How to Photograph Zombies - Digital Photography School

How to Photograph Zombies

Zombiethierryehrmann

Halloween is my favorite holiday and one of the best bits is the undead. Zombies aren’t confined to Halloween but their Fall migration, called Zombie Walks, begin around September and numbers increase drastically until October 31st. Help track the spread of walking undead this season with some great photos!

Getting the Pose

Like any subject, your photos will improve tremendously if you get the right pose. In this case, that means getting shots that reinforce the idea of a zombie. In other words, the poses should reflect the walking dead. Bodies that are slumped, heads at odd angles, vacant stares, and feral snarls are the hallmarks of a zombie.

If your subject can’t relax and act like the dead thing he is, ask him to imagine that the only thing holding him up are marionette strings between his shoulders and at his wrists. If his eyes haven’t lost all color and turned milky white yet, have him roll his eyes upward so you can only see the whites of his eyes in the photo.

Zombierandysalgado

See Things in the Right Light

Think about every horror movie you’ve ever seen. The creatures wouldn’t be nearly as scary without the dim lighting, lots of shadows, and the generally dirty feel of the film. Don’t look for soft even light when photographing zombies.

Harsh directional lighting and high contrast brings out the shape of sunken cheeks and will add shadows. Also consider underexposing your shot by a 1/2 stop or full stop to add a more dangerous feel to your images in further intensify angles/shadows. If you are adding flash to your photo, either use off camera flash or turn your camera upside down and bounce the flash from the ground to light the zombie from below to add extra creepiness to the shot. A piece of white poster paper can be rolled up for easy transport and makes a great reflector for ground bounce flash. Swapping to black and white or sepia is also an excellent choice to help bring out details.

Nitty Gritty Photos

Zombies aren’t pretty and they aren’t nice. This is not the time to be looking for beauty shots. Grain and noise are a good thing with zombie photos. The distressed look of the film will add to the dangerous and distressing nature of your subject in the photo.

If you are shooting at night, go ahead and up your film speed. The added grain/noise will actually add to the atmosphere of the image. If you are shooting in the daytime you can still up your film speed to add noise. You’ll just need to increase your shutter speed to make up for the additional light or add a neutral density filter to your lens. You can also add noise/grain when you edit your photos if you prefer.

Zombieclauderobillard

Look Out Behind…the Zombies

Pay attention to what is behind your zombie subject(s). The vast majority of zombie migrations take place in urban settings so chain link fences, cars, and even garbage cans are fine in the background of zombie photos. However, one uninfected person smiling cluelessly in the background can completely throw off the feel of your zombie pic. Wait a moment or two until the zombies notice the prey in their midst and then capture the feeding frenzy.

Find Your Angle

Photographing zombies is one time that the straight horizons rule can be easily discarded. A tilted frame can help translate the lurching motion of a zombie in your photographs. Which direction you tilt the frame depends on how much the zombie is leaning and how much background is visible around the zombie. If you are filling the frame with your subject tilt against the lurch. If plenty of background is visible tilt with the subject angle. If you are unsure which angle to use, remember that when you are shooting over your shoulder while running from the horde you should get plenty of varying angles to choose from later.??Shooting upwards also puts the zombies in control visually in your photos because it makes the viewer feel like they are looking up. So don’t just give up when the zombies surround you, keep shooting until the last moment. You can take comfort in knowing that whomever finds your camera later will be surprised with a great final shot of the zombies closing in over you.

Zombiemunirhamdan

Liz Masoner is a long time photographer based in Alabama with experience ranging from freelance to photojournalist. She is widely published online and in print, including 5 years developing the photography content for About.com. Liz is a co-founder of the Phorum Photographic community and also maintains a personal blog chronicling her adventures and misadventures from behind the lens.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above.

Become a Contributor: Check out Write for DPS page for details about how YOU can share your photography tips with the DPS community.

  • Barb

    Now off to go find some Zombies to photograph!

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    And the first thing I thought was where do you get zombies? Halloween is not celebrated in my part but I caught on the idea soon.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • http://www.ksphotography.smugmug.com Kim

    Man I wish this came out before the zombie walk in Asbury park. Very informative!!
    . Would love to know what everyone thinks of my photos of the event. I’m always looking to improve on my photography skills and would love to know opinions on what I could do better on next time. Thanks’

  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    Why photograph zombies when I can photograph my wife when she wakes up? If ANYONE tells here what I just said I am going to get really peeved. :)

    Warning. It ain’t pretty.

    http://portraitinspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Portrait-Inspiration-Hector-Lopez-4.jpeg

  • Geoff_K

    Thanks for tips. I just may try a zombie shoot.

