From pumpkin carving to costume making and party planning to buying those “fun size” candy bars for trick-or-treaters, doing Halloween up right requires a lot of preparation. But it’s often hard to get great photos of all your work, when most of the Halloween fun happens at night. Try these tips for the spookiest photos you’re ever likely to see.
- Shoot at or just after dusk, when the light is a little spooky. It may not be the “witching hour” (which is way, way past everyone’s bedtime), but it’s easier to get good photos than it is when it’s truly dark.
- Turn off your flash. Otherwise, you’ll eliminate the spooky shadows—or overexpose the shot entirely. Or, if you want to get really creepy, try this low-tech add-on: Hold a small piece of red or brown cellophane over the flash.
- Think about other ways to add light to your photos: Bonfires, glow sticks and sparklers all add Halloween excitement and help illuminate your goblins. Another helpful mood-maker is a flashlight. Placing a flashlight below your subjects’ faces results in a reliably haunting image (which is why it’s so often used when telling scary campfire stories).
- When you’re shooting in low light, you often need longer exposure times, which heightens the risk of blur. Place your camera or smartphone on a tripod when possible, or try resting it on a table or other steady surface.
- Experiment with different ISO settings. When you change your camera’s ISO setting, you’re changing the camera’s sensitivity to light. You will want a high ISO setting in order to pick up the light in your dark photos, but not so high that you pick up every speck of lint or dust in the air. Some cameras and smartphones handle the higher ISOs better than others, so be sure to test yours out before snapping that once-in-a-lifetime pic.
- A long-exposure frame, meanwhile, can put a weird glow on objects against a dark background. And if your subjects move while you’re taking the picture you can get a cool, ghostly effect. (If you’ve ever come across those apps that add “spirit” effects to your pictures, this is what they do.) And for a cool “motion blur” effect, check out the Slow Shutter Cam app for iOS and Camera FV-5 for Android.
Finally, keep in mind that you can’t expect to become a master photographer of the paranormal within five minutes of trying. Practice some night shots with your smartphone or camera so that you know which settings you prefer and how to find them quickly. Not even a zombie likes to hold his or her pose while the photographer fumbles through a menu.