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Photos Courtesy of Cheryl Woods

Now the second biggest holiday next to Christmas, Halloween provides the ultimate in setting, props and atmosphere to capture unique and stunning images. And, it’s the perfect time to experiment with exposure times, shutter speeds and unusual compositions.

Capture the Mood

Chances are they’ll be plenty of houses tricked out with ghosts, goblins and spider webs. Utilize early morning hours and late afternoon to get the most beautiful light. Even your own home décor provides for some amazing stock shots.

For evening shots, everyone’s goal is to capture the perfectly lit jack-o-lantern shot. Here’s some tricks for capturing that glowing pumpkin:

  • Use your tripod for a long exposure so you get the details in the pumpkin and not just blackness with shining holes.
  • Add a few extra tea light candles inside the pumpkin. This will make getting your exposure correct a lot easier.
  • Take a few during daylight hours on the lawn. Prop it with some fall leaves and a haystack and have your children or neighbors pose on their costumes. They’ll love the fact they get to put on their costumes early!

Now’s not the time to worry about perfection! Take a look at this long exposure below with orange window lights. The blurred image creates a scary mood, for sure!

Halloween Photography Tips


Anticipation of the big event is half the fun, so be sure to capture the kids getting ready. Chances are it will also still be light out so take advantage of the magic hour ambiance. The shadows will be soft and the light golden and warm.

  • Shoot their reflections in a mirror. Take a few images of them getting dress in their costumers or goofing around with siblings and friends.
  • Zoom in on the fine points like a painted face, some scary claws, fancy shoes or the sparkling details of a costume.
  • Always get down and shoot from the kids level. Or, try filmmaker Orson Welle’s classic trick of shooting from a low vantage point to make your subjects look taller and scarier.
  • Again, it’s about the moment and costumes that are too big, falling wigs and the post-candy count all provide details about the night. Grab plenty of candids not only of your own family, but also of trick-or-treaters parading through the streets.

Get Creative with the Lighting

Don’t forget, you want to capture the creepy and eerie mood of the holiday and using your flash will obliterate this feel. Try colored gels of red, orange or yellow that fit a hot shoe flash to enhance the scene. The gels will also cut down the glare of the flash.

If you want to forgo the flash, go as high as possible with your ISO and open up your aperture. Going 800 and above will add some grain to the image but will also add an interesting effect as well.

Try alternative lighting such as:

  • Shine a flashlight on a face from below to cast shadows. Hold the light about 6” below the chin for the best ghoulish effect.
  • Grab some glow sticks and have your subject wave them around as you shoot.
  • Use the setting sun to grab some silhouette shots. 

Halloween Photography Tips

Using Your Tripod

Tripods can help you control the type of image you want to create. Here’s a few approaches to try this Halloween:

  • Set up a tripod on the front lawn with a wide angle lens. Use a remote shutter to snap off images of the trick-or-treaters as they walk the streets. This is also a great technique for a holiday party. Wire the camera up in the corner of the ceiling and it point down on the action. Use a slow shutter speed to render ghostly blurs of the party-goers.

You can also achieve the ghostly effect with a simple portrait. Using a long shutter speed (8 seconds or more) and have your subject sit for several seconds and than slowly leave the frame before the shutter clicks. You’ll get a creepy transparent image. This is a fun tool to try with Halloween props as well. Use a skeleton for your subject and some fishing wire to pull him out of the frame.

Don’t forget man’s best friend, too. Dogs in costumes will denote the silliness of the holiday along with all the ghoulish celebrating about. Use Halloween to go to the extremes with your photography techniques. You might get more bad than good, but the keepers will be classics.


Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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