Halloween Photography Tips

Halloween Photography Tips

With Halloween just around the corner I thought it was time to update our Halloween Photography Tips article with some new information and photos.

Halloween Photography Tips

There are plenty of subjects around to photograph at Halloween ranging from the traditional jack-o-lantern through to people in costume, to trick or treat ‘treats’ and more. It’s a time of color, emotion and lots of interesting subjects.

The keys to great Halloween Photography are not that different from the normal keys of good composition in photography so as you photograph Halloween this year keep in mind the basics. I’ve selected the following tutorials that we’ve written before that should be helpful in your Halloween photography:

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Find Points of Interest

Before hitting the shutter ask yourself ‘what is the focal point (or point of interest) in this image?’ All good images have something in them that holds the attention of those who view them – learn more about focal points and how to enhance them here.

Rule of Thirds

One way of enhancing the composition of your shots is to place your points of interest inn smart positions. While the rule of thirds can be broken with great effect it’s a useful principle to keep in mind.

Fill Your Frame

Halloween is a time of drama and you can add to this in your images by getting in nice and close and filling the frame with your subjects. Whether it’s people or objects – getting in nice and tight will usually add punch to your shots.

Give Subjects Space to Look into

When photographing people one of the most effective compositional techniques is to use the space around their faces effectively by giving more room on the side of their face that they’re looking into.

Find Fresh Angles

I suspect that the day after Halloween that photo sharing websites will be filled with images of pumpkins that all look much the same. Make your images stand out by finding fresh perspectives to shoot from.

Photograph the Details

It’s easy to be distracted by the flashy parts of a time like Halloween but it’s often when you step back, take a look around and notice the smaller details that you find the ‘money shots’. Times like Halloween are filled with all kinds of smaller details and photo worthy moments including decorations, carving the pumpkin, people getting dressed in costumes, sleeping kids at the end of parties, bags full of treats at the end of the night, the ‘fangs’ in Aunt Marie’s mouth, before and after shots of parties, close ups of food etc

Group Photos

Halloween is a time that people gather together and it’s an ideal time to practice your group photo techniques.

Image by John Althouse Cohen

Candid Photography

Halloween parties are a great time to get your camera out for some candid photos of your friends and family having a great time dressed up in all manner of costumes. Check out these 11 candid photography techniques.

Shooting in Low Light

The type of images that come to mind when I think of Halloween are fairly dark and spooky ones – candles in pumpkins etc. After all, the real action of Halloween seems to happen after dark. As a result you’ll want to think carefully about the light sources for your shots.

To really capture the mood of these situations you’ll want to avoid the stark and bright light of flash photography (or will want to at least pull it back a few stops and diffuse it) and so you’ll need to switch off your flash and do one (or all) of three things to some extent (this is from our exposure triangle series of posts):

  • increase your ISO – the larger your number the more sensitive your image sensor is to light and the darker conditions you can shoot in without having to slow down shutter speed. On the downside you’ll get more grainy/noisey shots.
  • slow down shutter speed – choosing a longer shutter speed lets more light into your camera. On the downside you’ll see any movement in your shots blur (which might add to the spookiness of the image but could also ruin it). Consider using a tripod if you lengthen your shutter speed.
  • use a larger Aperture – this widens the hole in your lens and lets more available light in. It will also lessen the depth of field in your shots. If you have a DSLR with a few different lenses is to use the ‘fastest’ lens you own as it will let you choose larger apertures. For example my f1.4 lens handles low light much better than my f4 lens.

Diffuse Your Flash

Another strategy that I’ve heard of some readers doing at this time of year is diffusing the flash on your camera with colored cellophane to try to lesson its impact upon your shot and also to give the light it produces a glow that might add to your shots – Red might be a good color to try. You’ll probably want to test this before the big night as getting the right density of diffuser will be critical.


Photographing Jack-o-Lanterns is particularly tricky as to get the full effect of the glowing inside the pumpkin is a bit of a tightrope walk between overexposing and underexposing due to the light and dark patches in the shot you take. Instead of just one candle inside it is probably worth using two or three to give a little extra light. Also take a number of shots at different exposures (exposure bracketing) and you should get one or two that give you the impact you’re after.

PS: here’s one more shot from one of our forum members who has submitted some amazing pumpkin carving photographs here:

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Subhash Puri November 3, 2012 12:13 am

    Lovely article and many thanks for sharing. I am from India where we have almost no knowledge about Halloween. This is the first time I am in Irvine, CA during this festival. It is amazing to see the different types of Halloween dresses and it's folks. What a great part the Pumpkin's play! For the first time I am seeing such huge yellow pumpkins and so many varieties and such huge gardens. It is incredible. I will be taking with me a whole lot of memories of Halloween snaps.

  • Valerie November 1, 2012 12:52 am

    Great article! I featured it on my blog post today http://valbydesign.com/halloween-photography-tips/
    Thank you so much!!!

