Tips and Tricks for Creating Spooky Halloween Exposures
Posted by Amber Jones on
All Hallows' Eve is the perfect time of year to create eerie works of art. It's the time when all the ghosts and ghouls come out of the shadows and are celebrated with costumes, candy and hair-raising activities. Whether you want to capture the revelries or make spooky exposures, we've gathered some tips to help you out in the low light environments you'll likely be in, and cool tricks to capture the spirit of this otherworldy holiday.
General low light photography tips:
Increase your ISO:
Raising the ISO setting will make your camera sensor more sensitive to light. The more sensitive it is, the less light you'll need for proper exposure. However, if you push the ISO number up too high, you'll start to see digital noise and artifacts in your image. So, you'll need to do some experimenting to see where your camera tops out. Some smartphones have manual camera modes that allow you to adjust the ISO as well.
Use a fast lens with a large aperture:
One hell... or surefire way to make sure you get great low light shots is to use a fast lens with a large aperture. The larger aperture allows more light in and grants you access to faster shutterspeeds — ideal for moving subjects. For Canon and Nikon users, we recommend a 50mm f/1.8 or faster. (the “Nifty Fifty” Canon 50mm f 1.8 or Nikon 50mm f 1.8 would be great options) If you shoot neither of these systems, look for lenses at an aperture of f 2.8 or lower. The lower the number, the larger the aperture.
Use a Tripod
Using a tripod takes the camera shake factor out of the equation. Especially if something gives you a fright while trying to get that perfect shot. Lugging around a tripod on Halloween night might not be ideal for some, but a flexibly convenient option is the Joby GripTight Gorillapod Tripod ( for your camera or your phone). It’s great for wrapping around trees and poles when space is tight and for unique photographic perspectives. Or if you expect to have access to a flat surface, such as a table at a party, we recommend the Manfrotto Pixi Table Tripod.
Play with Lighting
This holiday is all about being dark and moody. Use a flash with caution or a diffuser if you must, as it can desaturate the color and contrast of your photos and give them a flat, deer-in-the-headlights feel. Some handy lighting props to play with are glow sticks, string lights, candles or a trusty ole' flash light. Not to mention the many colored lights and glowing jack-o-lanterns at your disposal from house to house. There is so much creative opportunity!
Fun techniques for creating sinister snaps:
The optimal time to capture jack-o-lanterns is at twilight, but if you miss the window you can always try out in-camera HDR Mode. The Panasonic GX85 is a good option if you want a compact camera that shoots highly dynamic images. Nowadays, the majority of cameras and even smart phones have in-camera HDR Mode. If yours doesn't, you can always create the effect by taking the same photo at 3 different exposures (this is called bracketing), then composite them together later using editing software. This will give your photos a higher dynamic range and surreal punch of saturation.
Silhouettes and Shadows
Add some drama by focusing on shadows and silhouettes, rather than illuminating the subject. This can produce some pretty ominous results and introduce narrative elements to your images. Get your creep on and try it out!
Double, Double Toil and Trouble. Double exposure is the act of superimposing two images together into one. Some camera systems like Fujifilm, come with a built-in double exposure feature where you capture a photo, then position a second photo under it live in the viewfinder before snapping. So the guesswork photographers have dealt with for generations is gone and you can easily create the perfect composition. If your camera does not support this feature, you can always create this effect in photoshop or similar editing software.
Shooting a long exposure is an easy way to conjure up some spirits in your photograph, no Photoshop required.
Dark scenes will work best, but if you have a good neutral density (ND) filter (for reducing the amount of light entering the lens) you do not have to be restricted to low-light environments. Set your camera up on a tripod, then set it to shutter priority mode. You will need a long shutter speed of 30 seconds or more to create the ghost effect. While the camera is recording, have your subject move through the scene. You will need to experiment with timing to create the look you are after.
If you own an Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II or E-M10 Mark II, they have a fun feature called Live Composite Mode. This setting will allow you to see the long exposure in real-time, right in your viewfinder. The advantage to this feature is the ability to have more control over your scene as it is happening and allows for less guesswork.