10 things to photograph this Autumn – [3] HALLOWE’EN


Canon 5D mk II; Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, 1/30, f/1.8, ISO 2500. No flash.

Like it or not Hallowe’en is growing in popularity every year and if your children are anything like mine, the opportunity to dress up and be allowed to accept sweets from complete strangers is the ultimate in fun. Their costumes get more elaborate each year, as do the decorations in our house, even spreading out into the garden. I love it, as a fun night for kids, but suspect we won’t bother once they’ve grown out of it.

My early pictures of the two them in years gone by were snapshots, capturing a cute moment in time, but with little thought or planning and no fancy camera settings – point and shoot and hope for the best.


It’s not bad but I know I can do so much better now.


Canon 5D mk II; Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, 1/60, f/3.2, ISO 125. Flash fired.

How to take Hallowe’en pictures: the secret is how you use the flash.

Try different flash settings

Normal flash: If you use the built in flash on your camera at night time i.e. in the dark, it lights up your subject and makes everything around them black, as in the photograph above. I took this outside in a dark area, to get as black a background as possible. I didn’t use any other fancy settings and you can get this effect with a point and shoot camera. Switch as many lights off as possible if you’re doing it indoors.

Remember not to stand closer than 1 metre and no further away than 2-3 metres, to get the best effect from your flash.

If you are taking the photographs indoors, switch off the main lights to get the background as dark as possible.

Night portrait: Some cameras have this setting – it is usually depicted by a person with a star on the mode dial or in the menu. This setting is great for Hallowe’en discos as captures the background lighting, rather than making it completely dark. It does this by using a slow shutter speed and firing the flash. The flash freezes movement and the slow shutter speed lets in more of the background light. If the movement is fast you can get some interesting effects!



You can get the same effect with more control by using the Tv (or S) mode to set a slow shutter speed yourself and switching the flash on. This can be great to play around with.

No flash: Turn your flash off and just use available light to get the shot. Your subject will need to be near some light source of course – a candle, lamp, computer screen or torch. In the shot below (and in the one at the top of the page) I got Sam to shine a torch under his chin to give his face spooky shadows. We can’t see the torch as he hid his hands behind the pumpkin. I used a big aperture (low f/number) and a high ISO value to be able to hand hold the camera. If you’re not sure about this check out my blog about The Exposure Triangle.


Canon 5D mk II; Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, 1/13, f/1.8, ISO 2500. No flash.


As the only light is on Sam’s face his head looks disembodied adding to the spooky effect. Hard to believe he’s cute and quite handsome normally!

You can use the same technique to photograph pumpkins too.



And if you’re looking for ideas for Hallowe’en parties – costumes, food, decorations, how to carve pumpkins – check out Pinterest, but be warned, you will get addicted!

I run courses and offer one to one tuition to beginners and improvers, so if you’d like help getting to grips with your camera and live within sensible distance of Cheshire, then click on the links and take a look.

If you missed Part One – Trees and Part Two – Leaves, then click on the links.

Did you like this blog post or find it useful? If so, please leave a comment, sign up for email reminders at the top of the page or share it with your friends (or even better, all three!!). Thank you – Jane :-)

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2 Responses to 10 things to photograph this Autumn – [3] HALLOWE’EN

  1. Gillian October 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    Hi Jane. Thanks for the info. I thought my family had past this stage but my lovely daughter (22) has just taken to wearing a husky dog onesie so who knows what she has planned for halloween! Today I found a wildlife photography blog you may be interested in with some brilliant tips. https://www.naturettl.com/upload-photos-facebook-best-quality-possible/
    Let me know what you think when you have a minute. Gill x

    • Jane Burkinshaw October 31, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      Hi Gill, the link looks great – didn’t know some of that so have pinned it! Watch out for the new course dates – if you’re on Picture It Better on FB you get an exclusive preview of the dates and chance to book before I officially launch next week x

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