  • amir paz October 27, 2012 02:52 am

    The jewish holiday when all kids get all dressed up in diffrent costumes is called "Purim"

    No trick or treating :) but lots of fun and great costumes

    here are some of my best costume pics:

    My daughter as a character from the avatar movie :)


    my son playing the part :)


    even our lovely dogs got all dressed up :)


    and finaly a fun family portrait:


    Happy Halloween everybody, enjoy the holiday and have fun :)


  • DJR October 26, 2012 12:32 pm

    I follow the grandkids around trick or treating but in the dark there is no quick or even auto focusing and my pics are often a blur. Help!

  • http://myroundarearugs.com October 26, 2012 09:26 am

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  • Jeff E Jensen October 22, 2012 06:58 am

    I had the opportunity to shoot some zombies last night. Can't wait to try a few things with some pumpkins. . . .


  • Barry E. Warren October 22, 2012 01:52 am

    I don't get any trick or treaters, I live out in the country were no one would walk my 1/2 mile lane. They do in the small town 8 miles away where there are many places fixed up for Halloween.

  • Julia Agnes October 5, 2012 07:26 pm

    Awesome tips! Thanks a lot for sharing ))) This year I'll make the coolest photo!

  • alannadawson April 19, 2012 08:09 pm

    loving the cow costum lol

  • James April 19, 2012 10:00 am

    These are some great tips. I use a lot of them each year when taking my own Halloween photos.

  • Anastasiya November 2, 2011 03:23 am

    Happy Halloween everybody!!!!
    the pictures are amazing! Johnny Ayala - very cool photos!!! Josh Oakes - where did you find so many pumpkins?

    here are some shots of my 1st Jack-o-Lantern


    Hope you will like them!

  • ccting October 28, 2011 10:37 am

    That's really scary for children... LOL..

  • Nathan Morgan October 28, 2011 05:35 am

    Fun tips, and GREAT time to get the camera out! Families and pro's.

    THREE really important things to add:
    -Tell the story!
    ....shoot the emotion, the reaction, and the running (2nd curtain shutter release)
    -Compliment the Light Color
    ...use a gel, I recommend 1/2 stop CTO (light orange) w/ omni bounce so that your flashed image doesn't look too blue
    -Enhance the light by using your light from the same direction
    ...keep your flash off camera by using a TTL cord and keeping it close to the real source of light ie -street lamp, house lamp, flash light, jack-o-lantern etc

    Happy Shooting!

    Nathan Morgan Photography
    Follow Los Angeles Photojournalist @nathanmorgan
    Video Interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVBlCcwyYJo

  • kelly August 15, 2011 05:24 am

    I was looking for something completely different,got your page Halloween Photography Tips and found it Interesting.Nice Post on haloween costumes...

  • click here for find more info free December 11, 2010 07:14 pm

    What a great Halloween collection, here many peoples are I can see with amazing Halloween clothes, I really glade t used this post, so thanks for everyone for amazing sharing.

  • Khkrn November 8, 2010 11:13 am

    I shot this picture of my friend in her cow costume, and our host's dog. It wasn't until I looked at it later that I realized how funny the dog looked...
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/khk_photos/5111102715/' title='IMG_9953' url='http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1377/5111102715_c5b78fd62c_z.jpg']

  • Johnny Ayala November 3, 2010 02:41 am


  • Johnny Ayala November 3, 2010 02:40 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnyseye/5071040180/' title='The infected' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4145/5071040180_734dfa6da4_z.jpg']

  • JesseAdams November 1, 2010 08:25 am

    Here is my unfortunate pumpkin who lost his life this Halloween :(


  • JesseAdams November 1, 2010 04:17 am

    This year I decided not to dress up and just photoshop myself into a costume!


  • Gus October 31, 2010 01:06 pm

    I used my 50mm for this one but I'm not 100% happy with it. Any tips?

  • Josh Oakes October 31, 2010 09:54 am

    Check out this nice wide angle shot!
    [eimg url='http://twi.im/view/wide-pumpkins.png' title='wide-pumpkins.png']

  • Josh Oakes October 30, 2010 05:32 pm

    Check out this great wide shot![eimg url='http://twi.im/view/pumpkins.png' title='pumpkins.png']

  • Gabor October 30, 2010 10:03 am

    Looks like Haloween is just another reason why everyone should have a fast normal lens (35, 50 f1.8 or similar). ;)

  • mikki wildstarr October 29, 2010 11:50 am

    Thank you for the work and instruction you give. There are always new things to learn and affirmation of what one already knows. It's nice to know that ones' idea co-insides with a professional and is on the right track. I just love reading your articles and seeing the photo examples. I am so sure that there are others out there beside me who can learn a lot from your experiences. Thanks again!

