As much a part of Halloween as carving a pumpkin and buying outrageously priced candy is posing the kids in costume for their annual Halloween photo.  That’s the shot where the kids’ bored faces betray their thin indulgence of you and your camera as they attempt to make their way out the door for their big night.  If you want a change, here’s my advice:  Turn the photo shoot into part of your celebration.

My kids are teens now, so they were on their own as far as costumes.  As soon as they were decked out, and just before the sun went down, I said the words they’ve often heard from their photog/mom:  “Let’s have a photo shoot!”

Here are my tips for making Halloween photos less scarily banal!

  1. Go on location.  We happen to have an abandoned barn nearby, and that seemed to match the mood of the girls’ costumes well.  Since one daughter was a good witch, I got her out in the air and shot from below into the clouds for her individual shot.  For the evil sister, I put her inside the barn’s doorway so she’d be backed by black.
  2. Act it out.  My girls are actors, so they had their own ideas.  My Glinda imagined herself into a blissful unawareness of Elphaba’s evil antics.  And Elphaba channeled her true feelings for her rival sibling.
  3. Don’t stress about the technical aspects.  I usually try and minimize my ISO and calculate the tradeoffs between sharpness and exposure.  This time, I was just having fun.  The sun was going down and there wasn’t much I could do but ramp up the ISO, shoot in RAW, and purposely underexpose.  No flash allowed.
  4. Dress it up in post.  I’m usually restrained in my postprocessing; I don’t want it to show.  But with this shoot, I went to town.  I put on some heavy-handed vignetting (light for the good witch, dark for the bad), upped the greens, played with the grain, and went black-and-white with presets. Have as much fun with your Lightroom tools as you had at the shoot itself.

On the way home from this shoot, we reminisced about my older daughter’s goth years, when she dressed like Elphaba everyday.  And we talked about how much fun we’d had.  The girls promptly made these pictures their Facebook profiles — the most serious praise a photographer can get!

If you can invest ten minutes for a mini photo shoot — and get the kids to buy in by making it fun – you’ll love the results! And you’ll have a new holiday tradition.

 

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