Halloween photography is a collision of everything spooky and fun. Costumes, spectacular lights, people in the streets, candy for breakfast, you know the drill. And while most people consider night photography a challenge, we like to think of it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to play with weird lighting and even weirder subjects. Here are our essential tips for making the most of your Halloween photography.
Knitty gritty camera settings
Turn off the flash. Unless you’re a pro with a fancy external lighting kit, your flash is going to make your photos look washed out, like so many disposable, unflattering, a-little-too-candid party shots of yesteryear. Plus, it’s just boring. All those atmospheric shadows and sunset glows? Flash ruins them faster than a vampire at a blood drive.
Don’t fix the color
Set your white balance to daylight. The white balance on your camera is all about making light sources that aren’t white look as if they were sunlight. Incandescent light is decidedly orange. When you set your camera to incandescent, it’s applying a blue tint to the light to compensate for the orange, and correct it back to white. For Halloween photography, you don’t want to correct the light. This way, you can capture the color of the warm candle, the foggy porchlight, or the green glowstick. It’ll be unlike conventional photos. It’ll be other-wordly. It’ll be perfect.
Sparkle like Edward
A narrow aperture (something around f/18) ensures a deep, crisp depth of field for when you want a clear foreground and background. On top of that, narrow apertures also give lights a beautiful sparkle effect. (Trivia time: that phenomenon is known as Fraunhofer diffraction, and works best on distant light at a perceptual infinity.)
Make a call, if you have to
Low light usually means long exposures, but with people, especially little kids or tipsy adults, that means you’re going to get some motion blur (unless you have a very cooperative, very still subject). So, much like inviting a banshee to join your bluegrass band, long exposures are probably out of the question. Here’s how to get around that.
If you have multiple lenses, use your fastest lens. By fastest, we mean the one with the biggest aperture. This allows you to have a faster shutter speed—which stops action, prevents camera blur, or motion blur—without jacking up your ISO, which degrades image quality. If you don’t have a fast lens, or your fastest lens isn’t fast enough to stop the scene from getting blurry, you have no choice but to increase your ISO. If your camera has a noise reduction feature, go for it. If your camera has a taste for blood because it’s possessed by an evil spirit, go return it.
Capturing the spookiness
While you’re out and about, you might not even realize that you’re surrounded by amazing alternative lighting sources: jack-o-lanterns, street lights, glow sticks, porch lights, string lights, black lights, and the freakin moon is gonna be nearly full. How often can you pull off a creepy silhouette in green fog? Practically never! Each novelty Halloween decoration presents a creative opportunity that only comes around once a year.
Yes, flashlights. They’re cheap, portable, and will look way more Halloweeny than your camera’s flash. Plus they double as things that help you not fall down! There’s a couple ways to approach this.
Point the light up at your face, obvi. This one’s the classic spooky move, which means you really can’t go wrong. It makes adults look scary and kids look adorbs. Most importantly, it captures the spirit of the night. Or use the flashlight as a spotlight. You’ll have better lighting and more control than you would with your camera’s flash.
Don’t be self-conscious. There’s nothing wrong with crouching on the sidewalk or climbing a tree to get the perfect shot. Begone, ye hesitations! Masterpieces wait for no mortal!
Make it what you want. We get that planning doesn’t guarantee perfect conditions. Clouds happen, forgetting happens, and blurry thumbs sneak their way into the best of pictures. That’s why we made PicMonkey. Not just for quick crops and exposure tweaks, but for conjuring whole moods out of nothing. Take this example:
The original photo’s cute, and it could work, sure. But holy cow, get a load of it after PicMonkey. Instant spookiness with Zombulate, Zombie Bruise under the eyes, corner darkening, and some graphic action.