  • Essex Photographer October 29, 2010 08:40 am

    Some really great pictures and tips. I'm going to try those tips out next weekend.

  • trailsnet October 29, 2010 04:42 am

    Halloween is my favorite holiday and now, thanks to Darren, I'll be able to capture it better w/ my camera. Thanks Darren.

  • amir paz October 29, 2010 03:18 am

    use the 50mm f1.8 lens

    the results will be amazing :



    more importantly, just have fun:



  • Pepa October 29, 2010 02:35 am

    A friend of mine sent me your website to learn more about photography. This is my first email from you and I have learned a lot. I want to thank you for doing this for all of us who love photography so we could do better. Be blessed!

  • Bryan Green October 28, 2010 03:33 pm

    @Benji - Awesome work, those are killer shots and very creative!

    @Mcguireuk - Love the idea, it's great the preggo mother went along with the idea!

    I'm amazed at the level of detail on those pumpkin carvings, I can barely cut out triangle eyeballs and these folks are creating masterpieces.. What gives?! lol Thanks! Wedding Photographers in Sacramento

  • McGuireuk October 26, 2010 06:46 am

    Here's one I took at the weekend... Different take on maternity shot.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/18207466@N02/5108574018/' title='Trick or Treat' url='http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1161/5108574018_6dcbdbcc9b_z.jpg']

  • Benji October 26, 2010 02:37 am

    Well here my Halloween shots..

    Album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a1eatoire/sets/72157625113197145/

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/a1eatoire/5109600313/' title='Forrest Gump Zombie Style!' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4129/5109600313_1ae6616816.jpg']

  • Laura Brisbane May 25, 2010 10:16 am

    i like the flikr photo and the photo with the old man pumpkin. they are clever. please keep writing this blog it is very interestring thank you.

  • Laura Annerley May 11, 2010 11:33 am

    These are SO cool! I'd love to go over to the US for Halloween sometime, we just don't go out for it here in Australia.

    Keep blogging, thanks!

  • DenzelWO November 2, 2009 11:34 am

    Hello there, Happy late halowen(:

  • Kenneth Hinzman October 30, 2009 02:06 pm

    OK. It doesn't look like it worked with Shutterfly, so I uploaded the pic to Flikr. [img]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3479/4057609094_7d38282091_m.jpg[/img]

  • Kenneth Hinzman October 30, 2009 12:39 pm

    I thought I would give a try to following your tip for embedding my image into my comments.

    I took this pic at the Detroit Zoo Boo. It was on a dimly lit walking trail. I put my Nikon D90 camera with kit lens on a fencepost and let the camera do the work. The people walking by left a ghostly trail.

    [img] http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9ce07b3127ccef820b5215df800000030O00BbsXDJm1csge3nwU/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D315/ry%3D315/[/img]

  • howard October 26, 2009 12:58 pm

    I would love to see a "better selection techniques" for photoshop.

  • Diana October 26, 2009 11:17 am

    I love the Halloween pictures. Thanks for the tips. I am going to try them this year and maybe my pictures will look better.

  • Anthony Murkar October 23, 2009 03:14 am

    Wow! =O That carving at the end is amazing =D

  • Richard Findlay October 23, 2009 02:24 am

    i took the shot below last year and purposely cranked the ISO to 1250 to add a more grainer picture, giving it a feel for a much older shot. I wish i had gone to 1600. I think with scarier costumes, the grain can add a feel of erieness to the pic.


  • Jason Collin Photography October 22, 2009 12:47 am

    I like the colored cellophane tip. I will definitely try that one out.

  • Ben October 20, 2009 06:49 am

    I remember reading this post last year, and thinking it was cool.

    This year....

    Still very cool!

  • marc October 20, 2009 06:46 am

    Hi, and timely posting. Another one that is cool is to make yourself, friends, and family into "ghosts" by doing longer exposures of a group shot and then having everyone walk out of the image, leaving their ghosts.

  • sbunting108 October 20, 2009 06:24 am

    Great tips bookmarked this post to refer to in the future. Hopelly I will be fully be prepared for Halloween.

  • all politics aside July 19, 2009 10:09 pm

    For everyone that takes pictures on Halloween differently than they do any other day of the year.

  • Soy Candles April 7, 2009 10:29 am

    Don't forget the candles. Candle light can be used to create anything from a romantic look to a chilling halloween look. Try the classic candle below the mask look. For a truly scary seen put candles in a circle and a couple below out of camera site, under the subject. Put the camera on a tripod and and expose 1 stop below what the camera meter says. The candles will look like they are floating and decent mask will look all too real.

