How to Photograph Halloween

By Geoff Harris

How to Photograph Halloween

Halloween has gone from being quite a low-key event in the UK to a big party for all ages. Trick or treating came over from the US a few years ago, and rare is the street nowadays where you don't get kids in costume banging on your door for sweets.

Then there are associated events, such as zombie walks (an increasingly popular way raising money for charity), Halloween parades and balls, and so on. So Halloween is now a great photo opportunity – here's how to make the most of it


How to Photograph Halloween

Zombie walks and Halloween parades are great places to take photographs. The spirit is light-hearted, so there is no problem with taking photographs (even of kids in costume), and, of course, the costumes can be amazing.

Given the increasing popularity of these parades, it's best to get there early to get a good vantage point. Try and get a clean background too, or at least a less cluttered one – so avoid parked cars, rubbish bins etc.

A longer lens is perfect for this kind of event, as you can shoot over the top of the heads of other people in the crowd, and zoom in for details.

How to Photograph Halloween

Shoot at a wide aperture; when combined with the telephoto reach, this will nicely blur out the background while keeping the subject sharp. If it the light is failing, set a higher ISO to boost your camera's light sensitivity and get a fast enough shutter speed.

If you can get closer to the participants, try switching to a wide-aperture 50mm portrait lens. Wear a costume yourself and you will blend in!

Kids in costume

How to Photograph Halloween
The principles stay the same when photographing trick or treating kids. Since you are shooting at night or in low light, you will either need to use flash, or a wide lens aperture and a high ISO. Try to avoid full-on flash if you can, as you will end up with harsh, flat light.

How to Photograph Halloween

A higher ISO is probably a better bet outdoors unless you wind the flash power down. Indoors you can obviously use bounce flash or diffused flash for nicer lighting – try angling the flashgun at 45 degrees and bouncing it off a white or pale-coloured ceiling or wall.

Whether indoors or outdoors, shoot in raw so you can adjust white balance afterwards if necessary. If you are trying to shoot other people's kids, obviously ask for parental permission first to avoid any awkward scenes.


How to Photograph Halloween
Taking the picture is only half of the fun with Halloween images. Because of the spooky subject matter, you can really flex your creative muscles with your photo-editing software.

Try deliberately adding a cold blue or eerie red colour temperature, either by adjusting white balance or adding a blue or red hue. Split toning effects can look great here.

How to Photograph Halloween

Or just do a straight black and white conversion, but don't be afraid to pull down the Tone Curve to make the shadows looks really black.

Lightroom's Radial Filter tool is another great way to make the face of a Halloween zombie or vampire stand out against a predominantly black background. Try to deliberately add grain to increase the creepy effect too. Halloween is the one time you can get away with noisier shots!

Photography Competition

If you are out and about with your camera over then next few days you may be interested in entering MyGardenSchool’s Pumpkin Carving Competition See for more details

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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