header image by Paige Cody
Halloween has always offered a good excuse for photographers to get creative and take photos because it’s among the most visually appealing holidays of the year. Costumes, props, and locations combined with clever photographic techniques make for the most interesting photographs.
For any photographer that enjoys working with costumes and props, Halloween photoshoots are one of the easiest ways to capture (and remember) the fun during this spooky holiday.
How to prepare for a Halloween photoshoot
Once you begin thinking about which Halloween photoshoot idea you would like to try (see our list below for all the Halloween photoshoot ideas), you’ll soon have your work cut out for you as a photographer.
However, it’s best to plan well and work through a list of ideas.
For the perfect Halloween photoshoot, you will need to consider the following:
- Light sources
- Props and furniture
- Model release forms
- Location and backdrops
In this article, we’ll provide you with 13 innovative ideas to get you started. There are also tons of great suggestions for camera and lighting techniques you can use to make your photos all the more spooky.
These 13 Spooktacular Halloween Photoshoots are our favourites
1. Host a Halloween party and photograph it
Halloween is a great time to throw a party. Invite your friends and family to join in with the best costumes, props, and makeup. Choose a suitably spooky location or decorate your home and yard to make the most memorable photos.
Set up areas for portraits. Work on Halloween decorations and themed still-life setups. When you prepare and photograph these in advance you can use the photos on the invitations you send to promote your party.
Let people know that you plan to photograph the event and that you’ll share the photos with them. This way they’ll be sure to put in maximum effort and dress their best.
Ask your guests to:
- Dress to a specific theme
- Bring some of their own props
- Bring along the family dog in costume
- Wear the best face paint or makeup
Photo by Jonathan Borba
2. Portraits: dead or alive
Get them in costume and in character. Makeup and the right expressions go a long way toward making some scary photos. Search online to find the best horror expressions and gestures.
Plan ahead for portrait sessions, whether you have paying clients or you’re working with friends. The more prepared you are with costumes, props, locations, and ideas the better your portrait session will work out.
Aim to take two types of portraits. Ones where your subject looks alive. Another is where your subjects look dead, or living-dead, like a zombie.
When people are in costume and makeup, they’re more inclined to act the part. Make the most of this with your Halloween-themed portraits. Push people to produce exaggerated expressions and poses that they might normally be too shy to try.
Use a variety of lens focal lengths and lighting setups. Play around with dark, moody lighting. Use the shadows to help create a sense of mystery to your portraits.
Whenever possible, make sure to obtain a model release from the people you photograph at the beginning of the session. This way you have more options for how you use the photographs. Holiday-themed photos can sell very well on stock photography websites, but you need to have a signed model release for them. You can download generic releases that cover all types of image usage online.
Photo by Danie Franco
3. Costumed kids
Kids dressing up is a huge focus of every Halloween holiday. Parents love to dress their kids to look the best in their neighbourhood. Creating portraits of children in costume will help provide families create precious memories for years to come.
And the best thigh is you don’t have to wait until October 31st. You can start booking portraits ahead of time. Eager parents often plan costumes and themes for their kids well in advance of the actual event. Advertise your services ahead of time. This is something that many parents may not think of themselves, but given the opportunity, will jump at it.
A pop-up studio in a family neighbourhood on Halloween can be a great attraction and double as the perfect Halloween photoshoot backdrop. As families go door to door and see a fun-themed backdrop and some great props, I’m sure they’ll be drawn to come and have their portraits taken.
Photo by Conner Baker
4. Babies with Halloween-themed props
Get them started young with this fun Halloween photoshoot idea that combines the cuteness of babies, juxtaposed with traditional Halloween tropes.
Think of the classic photos of sleeping babies and pumpkins. Then turn up the creepy. Use your imagination and come up with theme ideas that will be a bit spooky, but remain fun. You don’t want to be scaring your clients before you can take their photos!
There are all manner of great props available for Halloween-themed baby photos. Work them into your portrait ideas. Combine them with some spooky lighting and even a little mist or some lens filters to help create the right atmosphere.
If you, or your clients, prefer a lighter atmosphere for Halloween-themed baby photos, you can take a more jovial approach. Have fun. Use tons of color and play on the whole fun aspect of this holiday. Little kids love being surrounded by bright and unusual props and can make some delightful photos.
Photo by Omar Lopez
5. Go trick or treating
This one can be done on the night of Halloween, or set up prior to the big photoshoot event.
Whether it’s your own kids or your friend’s kids, taking them trick or treating is one the best part of Halloween. Follow them door to door and photograph the spontaneity as it happens. You’ll capture all kinds of magical moments as the children enjoy this fun activity.
If you’re wanting photos you can use commercially, you can organize a trick-or-treat experience with people you know. This way you can orchestrate what happens and obtain model releases more easily. You can use this type of photo for promotion or sell to stock photo sites.
Photo by Robin Jonathan Deutsch
6. Find the spookiest buildings
Picking an appropriate location for your Halloween-themed photo sessions is important. A location that stands alone, without people or props, is a great place to start.