  • Harry Bradshaw February 15, 2009 08:09 pm

    I do not yet have a web, but seeking that with short lesson plan, Myself 58 male redundant CICTL3 in NZ doing first daughters wedding photo. yes tested $2.50 Bunning cheap batteries now power, Rehersal 17 Feb 2009 wedding 20-2-09 THIS WEEK URGENT. . Urgent request reply harrynetnz@inbox.com. Printed 8-9 files on Digital camera school/com wanted other tutorials Ph 07 8247724
    Particularly moving shots as they walk in, similarly downloading to PC or printer MFC 260C Brother, future use in web, and saving in flickr.com photobucket gmail etc. i have special rare image I want protected as my own.please advise fast sincerely harry

  • Garry October 31, 2008 11:39 am

    Halloween has taken off here in Cairns, Australia, over the last couple of years, so tonight my wife has the sweets ready and I will have my camera ready. Thanks for the tips.

  • Mary Pope-Handy October 30, 2008 09:20 am

    Fantastic photo tips for the spookiest time of the year - love 'em! I'm bookmarking this page. Many thanks and have a great halloween.

  • *sTaRDuMb* October 24, 2008 10:43 am

    wow i can barely make a smile on those stupid pumpkins that's pretty sweet. thanks for the tips!!! :)

  • Stephanie October 24, 2008 07:16 am

    I once read a tip in a magazine that I've used for several years now. Cover a flashlight with wax paper and secure with a rubberband. Have the subject hold the flashlight next to his/her body (pointing up at the face) at about waist level. Turn off your flash and use a tripod for best results. It gives a great look to "spooky" costumes. You can move the flashlight closer to the face for different results. I really like the final results!

  • aLiTa October 24, 2008 06:02 am

    WOW - wicked carving skills!

  • Seattle Wedding Photographers October 22, 2008 03:44 am

    Thanks for the great tips.

  • Sunnyman October 21, 2008 10:43 pm

    That pumpkin sculpture sure was incredible!
    Putting so much work into that perishable material... at least it's been documented now in a well-made photograph. :)

  • Deirdre October 21, 2008 10:30 am

    For jack-o-lanterns, I read a tip a few years ago to place candles behind the pumpkins as well as inside them when taking photos, and it's worked for me. I have to play with positioning a bit, but I like the glow it gives the outside of the pumpkins.

    I wish I could give credit to whomever I got the tip from, but I can't remember.

  • sangeeth October 21, 2008 06:09 am

    wow! what cool pics...I made few Halloween crafts and recipes for the party but never could have taken these great pics! Lovely tips...!

  • Bridget October 21, 2008 03:44 am

    I can't wait!

    Thanks for the post - got my notes and luckily I'll be able to practice at World Zombie Day in London this Sunday first, so by Halloween my pics will be perfect!

  • Rick October 21, 2008 03:35 am

    Lots of good ideas here. I came across a new style of diffuser by a gent named Gary Fong that I thought I'd try on some ghost and goblin photos this year. Very good article!


  • Kevin October 31, 2007 01:40 am

    If you shoot with high-ISO or in low-light conditions, and as a result get some grain or "noise" in your pictures, I've found it helpful to reduce the noise with tools like Nik Software's Dfine Pro or Noise Ninja. The new Dfine is pretty cool and there is a free trial version too. www.niksoftware.com/dfine.

    Cheers, Kevin

  • Soundmonster October 30, 2007 05:57 pm

    Considering the low-light tips: some of DSLR-Bodys (Pentax, Sony, Samsung, Olympus) and lenses (Canon, Nikon, etc.) provide so called shake reduction, aka stabilization. This systems, if available, may also contribute to a better low-light shooting.


  • Advise-Art October 30, 2007 08:02 am

    halloween .... ho guys in Geneva we dont celebrate that !!!
    Here we have " la fête de l'escalade " ! ! !

  • Cool Chat October 30, 2007 05:31 am

    One thing you may want to consider is that pictireus don't have to be taken at face value or rather at the height of the face, try different perspectives, don't always focus the shot on the center of the object you want focused on (it's too conventional).

  • reddeiah October 30, 2007 05:17 am

    Hey its nice yaar..photoesre very nice

  • MyGoodFinds October 24, 2007 09:34 am

    I am trying to keep up with posting photos. At least I updated Fall colors. I celebrate Halloween in two ways, as an American and Filipino. Entirely different ways but I like to do so because it's a break from the monotony. I like different cultures and I hope to travel alot someday. Maybe when I do well in making money in blogging huh? :)

    Check out the photos if you would so grace me your time. I'm just a newbie photographer but I try.

  • Josh October 22, 2007 02:19 pm

    Nor is it celebrated in Australia, but the local retailers are trying their best to get it added to the holiday roster.

  • Jollence October 19, 2007 11:26 am

    unfortunately Halloween is not celebrated in Malaysia.

  • Naturespixel October 19, 2007 01:07 am

    The use of Vellum Paper inside of the lit pumpkin works as a beautiful light diffuser ^.^ (keep it away from the flame tho ;) )