  • Paul Keske

    Great article – can’t wait to get out there and try these tips.

  • http://www.marcusdavisphotography.com Marcus Davis

    Very interesting article. Finding that many people who take the makeup so seriously would definitely be worth photographing.

    Also, I think someone may need to photograph a couch for Jai Catalano to sleep on in case his wife reads this article. lol

    Marcus

  • http://www.dannadams.com Dann Adams

    I agree with Marcus, with the work and love these folks put into the make-up and such – it would be a blast to shoot. Great article. Keep ‘em coming.

  • Joseph

    I shoot the Westmonster Maryland Zombie Walk every year. l already knew how to shoot them but this article was still pretty cool to read.

  • Joseph

    I shoot the Westminster Zombie Walk in Westminster, Maryland every year and I thought this was pretty cool. I already knew about how to get angles and what not but it was still niffy to see this when I opened the email today :)

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westmonster-Zombie-Walk/104696959565641?fref=ts

  • http://www.flickr.com/roseinthedark Rachele

    Great article, thank you!

    I have always feared zombies – yep, silly but true :) Anyway, passion for photography was stronger than fear, and here it is the result of my first Zombie Walk ever : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4662530800453.191537.1208967516&type=3. A great chance for any photographers, really.

  • http://www.kennethphotography.com Kenneth Chan

    Haha, awesome. Great tips! Reminds me of a fun monster-themed tutorial video from Samsung on “How to Take Better Pictures”

  • http://www.freestylephotographyweb.com jess h

    I have a shoot with.zombies and victims coming up in 2 weeks and this helped a lot. Have to practice on my toddlers in the backyard. :-)

  • Carrie

    This is fantastic – saw the link on Facebook and had to click! Lots of solid tips with a catchy (and popular) subject. Fun read, thank you!

  • http://dollarpatch.com Shelley Elmblad

    I love the way this is written, it gives a lot of great tips and it’s humorous. I can tell that Liz is a truly dedicated photographer when she recommends snapping photos to the end, even as the zombies close in over you. Anything to get the right shot!

  • Scottc

    Sounds quite a lot like photographing Fasching in Germany!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5461272475/

  • http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com Jeff E Jensen

    Fun stuff! I can’t wait for this year’s zombie crawl!

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2010/10/zombies.html

  • Justin

    There’s a big Zombie Walk in Cape Town, South Africa on the 27th October 2012. https://www.facebook.com/events/269515323149643/?fref=ts

  • http://www.globeglimpser.com Azhar Khan

    If I saw real Zombies, I would not shoot them with a camera…

  • http://www.photosbykag.com K.A. Gilligan

    Love this! Thanks!

  • David Dinger
  • http://weddingphotographerdevon.wordpress.com/ PaulB

    Very seasonal with Halloween just around the corner – scary stuff. Like the tonal range in some of those shots.

  • http://www.pittsburghposter.com John Provich

    Hello,

    We are in need of full body “live makeup” Zombie Hi-Res Photographs for something exciting we are working on. Do you have anything available, or can you point me in a direction to someone who might have Live full length Zombie Photos available?

    We are Grand Format printers and have begun manufacturing GloFlex 3-D PolyPanels for the Haunted Attraction Industry. Get to our website http://www.pittsburghposter.com and navigate to “Haunted Attractions” on our Home Page.

    If you have what we are looking for, you may find your Zombie photo image featured in our exhibit at the TransWorld Haunt Convention in St. Louis in March. Time is of the essence.

    Best regards,

    John

Some older comments

  • John Provich

    January 13, 2013 08:17 am

    Hello,

    We are in need of full body "live makeup" Zombie Hi-Res Photographs for something exciting we are working on. Do you have anything available, or can you point me in a direction to someone who might have Live full length Zombie Photos available?

    We are Grand Format printers and have begun manufacturing GloFlex 3-D PolyPanels for the Haunted Attraction Industry. Get to our website www.pittsburghposter.com and navigate to "Haunted Attractions" on our Home Page.

    If you have what we are looking for, you may find your Zombie photo image featured in our exhibit at the TransWorld Haunt Convention in St. Louis in March. Time is of the essence.

