Halloween Photography Tips!

Halloween is almost here! That season where you get to dress your kids up in amazingly adorable costumes, then try and chase them down the street in their sugar-spiked frenzy, in the dark, and take overexposed, blurry photos that doesn’t reflect the glory of all the hard work you put into getting that costume together! D’oh!

We totally feel your pain. And this year, we wanted to share some tips to photograph your children in their Halloween duds so that you can have beautiful photos that match your memories!

1. Ditch your pop-up flash

If your SLR camera has a pop-up flash and you’re shooting on automatic mode, it will likely just wash out the details and “spooky lighting” effect that Halloween is all about. If you’re still using your camera in Automatic Mode, turn your camera to P mode. This will suppress the pop up flash.

When you don’t have your flash available, it’s important to look for other sources of light. A well-lit porch can be a great place to get some live-action trick or treating photos.


2. Raise your ISO

A higher ISO number makes your camera more sensitive to the existing light and will enable you to shoot without a flash in lower light conditions. Start with your ISO at 800 at dusk and keep raising it as it gets darker and darker. Different cameras have different ISO capabilities but most can shoot comfortably at at least ISO 800 or 1600.

3. Don’t wait until it’s dark outside to shoot!

Our favorite thing to do with our kiddos here at Mamas with Cameras is to do an early round of “Photo Trick or Treating”, going out at about 4:30pm before it’s dark in order to get photos of the kids while it’s still light out. There are always a few people home, and it gets them warmed up before the main event!


If you can’t shoot early on Halloween, there’s no law against getting your kids dressed up the weekend before and just shooting some photos on your own front stoop!

boo4(c)mamaswithcameras4. Rock your prime lens 

When you’re shooting in low natural light, being able to choose a lower f-stop will allow you to harness more natural light. If you have a prime lens (a 50mm f/1.8 for example), try putting your camera in Av or A (aperture priority mode) and experiment with how your photos turn out at f/2.8 or lower.


5. Photographing Jack-o-Lanterns

With your little raccoons all pumped up and running around, it can be a fun exercise to take a photo of a nice still subject for a change! You can experiment with your own Jack-o-Lantern before halloween. The key thing here will be to balance the exposure so you see the face and still catch some outside details.

-Timing is key: shoot your Jack-o-lantern at dusk for better lighting

-Put an extra candle inside your pumpkin to provide more light

-Think about extra light sources outside your Jack-o-Lantern: can you place it close to a pathway light? Can you add some extra light, like a string of holiday lights or even a glow stick to add some light to the outside of the pumpkin?

-Flip your camera to manual mode (M) and set your shutter speed to 1/40 of a second. Set your white balance (WB) to incandescent (the picture of the lightbulb). Put your focal point on the edge of one of the eyes and lower your f-stop until your exposure meter in your viewfinder is at zero. If you’re not sure about your meter, then take a photo and if it’s too dark, lower your f-stop, and if it’s too bright raise it up. (We like to call this “goldilocks” metering-too hot, too cold, just right!) You can experiment with exposures that show more of the face, and more of the pumpkin shapes


Happy Shooting! We hope to see some awesome photos from all of you!


If you live in the Seattle area and you (or your Mama buddies) want to learn more practical, hands-on settings and tips to improve your photography on your DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and can attend one of our Seattle area workshops, you can register for Introduction to Digital Photography (Saturday, November 14) or our Using Manual (M) Mode to take Great Natural Light Photos (Saturday, December 12)!