Lighting Your Halloween Photos
Halloween is one of the few holidays that doesn’t involve trying to figure out how to get to the house of every single relative you have. Halloween is costumes, candy, haunted houses, hay rides, parties, and generally just fun.
Aside from a few shots of friend A smiling next to friend B you won’t want many standard photographs if you want to capture the feel of this holiday. Brightly lit photos of smiling faces don’t translate as spooky or creepy at all. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to capture great photos but you will need these Halloween lighting photo tips.
Have you ever seen a horror film with the creature brightly lit in midday? It’s not very effective. For the most part, humans are extremely visual creatures. If we can see it we can deal with it. Changing the lighting helps trigger instinctive emotional reactions to the subjects in our photos.
Underexpose your Halloween subjects by a stop or two. Lots of shadows not only add to the atmosphere of scary costumes but also hide a lot of bad makeup edges and cheapness of props.
We spend a lot of time in photography trying to soften shadows and get a relatively even light across portraits. Unless you are photographing someone in a princess or other “pretty” costume, Halloween is NOT the time for nice lighting.
Take off those diffusers, dial up the power, and put the snoot on your flash. If you don’t have a snoot, don’t worry, you can use a rolled up piece of poster paper fastened to your flash with rubber bands or velcro. The length of the snoot and inside color will change your light so practice with it to find the combination that works best for your shot.
Angle the Light
Almost all natural light comes from above or to the side of subjects. Throw of expectations by lighting your subject from below. Not only does this change the shape of the face through new shadows, this type of lighting has been used so long in horror movies that we are conditioned to think of this type of lighting as “evil.”
You can use something as simple as a flashlight to achieve this lighting if you don’t have off camera flash available to you. You can also turn your camera upside down and bounce the flash off of the floor (use a reflector on the ground if needed).
Change the Color
Oranges, blues, greens, and reds drastically change the feel of a photo when you use them to color the light. You can change the color of your lighting either by using one of the colored light bulbs available around Halloween, by using gels on your flash, or by changing the white balance of your camera.
Remember that any of these methods is generally going to result in a lower lighting situation (as far as your camera is concerned) so your meter may already be off a bit before you deliberately underexpose. Be sure to take test shots until you are familiar with how your chosen lighting is affecting your meter.