Abandoned churches, houses, or other buildings are perfect. The more run down the better. Even the silhouette of a classic building can look spooky framed against a moody sky with some interesting lighting. Using flash or LED lights and long exposures you can add even more drama.
Make sure you have permission from the building owner or that you’re on public property when you’re taking photos. It’s also a good idea to scout the location at different times to discover when the light is most dramatic or best creates the atmosphere you want.
Photo by Dan Meyers
7. Creepy trees and forests make great Halloween backdrops
Old, craggy trees with dead leaves all around make perfect subjects and backgrounds for Halloween photoshoots. Either on their own or in a forest, there’s something about the texture and shape of old trees that lends them to be a bit spooky.
Make the most of them when the light is right. Scout them out during the blue hour, just before sunrise or just after sunset. At these times the light is flat and bluish in tone. It can make for some ominous feeling photos.
Take along your own smoke machine or haze can for added atmosphere.
Photo by Maarten Deckers
8. Make the most of classic Halloween props
If there’s one holiday that’s all about great visual props, it’s Halloween. For this classic Halloween photoshoot idea, you can’t go wrong with jack-o-lanterns and candles. Start with these and other tried and true Halloween props, but think outside the box too.
Do some online searching and I’m sure you’ll find all manner of great props you can buy or make to add fun and spookiness to your Halloween photos.
- Spider webs
- Black cats
- And ghosts
All of these can add a great atmosphere to your Halloween photos.
Photo by Bekir Dönmez
9. Dress your pets
Get your pets in on the fun. Dress your pets in Halloween costumes and be ready to capture the most fun photos of them.
Use your imagination and create or buy costumes for your pets and have fun photographing them. Ghost costumes for dogs are always popular, but you don’t need to stop there.
In this Halloween photoshoot theme, your pets can be transformed into:
- A minion
- Starwars characters
- Or cupcakes
Make sure you have your pet’s favourite treats on hand to provide them with an incentive to behave well.
Photo by Justin Jason
10. Recreate scenes from your favourite Halloween movies
There are so many movies you can draw inspiration from with this cinematic-inspired Halloween photoshoot:
- The Adams Family
- Harry Potter
And many more…
These movies lend themselves to classic Halloween-themed photographs. Pick out a few of your favourite scenes that don’t need too much work in the way of props and costumes and remember to have fun!
Experiment with how close you can recreate scenes from the movies you love, but include your own input as well. You don’t have to stick exactly to the script.
Get some friends together and brainstorm ways you can all be involved to make the most interesting photos. Pay attention to the type of lighting you use. If you have flash or LED lights, use these to help transform your photos, especially if you want to make them look close to how the movie scenes that inspired you actually looked.
Photo by Nong V
11. Behind-the-scenes photos
For many of the Halloween photoshoots in this article, there’ll also be plenty of opportunities for photos as you prepare. Behind-the-scenes photos can be just as much fun and provide great memories as pictures of the finished product.
Photograph your kids or your friends as they make their props and costumes. Right from the planning stages through to them trying on their costumes prior to the holiday. These photos will hold special memories for years to come and can even make great stock photos.
Take pictures as you decorate your yard and home. These also can serve to preserve fun family memories. Think ahead as you do this. Next year as Halloween comes around again you’ll have some great photos to use in marketing your holiday-themed photography business ideas.
Photo by Mariah Hewines
12. Levitate your subjects
Levitation photography is a lot of fun and a perfectly spooky Halloween photoshoot idea. Pull together the right people in great costumes, along with some cool props and you’ll have the best Halloween photos around.
Find a good location with a background that supports your theme and ideas. Set your camera on a tripod and photograph the scene with no props or people. This will be your base image.
You’ll need a stool or small step ladder for your subject. Once they are seated, lying, or standing on the stool or ladder, take a series of photos. Then combine these pictures with your base photo in Photoshop or your preferred editing software. Clone out the stool or ladder and, hey presto, your subject appears to be levitating.
Photo by Andrew Spencer
13. Ghosting Effects
You can use this technique along with any of our Halloween photoshoot ideas. Using a slow shutter speed and movement, there are many ways to create a ghosting effect.
When the light is low, set your shutter speed to at least ten seconds. Start your exposure and time it. After half the exposure has elapsed, have your subject move out of the frame. What you’ll see in the image is a ghosted, semi-transparent image of the person or object.
You can also experiment with intentional camera movement to add ghostly-looking blur to images of subjects or locations that you can’t move. Simply move your camera while the exposure is happening and the whole photo becomes blurred. How much you move the camera and how long you hold it still will determine how ghostly your photos turn out.
Popping in a little flash to these long-exposure photos can add another dimension of spooky to your photos. Set your camera to rear-curtain flash sync for the best effects.
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani
Halloween themed photography is rich with creative potential. Work through this list and experiment as much as you can to come up with great photos. I’m sure you won’t have any difficulties producing some great images to share with family and friends or use commercially.
Remember, Halloween happens every year. What you plan for and photographed this year has the potential to sell or become part of your promotional materials for years to come.
Make the most of lighting and shadows. Gain further inspiration from your favorite scary movies and get into planning some of the most ghoulish and fun photos you might ever take.
About The Author: Daniel Long
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