(without making it harder than it has to be)
I love dressing my kids up. Halloween, book character days, birthday parties, fun runs, play dates – I embrace them all. A good excuse to wear matching shirts – I am in. What better day to rock a costume? Halloween of course! And there is no better to remember that moment than a picture!
As a photographer, I believe in the perfect picture – especially for all of you! But as a mom, I appreciate the great picture. The one that lets me still be part of the fun, the one that doesn’t stress me out because I am worrying about camera gear and settings, the ones that I can take on the fly, the ones that can happen when I grab my cell phone out of my pocket. Let’s be honest, Halloween is hard enough for us moms (and Dads), no need to over-complicate it! So I am going to share those tips with you – keep it simple, you can even use your iPhone. Have a DSLR and want to get a little bit more fancy? I will throw those tips in there too!
1 – Do It Early…
…and get the right light! This is perhaps the simplest tip and yet hardest to follow. Don’t wait till it’s dark. I know, if you are like me, you will spend every moment up until the one you walk out the door finding masks, shoes, glow-sticks and snacks. Try taking the picture first – then let them run in the yard while you gather your wears.
Dusk is a beautiful time. Soft light gives you that Halloween feel without needing the flash. The flash is not your friend here. Look for alternative light sources – a street lamp, a glowing pumpkin, your neighbor’s crazy blowup Halloween décor, the back lighting of someone’s open front door. If you do find you need a flash, try diffusing it. My favorite when my kids were young – a baby sock over the flash. Most good cell phones have shockingly good low light compensation these days. But that comes with a much slower shutter speed so kids holding still will help.
Have a DSLR – raise your ISO to 800, 1000, 1250 or even higher. This will give you more light but also grainier images, depending on your camera. Slow down your shutter speed to 40, 50 or 60. You can go lower if your subject is still and you have a tripod. Slower stutter speed will also give you more light but will also make action blurrier. Last, use your lens with the widest angle. A f/2.8 work wonders.
2 – Work Your Angles.
Try a few different ones. I think high angles, when they are looking up at you has a way of making kids look unbearably sweet (perhaps it’s because it’s how we see them most). But getting on their level will give you the best effect of their costumes. And then get low. In other words – try them all.
3 – Look Out Behind You!
Sometimes the perfect background is in your reach and sometimes it’s just not. Got a few hours that week? Take your kid’s somewhere with a background that matches their costume. Taking my kids to this vintage firetruck a few years ago is among my favorite Halloween pictures. Don’t have that kind of time? Find a background that fits the moment – a tree with blazing fall color, your perfectly set, pumpkin covered porch or perhaps in a street filled with fellow tricker-treaters. Perhaps consider taking their picture in the same place each year. Avoid backgrounds that don’t add to the moment – the trash cans next to your garage, Cousin Lucy picking her nose, cars driving by, etc.
4 -Lights, Camera, Action!
If the costume merits a role playing moment – yeah, just do that. Try this in the lighter hours as action will be blurry in low light photography.
5 –Sweat the small stuff.
6 – Get in the Picture!
Yes, that means you. As a mom and family photographer, I am never in them. Never (ok, well there is this one…. yup, that me with the mask and yellow hairpiece). Get in there – just for one. Whether you are dressed up or not. This is all part of your family history and someday it will be appreciated.
7 – What’s Hiding Behind that Mask?
Masks on, masks off. Kids in masks are cute (super cute) or perhaps scary if they are older. But someday it will be the precious joy on their face you will want to see. Take the picture both ways!
8 – Closer…. Closer….
Resist the urge to stand back from the action and throw your camera (or phone) in the direction of your kids and press the button. It just does not work. For just a few minutes of your evening, get in there. Run ahead of the pack so they are strolling towards you, sit on the ground near them, and get right over their heads.
Hope you have enjoyed these moments from my families’ Halloween past. Honestly, I have motivated myself to do a bit better this year. This year I feel fortunate my kids picked costumes I could make (I love making costumes), so they will have to be well documented. And my kid’s are getting older (eek) so these days are fleeting. Look forward to sharing them with you!
Happy Halloween Y’all!
PS – Here is a handy cheat sheet – copy this image to your phone and carry it with you!