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Halloween is the time of year designated for being anything we want to be. We can be an ironic Ken Bone, a zombie bride, our favorite superhero, and, undoubtedly, someone will be a Minion. This ephemeral moment deserves to be captured by photographers the world round. Whether we’re trying to take a timelessly terrifying portrait or a group shot at a party that’s a cultural snapshot of the zeitgeist, Halloween can be one of the most interesting times of year to shoot.

Don’t be afraid of monsters

In order to get that quintessential Halloween portrait, you’re not going to be able to be shy. Sure, some of your friends probably have great Halloween costumes, but you’ll need to make some new friends to get the shots you really want. Don’t be shy when you’re walking down the street or at a party. Remember: people didn’t spend that much time dressing up to not have their photo taken.

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Don’t be afraid of the dark

Or, rather, bring the right light with you. Halloween is best in the dark, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to light it up. You probably don’t want to totally douse the scene in light with a big flash, so instead consider bringing a Westcott Ice Light 2 (my favorite) with you. This LED powered stick (which can conveniently also be used as a light saber) can give you some dramatic side-lighting in a compact form. It’s battery powered too! Don’t be afraid to try a photo shoot somewhere unconventional too. A field, alley way, or empty city street might give you that creepy shot you’re looking for.

If you’re not going to bring a light with you, don’t forget low light basics:

  • Up the ISO to capture more light at the risk of shooting grainy shots.
  • Open up that aperture (and take advantage of shallow depth of field)
  • Take advantage of a longer shutter speed for brighter shots. Oh, and also…

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Get ghostly

Speaking of long shutter speeds, you can create your own ghosts with a shutter speed longer than 10sec or so. To do this, pick the perfect backdrop and then make sure your subject is only in the frame for part of the shot. This is a popular technique used to “erase” people from city shots, but can also be used to ghastly effect. If you’re worried about shooting somewhere with too much light, don’t hesitate to grab a neutral density filter. They make the dark darker so you can shoot at longer shutter speeds.

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Be prepared with the right lens

And, lastly and as always, make sure that you have the right lens. Will you be shooting portraits mostly? Then I recommend a Canon EF 85mm for incredible low light, dramatic, and sharp shots. Halloween is also a great time to whip out that fisheye lens you rarely use. The distortion can give you some creepy, in-your-face effects. Are you planning on shooting the party from afar? The Canon EF 16-35mm is wide enough to let you capture the entire, haunting scene.

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Good luck out there this Halloween!

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