Halloween can offer a wide variety of great scenes to photograph, many of which occur after the sun goes down. Here are some tips to make sure you get the best, most memorable shots possible, from pumpkin preparation to trick-or-treating in the dark.
Don’t miss shooting decorations, especially the Jack-o-lanterns. The process of stenciling, scooping and carving pumpkins can make for some great candid shots, especially with little kids. I am personally terrible at carving pumpkins, however, my next door neighbor is the Michelangelo of gourds. I often photograph her creations, both the process and the finished product. This way she has good shots of her work and I get some great pumpkin shots. Remember that a tripod is absolutely essential to capture Jack-o-lanterns at night, and the faster the lens, the better.
See if a local haunted house will let you take some shots inside. Many times, they will be happy to accommodate you in exchange for shots that can be used in future promotions. Haunted houses are usually very tricky to shoot, as they are usually an extremely low light environment (by design, of course), so keep a tripod handy and shoot at slow shutter speeds and a high ISO when possible. Using a flash will typically make the props and décor look phony. The long exposures can make moving objects look ghostly and almost see-through.
In addition, make sure to bring a flashlight. In dark locations, your camera’s autofocus will have a tough time locking on the subject, even with a built-in AF assist light. Use the flashlight to briefly light your subject and focus your lens, then switch your lens to manual focus and turn off the flashlight. As long as your camera and subject stay put, you know the image will be in focus, and you can concentrate on getting your exposures to look the way you want.
When it comes to trick-or-treating, don’t forget to take photos of your preparation, including applying makeup and getting dressed. Many people forget to do this and opt to shoot only the finished costume, but can miss some great candid shots in the process.
Once you’re outside, remember that shuffling kids around from door to door can be hectic and distracting, so have your equipment at the ready, and try to pack as light as possible (one lens, one flash and a pocket of extra batteries). A sling strap is a great accessory to have in just such a situation. And if possible, have an extra adult around to help with the little ones, so when a great photo opportunity presents itself, you will be ready to shoot.
When photographing small children you should remember to get down to their level. This is a good technique for taking pictures of children in general, and will always result in a more natural image.
Look specifically for well-decorated homes in the neighborhood as a spooky backdrop for group photos. It’s always better to shoot with an interesting background in your shots, and with large Halloween displays becoming more popular, it’s easier than ever.
Finally, don’t forget to take photos of the aftermath. There will be plenty of opportunities to get shots of the kids with their candy bounty, and hopefully a shot of an exhausted child passed out in their costume. Sometimes it’s easy to miss these details but they can make for some unforgettable images!