Ghosts and goblins, black cats and witches brew and characters of all kinds—this is Halloween and it will be here again before you know it, so get yourself prepared for some Halloween photography and prepare to snatch all of the creatures that flood from the darkness.
No matter if you are at a party, a parade, or attempt Halloween street photography in your hometown, the following five tips will help you shoot in a way that captures the mood of the haunted night.
1. Leave Your flash at Home–Shoot with High ISO.
Unless you really know what you are doing, I recommend that you not bother using your camera’s flash feature. This might come as a surprise to you since most of your Halloween shots will take place in low light situations, but if you consider how brutal flash lighting can be if used incorrectly, you can probably see in your mind’s eye photographs that have lost that spooky Halloween mood.
There are experts who know how to use their flash features correctly, but I have yet to see many successful examples. This is why I recommend you choose another path: if not much light is available, try to increase the ISO of your camera as much as you can.
When it comes to ISO, you need to know your camera and at which setting it starts to produce image noise to an extent that is unbearable. Once you figure this out, simply stay below this number. Generally, compact cameras with very high resolution tend to show a stronger increase in image noise with increasing ISO numbers.
Besides many other aspects of the camera, larger camera systems, such as SLRs, do a much better job in the ISO department. Keep in mind that each camera has different characteristics.
Do a few experiments with night shots prior to Halloween and then study the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data of those pictures. You will quickly figure out which ISO will be most useful so you will not miss capturing every detail.
2. Use a Fast Lens For Halloween Photography
A fast lens is a lens with a large aperture. These lenses are built to allow a large amount of light into your camera’s sensor. How much light your lens is letting in at a time will be a crucial factor when you are out there during Halloween night. The more light, the shorter you can set the exposure time.
The best practice is to set your camera to aperture priority mode. This mode allows you to choose the aperture so that you can set it to the largest possible (the smallest f-number). In this mode, the camera automatically chooses the right exposure time for you, which is very convenient.
If you have a little bit of experience, you also know that a large aperture can help you to isolate your subject from the background. This is an important cornerstone for appealing portraits regardless if you shoot at day or night. To give you some numbers, I have successfully been using prime lenses on the streets at night. These lenses had focal lengths between 30mm and 85mm, and maximum apertures between f/1.4 and f/1.8.
3. Shoot RAW
Using the camera’s RAW format over the processed and compressed JPEG format is a particularly good choice when you want to post-process your images. The reason is simply that there is more information in each pixel of a RAW image. In many cases, you may not physically see a comparable difference, but your computer sees much more in these pixels than your eyes.
When you process your image, the computer has more material to work with, therefore giving you more freedom when pushing the sliders on your image editing software. The kind of processing I mostly do on nightly Halloween pictures is the use of noise reduction filters and exposure compensation to brighten up the scenes. That always helps with halloween photography.
4. Move Around
Because you will not be using your camera’s flash feature, you are very dependent on the light that is available. By changing your position and experimenting with various angles, you will eventually find useable light that will be good for the type of images you want to create.
Once you find a good position, stay there and keep shooting for a while. Take advantage of it, but at some point, move on to a new location. By changing your position your images will show a variety of backgrounds, which not only keeps you entertained during the shooting process, but also will later hold the attention of those viewing your images.
5. Dress Up and Become Part of the Crowd
Be part of the festivities. Your subjects will play their character roles with more authenticity when you become part of the crowd rather than being perceived as an observer. If you are able to interact naturally with your subjects, they will also appear natural in your photographs. Dress up, be funny, and have fun!
These Halloween photography tips come from Oliver Fluck