Why You Want To Start Early For Halloween Photography

If there’s a better time than Halloween for getting pictures that require special makeup or effects then I haven’t found it. Discount and dollar stores are jammed packed with cartons of fake blood, garish makeup, fog machines and enough specialty lights to keep you working on projects for months.

Not only that but complete strangers are dressing up in outrageous costumes and are actually hoping you’ll want to take their picture. How cool is that?

So this year, instead of waiting until the last minute, let’s get out in front of New Hallows Eve and plan some Halloween projects. This year let’s make the festivities a feast of photography.


This is the time to turn off your flash and shoot with a tripod. Lots of light is not going to be flattering for a jack-o-lantern shot. If you need to light the outside use an orange gel on your strobe or a soft, warm incandescent light. The best is back lighting with fire light, but do be careful if you’re working with real fire. Don’t settle for just candlelight inside, either. Take your favorite external strobe and wireless poppers and gel it with red, green and yellow filters for different effects.

Combine the strobe effects with a little artificial fog (see below) for really interesting effects or you can try light painting on the inside of the pumpkin, just go crazy.

Ghosts and Ghouls

How many times can you go out on the street and find people willing to dress up? For these shots you can leave all the “soft” lighting sources at home.

Softboxes, shoot-through umbrellas, even the soft caps and bounce cards. Fogetaboutit. You want sharp light from a low angle or from the side. You want shadows and to bring surface imperfections into sharp relief. Wireless triggers are indispensable in this situation. You can mount your flash on a monopod for quick positioning or ask the subject to hold it at waist level pointed upward. Start at -1 full stop under-exposed and adjust as needed for the best ghoulish effect.

Fog It Up

I love me some fog machine and the best part is they’re cheap and safe. Use fog machines to create a misty effect in a small area or single room. Do keep in mind that theatrical fog machines will produce a relatively uniform fog. If you want the kind of fog that clings to the ground, sometimes called “swamp fog” that’s a little different.

For swamp fog you need either a special ground fog machine and special fog juice or a specialty CO2 fog machine, which are quite bulky. Some people hybridize the theatrical fog by piping it through a cooler full of dry ice. If you’re working with dry ice or CO2 fog be very, very careful to work in well ventilated area as CO2 in a confined area can kill with surprising efficiency.

Stage Your Very Own Zombie Apocalypse

Zombies are always popular Halloween guests and it’s best chance all year to assemble a cast of them for staged photos. It’s an interesting idea for engagement photos, too.

Again you’ll need your wireless poppers to light the subjects trapped in an alley by an approaching wall of zombies in shadows. The idea is to light your subjects with a narrow pool of light backed up against a wall while the advancing zombies are in silhouette.

Halloween Lights

Go to a place like HalloweenEffects and have an absolute ball. Blacklights, specialty projectors and fake flame lamps which can look surprisingly good in photographs if you get the good ones.

You can also find accessories like blacklight paints, stickers and an assortment of lighted objects that range from the merely interesting to the totally bizarre. Those can work as props or feel free to take them apart and experiment with using them as point light sources for light painting or lighting backgrounds.

There are few times of the year that offer such a compelling environment for taking pictures. Don’t let the opportunity slip by this year. If you start now you have plenty of time to order your supplies and get out in front of the holiday. Be sure to get a set of flash gels, wireless poppers and order in a supply of SFX makeup and lights. Let’s make this Halloween the best one ever for pictures.

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