more about these in the next section.
6. Make use of props for a dynamic image.
Aside from the typical Halloween favorites, such as jack-o’-lanterns, candles, skulls, and drapes, you can also use other modern materials as props. Smoke bombs, light sticks, face paint or makeup, fake blood, costumes, and fake weapons can add drama and character to your shots.
Your props will depend on your subject, your location, and the story that you want to convey. Aside from the physical and tangible objects that you can use, you can also add natural elements to your shot.
These include thick and heavy clouds to set that looming darkness, fog and mist in the middle of a forest to establish a sense of isolation, a silhouette during a full moon, or a lightning storm background to add to your portraiture.
7. Master your camera equipment’s functionalities.
Aside from using your subject and your background to capture unique Halloween images, you can also use your camera’s most basic functions to deliver creative images.
But what camera equipment should you prepare? Lastly, what camera settings should you pay attention to? We’ll answer these here.
Let’s start with your basic camera equipment and accessories.
A. Basic Camera Equipment
For starters, you’re going to need your camera capable of Manual Mode. You’ll need the flexibility and adjustable settings of a manually-operated camera to achieve this simple yet technical shot. You’ll also need a stable tripod to prevent blurs during the long-exposure technique. Lastly, don’t forget your light sources, such as flash units and strobes, among others.
B. Additional Camera Accessories
Aside from your basic camera equipment, make sure you have your wireless camera trigger capable of remote control modes. Some examples of these remote triggers are MIOPS Smart+ and FLEX. Why is using either of these mobile camera controls important?
Meet FLEX, a smart camera gadget for creative photography.
Meet FLEX, a smart camera gadget for creative photography.
MIOPS FLEX, for example, is a smart and intuitive camera trigger that can be attached to your camera. Once attached, FLEX, through a dedicated MIOPS mobile application, will allow your smartphone to wirelessly control your camera. Why is remotely controlling your camera important?
These remote camera control devices eliminate the risks of blurs and missed shots since you don’t have to manually click your camera’s shutter to take a shot. Additionally, you can adjust your camera’s Aperture, ISO, Exposure, and other settings from your phone and save the settings as presets.
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
Most importantly, devices like these have dedicated settings designed to capture specific scenes. These include Long Exposure Mode, High-Speed Photography Modes, and Time Lapse Modes, to name a few.
To give you a full picture of what these additional camera accessories offer, let’s look at some camera techniques and how you can use them to capture modern or vintage Halloween photos.Long Exposure Shots
Motion blur, for instance, is one of the most popular Halloween photography techniques that you can use. What it does is capture a rapidly moving object’s motion streaks and patterns through a long exposure shot.
If you’re using a model, their movement can create a ghostly, haunting, and surreal photo that is ideal for a chilling theme. You can also use smoke bombs to capture the mystical and magical patterns of rising and dancing colorful clouds and fumes.
You can also take advantage of the wide aperture and slow camera shutter to capture cool Halloween-themed light trails and patterns for a “The Purge-themed” portrait session as shown below.
Using a remote camera trigger with Long Exposure Mode, MIOPS FLEX will help you get the perfect settings according to the amount of light in your image, the duration of the shot, the number of frames per second, and other exposure-related adjustments, such as aperture, exposure, and shutter speed.
8. Deliver your images with clever post-processing techniques.
Finally, the last and equally significant stage of your Halloween photoshoot is the editing and post-processing stage. Beginner and professional photographers know that this stage can enhance their images and even correct shooting mistakes before they are published, submitted, or printed.
When editing and post-processing your Halloween photos, remember these three editing tips:
Going Black and White
Most Halloween images work best in monochromes of black and white. These hues can single-handedly create a creepy and eerie vibe compared to full-colored images.
Defying Color Rules
If you decide to keep the original colors of your raw images, you can do so by adding filters and camera effects to make your photos look more surreal. For instance, you can exaggerate the saturation or make the images look pale through desaturation. You can intentionally use the wrong White Balance or the warmth and coldness of your photos to deliver a mood.
Adding More Texture
We talked about texture earlier and its importance to help your images have more visual layers and appeal. You can introduce more by editing your images and adding grainy filters. The unrefined, old, and eerie photos mimic the qualities of old photographs. Adding a vignette to your images can enhance the effect of the dark and gloomy composition.
Ready for Your First Halloween Photo Shoot?
Hopefully, our technical and creative advice here has helped you get ready for your first Halloween photo shoot. As mentioned above, you’re going to need the right camera equipment, a MIOPS remote camera device, creative photography ideas, and clever post-processing techniques to create a photo that stands out.
Remember these and you’ll be surely ready to take that first spooky image to add to your diverse portfolio! Have fun!
Blog Credit: Charm Villalon
Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.