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Capturing Halloween

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

So much goes on with our kids this time of year. Halloween isn't just one's many things over the course of a few weeks (or one week like we did one year...oops!). I thought I'd write a post giving examples on capturing it all using our photos from 2017.

So for your own experience you can remember a few simple things such as get close, get far, go for the details, look for expressions, and look beyond your child. Some not so simple techniques might be to consider perspective. Getting low to your child's level is ALWAYS a good idea. Get above them and shoot down on what they're doing. Place something between you to add a sense of distance. Use a low f number such as f2.8 to add blur to your background and focus in on your subject. Just watch where your focus is at for a 2.8 or the background will look nice and crisp while your kid is a blur. It's easy to miss focus using this method, so if you do just remember that the moment is more important than the focus.

Another thing to consider is your child's personality-

One of mine is expressive and loves helping me capture images while another is more quiet and prefers to not be in front of the camera. For an expressive child it's usually pretty easy, I lie in wait and stand back to just snap a photo when she's doing something silly but for a shy child sometimes it's best to stand back and try to be more sneaky. She's also usually up for anything if I ask but sometimes you need to get creative.

A shy child doesn't want to do anything when the camera is pointed their way so you can act like you're doing something else and use a zoom lens to keep your distance (I feel like a stalker writing this...). It works better in my experience and I like capturing who they are more than fighting the whole time. The outing is about them, not you so don't turn it into that. If they're up for a smiling shot, great! But if not, don't push it.

The Pumpkin Patch

We usually go to Peck's in Spring Green for this, it's inexpensive and always so much fun! You can feed the animals, ride a train, play on the playground, pick your pumpkin, and shop in the market. It makes for a great tradition.

Stick your kid in the middle of the pumpkins and get down low to help add that depth.

Expressive kid opportunity- bumpy pumpkins are gross!

Get your kids interacting or just hanging out and looking at the merchandise.

These are just a few examples that I took advantage of last year. I'm sure you'll see some photos of this year at some point on my site or Facebook page with more intention but I wanted to get this written soon and we haven't gone to Peck's yet this year.

Carving that pumpkin!

I prefer to turn the lights off and have them carve by a window for natural light. The artificial light will really mess with your white balance and act as a harsh light (kind of like full sun). Clear your background also (sometimes I don't listen to my own advice).

For the expressive kid, I ask that she do a little posing, shown in the first four images. Then I let her do her thing while I stand back and get click happy. Again, I think on what to focus on and add that blurry background.

For the quiet kid, I focus on details more than the other. She's usually happier showing me the gross seeds and not worrying about how to smile. Overthinking is hard sometimes on some kids so learn to adapt if you want decent images. Forcing them to take the exact image you want will lead to unhappy kids and unhappy kids in images aren't what I go for. If you're a parent who is more strict then decide if this is just a disobedient moment (then wait till later) or if this is an actual issue that requires a different approach. Why would you want a forced smile anyway?

Is someone helping them? Capture it! and yes, they did put a sticker on the wall without me realizing...another reason to clear the background before hand.

The final results! Incorporate décor or find something like the porch stairs to use.


Last year we went trick or treating with my youngest daughter's friend's family while the oldest went with her friends. It was also cold and she decided she no longer liked her costume (kids!) so she wore her coat. But no matter, that's how the story goes so that's what I capture. We all want just a costume shot so look for fallen leaves, a graveyard, your own décor, etc to use as a background. You can be higher than them if you wish for a more flattering look, or you can get down to their level again. Depending on what's going on, make a judgement call. It's usually best to do this in even/diffused light while outside.

For trick or treating, remember the advice from before- get close, get far, go for the details, look for expressions, and look beyond your child. Stop them once (maybe twice) for a shot you want, otherwise just pay attention while you're out and about. Get them running towards you from the house (they all do this, right?), get them walking together away from you, maybe a detail shot of the candy bag in their hands, again...look for expressions. Capture the fun.

Consider time also, the darker it gets the worse it'll be for photographing. You can use flash if you want but this is a personal no no for my taste. If you are shooting in the darker areas and you want to avoid flash then consider getting the kids under street lights (or waiting for them to get there naturally). Maybe carry a flashlight and have them do a spooky face with it once it gets a bit darker. Personally, I use manual mode and auto iso. I'll probably run my shutter at about 1/160, 1/200, or 1/320 (MAX) depending on what the kids are doing once it gets a bit darker. The faster they are, the faster your shutter needs to be. If they're moving too fast, your image will be blurry so why do I go so low? because it allows in more light. It's really a judgement call when it gets darker because your image will have more noise (or grain, like an old tv screen) in it and the slower shutter speed helps with that. Also use a smaller f stop as described before for background blur, this smaller number (again, the 2.8 or so) also allows more light in. Once it's fully dark though, unless you find a light source you will not get good images with this approach at all.

There are so many things you can do to photograph your Halloween and obviously there's much more than what's listed here. What are some other ones you can think of to share with others? Any questions, ask away!

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