    Best regards,

    John

  • PaulB

    October 22, 2012 03:42 am

    Very seasonal with Halloween just around the corner - scary stuff. Like the tonal range in some of those shots.

  • David Dinger

    October 21, 2012 03:28 pm

    Here are some of my zombie shots :)
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101409744717188.3006966.10735423&type=1&l=7068565e59
    and
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101407967309128.3006522.10735423&type=1&l=c1b3acc2c0

  • K.A. Gilligan

    October 14, 2012 11:17 pm

    Love this! Thanks!

  • Azhar Khan

    October 13, 2012 10:40 pm

    If I saw real Zombies, I would not shoot them with a camera...

  • Justin

    October 12, 2012 10:48 pm

    There's a big Zombie Walk in Cape Town, South Africa on the 27th October 2012. https://www.facebook.com/events/269515323149643/?fref=ts

  • Jeff E Jensen

    October 12, 2012 03:43 pm

    Fun stuff! I can't wait for this year's zombie crawl!

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2010/10/zombies.html

  • Scottc

    October 12, 2012 10:01 am

    Sounds quite a lot like photographing Fasching in Germany!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5461272475/

  • Shelley Elmblad

    October 12, 2012 08:04 am

    I love the way this is written, it gives a lot of great tips and it's humorous. I can tell that Liz is a truly dedicated photographer when she recommends snapping photos to the end, even as the zombies close in over you. Anything to get the right shot!

  • Carrie

    October 12, 2012 07:53 am

    This is fantastic - saw the link on Facebook and had to click! Lots of solid tips with a catchy (and popular) subject. Fun read, thank you!

  • jess h

    October 12, 2012 07:42 am

    I have a shoot with.zombies and victims coming up in 2 weeks and this helped a lot. Have to practice on my toddlers in the backyard. :-)

  • Kenneth Chan

    October 12, 2012 07:04 am

    Haha, awesome. Great tips! Reminds me of a fun monster-themed tutorial video from Samsung on "How to Take Better Pictures"

  • Rachele

    October 12, 2012 06:17 am

    Great article, thank you!

    I have always feared zombies - yep, silly but true :) Anyway, passion for photography was stronger than fear, and here it is the result of my first Zombie Walk ever : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4662530800453.191537.1208967516&type=3. A great chance for any photographers, really.

  • Joseph

    October 12, 2012 06:09 am

    I shoot the Westminster Zombie Walk in Westminster, Maryland every year and I thought this was pretty cool. I already knew about how to get angles and what not but it was still niffy to see this when I opened the email today :)

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westmonster-Zombie-Walk/104696959565641?fref=ts

  • Joseph

    October 12, 2012 06:06 am

    I shoot the Westmonster Maryland Zombie Walk every year. l already knew how to shoot them but this article was still pretty cool to read.

  • Dann Adams

    October 12, 2012 05:32 am

    I agree with Marcus, with the work and love these folks put into the make-up and such - it would be a blast to shoot. Great article. Keep 'em coming.

  • Marcus Davis

    October 12, 2012 05:04 am

    Very interesting article. Finding that many people who take the makeup so seriously would definitely be worth photographing.

    Also, I think someone may need to photograph a couch for Jai Catalano to sleep on in case his wife reads this article. lol

    Marcus

  • Paul Keske

    October 12, 2012 04:41 am

    Great article - can't wait to get out there and try these tips.

  • Geoff_K

    October 12, 2012 04:24 am

    Thanks for tips. I just may try a zombie shoot.

  • Jai Catalano

    October 12, 2012 03:57 am

    Why photograph zombies when I can photograph my wife when she wakes up? If ANYONE tells here what I just said I am going to get really peeved. :)

    Warning. It ain't pretty.

    http://portraitinspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Portrait-Inspiration-Hector-Lopez-4.jpeg

  • Kim

    October 12, 2012 03:28 am

    Man I wish this came out before the zombie walk in Asbury park. Very informative!!
    . Would love to know what everyone thinks of my photos of the event. I'm always looking to improve on my photography skills and would love to know opinions on what I could do better on next time. Thanks'

  • Mridula

    October 12, 2012 03:22 am

    And the first thing I thought was where do you get zombies? Halloween is not celebrated in my part but I caught on the idea soon.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Barb

    October 12, 2012 02:31 am

    Now off to go find some Zombies to photograph!

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed