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5 Tips for Creating Creepy Halloween Photos

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For some people that is Christmas, but for other’s it means that it’s time for the goblins and ghosts and all of the scary creatures to come out of hiding and find their way into our everyday lives. Theme parks have Halloween themed nights, scary movies are on television, haunted house tours start having people waiting in line and of course, it’s time for photographers to break out of their everyday subjects and come up with something dark and sinister to shoot.

Here are some tips to help you when you are  preparing to shoot some creepy Halloween photos.


The fear of clowns is called Coulrophobia.

#1  Pick a theme

When you choose your theme make sure it is one that you know that you can do without scaring yourself. If you have a fear of something, picking that as your theme may not be the best idea. Just because the theme is for Halloween does not mean that you need to bring zombies or blood into the shoot if you do not want to. Your theme could encompass some of the phobias that people have, including clowns, spiders, cemeteries, dolls, or death.

You can make your theme as twisted and as dark as you feel comfortable doing. Remember that there are more themes out there than just clowns, ghosts, and witches. You might even use the photoshoot as a way to get over the things that scare you. Your fears of clowns might be a little more alleviated if you are helping a clown with their costume and makeup and then watching them use their iPhone during breaks.

#2  Scout your location


The fear of the dead is called Necrophobia and the fear of bones is Cartilogenophobia.

Find a spot that is in the woods (if you can) so that you can shoot without being disturbed. You can also do a photo-shoot in a cemetery, but remember that most cemeteries close at dusk and please be respectful of the gravesites. While you may not know the people, that is the final resting place of someone’s loved one. Don’t climb on the headstones as some are very fragile. Wherever you decide to shoot make sure you leave the place as you found it. If the perfect location is on private property, ask for permission to use it. Stay off train tracks (that’s dangerous and illegal in most states). If shooting in a cemetery, be mindful that on the day you decide to shoot that there might be people there for a funeral. Move away from them and be respectful of their grief and what they are going through that day. If you are shooting in a park or in the woods and are approached by people, explain what you are doing. Some people will ask for your business card so they can look for the images online.

# 3 Will you need costumes or props?

You need to figure out (based on your theme) if you will need to find costumes that are already made or create costumes yourself.  The best costumes are usually the ones you make. Take elements of your idea and figure out what parts of it you can create yourself. Then the costume is customized and won’t resemble anyone else’s work. You can also add props to really create your look and pull it together.

Sometimes your models for your shoots will have pieces that will work and you can add jewelry or scary elements. You can find fake blood or for some photo-shoots you can even call your local butcher shop and they may be willing to help you out with some real props. They won’t be as surprised as you might think if you tell them you are a photographer and you need a pig heart for a photoshoot. You might be the one surprised when they ask “Do you want the heart with the valves attached or not?”.


The fear of blood is called Hemaphobia.

#4  Find Your Models

Most photographers have at least a handful of models that they call for photoshoots. Ask your models if they are interested in doing something different from their regular sessions. If you are using children, make sure that their parents understand how the shoot might be scary. When they arrive talk to them about what you are doing and make it fun for them. They are less likely to be frightened once they see any masks or props before they are used. Give your models breaks if they are wearing masks. They can get hot no matter what time of year it is and some vintage masks have a very rubbery smell to them. Let children handle the props being used before you even pick up your camera so that they are familiar with them. You can even show them how you want them to be held and what you are wanting to get from the images. Some children actually enjoy scary stuff and will be more than happy to jump in. Some might need a little more guidance and support from you, so make sure you are paying attention to them.

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The fear of dolls is called Pediophobia.

#5 Think Outside of the Box

Witches, ghosts and other Halloween ideas might not be your cup of tea because they are always associated with Halloween. Start thinking of things that fall outside of the typical Halloween realm. In the Halloween movies you were scared of Michael Myers because you could not see his face (and for other reasons too, but you had no idea what lurked under that Shatner mask.). Find some scary masks at a costume shop or online. Look for a gas mask, Plague Doctor, or clown mask. You can even use your own imagination and modify them to make them even scarier. When you can’t tell the identity of the person under the mask there is mystery and a little fear too. Don’t be afraid to create your own props or take old dolls or masks and modify them for your photoshoot.

The wonderful thing about doing these types of shoots is that you don’t just have to do them close to Halloween. You can work on your ideas at any point through the year and accumulate the props, masks, costumes, or whatever you need and build up to the shoot. You can scout for your location to figure out where you want to do your shoot and what time of year. Exploring your creative side with Halloween photo shoots can bring a new insight into the work you do and you can have a lot of fun with these types of shoots.

Use these tips to participate in the weekly photography challenge: Spooky images for Halloween

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Lori Peterson
Lori Peterson

is an award winning photographer based out of the St. Louis Metro Area. Her dynamic work ranges from creative portraits to very unique fine art photography. Lori’s work can be seen at www.loripetersonphotography.com and also on her blog. You can follow her on Facebook.

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