I’d love to start today’s blog with an evil laugh—a deep, throaty “muwahahahah” that tells you something-wicked-this-way-comes. (That’s the only proper way to start a blog about Halloween, isn’t it?) But I don’t have anything fearsome to share as we barrel toward Halloween…unless you count NIGHTTIME PORTRAITURE as a fearsome undertaking.
Halloween is actually an excellent opportunity to improve on your nighttime portraiture skills. Great spooky shots of costumed creepers aren’t hard to take if you do a little homework in advance. And they can make for great cards to share with family and friends:
- If you’re inexperienced with nighttime photograph and have a camera with a “night portrait” mode, that’s a fair place to start. This mode combines a long exposure with a flash. Your subject will be captured by the flash while the long exposure will allow the background to fill in.
- The night portrait default setting white balances for the flash, and the result is often a warmer cast than people want. Play with your camera’s white balance until you find the cast that captures or creates the mood you’re going for.
- Ambient light is your friend for nighttime portraits. If possible, shoot near the glow from streetlights (or in the glow just after sunset). See what you can manage without your flash, but definitely don’t be afraid to use a combination of your flash and the ambient light.
- If your camera has a rear-synch flash option, try it out. This option fires the flash at the end of the exposure instead of the beginning.
- A high ISO setting of 800 or even 1600 is helpful when lights are low, but it can result in grainy photographs (not always a bad thing when you’re trying to go for a spooky feel). If you want to avoid too much graininess, then rely on your flash instead of the higher ISO.
- If your camera’s flash keeps washing out the photograph, try adjusting the intensity down a stop or two, or use a flash diffuser. If you can’t do either of these things, try covering the flash with a translucent piece of paper such as wax paper.
- Stillness is your best friend in night photography, but it’s tough to keep little costumed creatures from fidgeting, and many of them don’t realize that the photograph isn’t done just because the flash has fired. Ask them to hold as still until they hear the shutter click. Use a tripod or steady the camera by setting it on a shelf, table, or other fixed object.
Halloween photographs are often an ideal place to use the funky features of your photo-editing apps and software. For example, converting images from full-color to monochromatic color—especially rust-toned palettes—and increasing the “noise” can give them an old-timey feel. I don’t know what it is, but even the most innocent of old-timey photos can run a chill up the spine if nobody’s smiling or acting out in them. Snap a photograph of a child wearing a simple mask and a cape, run it through these filters until it looks like an 1800s tintype, and voila (I mean, “muwahahahahaha”), operation spooky is a success!