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Halloween Portraits

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama



How to Take your Best Halloween Pics
by Jessie Parker
After a long, scorching summer, my favorite time of year has finally arrived- FALL!  Along with cool, crisp days and the sudden addition of pumpkin to, well, EVERYTHING, nothing says “Autumn is here” like preparing for Halloween.  I love everything about it.  Some people dislike seeing decorations for holidays before the season has really arrived, but stores can’t stock Halloween decorations soon enough for me.  I start planning my family’s costumes basically on November 1st.  It’s a year-round activity.  As a photographer, Halloween portraits are, of course, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Whether you’re taking pictures of your own children, or photographing hundreds of kids at a school, it’s a fun and rewarding activity and a welcome break from the more typical portrait sessions.  Here’s how I think about a Halloween photo session:

  • Always take at least one or two “traditional” poses. There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, it goes without saying that everyone wants a flattering picture of their child (or themselves) smiling at the camera.  Maybe it’s boring, but as photographers, it’s the core of what we do. Just do it. Anyway, it’s a good way to warm up your subject if you’re going to try some more creative poses later. People, even little kids, EXPECT to be photographed either standing or sitting and smiling directly at the camera. Beginning with this may be dull, but by embracing the expected you set them at ease. Second, a traditional, full length portrait highlights and documents their costume. You know, that costume that against your better judgment, you spent FAR more than you’d intended.  Don’t you at least want a photo to hang up after they won’t even play dress up in it anymore?


  • What about your background and environment? Don’t be afraid to embrace the cliches of the season when you’re choosing backgrounds and props. You WANT it to look like Halloween, so decorating with pumpkins, bales of hay, and even slightly spooky props like skeletons and bats isn’t cheesy- it’s FUN!


  • If you’re taking photos outside, give your photos a sense of time and place. Look for spots that show fall colors and hide areas that are still too green. Find a nice tree full of colorful leaves, a field of pumpkins, or a weathered wooden fence to use as a background. If you know what they will be wearing, consider not only the light, but how the colors in your background will contrast or clash with the costume and plan accordingly. For indoor sessions, I adore a black backdrop or a painted muslin because you can dress it up as dark and spooky, but reuse it later for more traditional portrait sessions and head-shots.  I also really love striking patterns for a fun, modern look.


  • Interact with the environment! Rake up a leaf pile and have your subject sit in it, or, if it’s the end of your session, cover them in a thin layer of dry, clean leaves and photograph them bursting out of it. Be careful not to risk spoiling the costume, especially if this is happening before the big day. Be mindful of hidden puddles, mud, sticks, or anything that might snag fabric, or any number of tiny catastrophes that might befall delicate clothing (or skin!). Or give a child a handful of leaves, count to three, and let them toss them up into the air. This can work even if you’re inside. Bring leaves inside, or for even more vibrant photos, consider buying faux leaves at your local arts and crafts store. I like to buy garlands of brightly colored leaves and then remove the leaves and discard the chain, leaving a nice pile of perfectly clean red, yellow, and orange leaves that you can use for years!


  • Have fun with with your subject. Turn them away from the camera and tell them to look back at you and smile (this sets them up for the next step), then turn them away again and tell them that next time they turn around they should make a silly face, a scary face, or pretend to BE the character they’re dressed as; decide which depending on their age and temperament. Say something silly and be ready to zoom in and get a closeup of their laughing face.  Try getting a younger child to play peek a boo and capture all of their expressions as they cover their face, uncover it, and then probably giggle! Active poses are a great way to keep kids engaged as young attention spans fade toward the end of a photo session.

If you are looking to get some action photos of your children on Halloween, check out this spooktacular blog post about capturing all the special moments. Have a good shoot and a happy Halloween, everybody!