Calling all you ghosts, pirates, zombies, superheroes, and that small army of Queen Elsas — it’s time for your closeup. Because one of the best parts of Halloween for us, besides stealing our kids’ fun-size Snickers, is getting photos of the kids in costume along with the rest of the spooky, kooky happenings around the neighborhood. Let’s face it, Instagram was basically created for moments like this.
The thing is, we know snapping cool pics in the dark can be tricky. So we’re helping you out with some great tips for taking photos at night. Or moreover, at dusk. (Hint, hint!)
Once you’ve got those fantastic nighttime Halloween photos, well hopefully they’ll all be worth keeping. That’s why we’re thrilled to be working again with our sponsor Amazon Cloud Drive, a super easy service and app that lets you safely store and access all your ghoulishly good Halloween photos and videos — as in unlimited — across all Android or iOS devices. It’s fast and, for Amazon Prime members, it’s even free!
Total treat; no tricks.
So on their behalf, I’ve rounded up 7 quick and easy tips with some beautiful photos that help bring them to life. I hope they help you make digital photo magic in the dark and land pics that will be true keepers this Halloween.
(Top photo: Ty Bebe Photography)
– Don’t miss Amazon’s fun photo contest with a huge $10,000 prize, below –
1. Skip the flash (mostly)
We’ve said this many times before but we’ll say it again, three times for emphasis: Skip the flash. Skip the flash. Skip the flash.
Natural light is always your best bet for photos. And that’s great for parents of little ones who may be out trick-or-treating earlier in the evening. Everything is just softer, prettier, brighter, and all-around better without manufactured light. Plus, the flash often gives pictures a certain harshness and, worse, can create the dreaded red-eye effect. Do not want. However, there are times when using a fill flash outdoors, even in daylight, can actually help round out a photo. Like when your subject is a little backlit and you want to eliminate shadows on those cute faces. So let’s say, skip the flash when it’s your only light source. You’ll be so happy with the results.
(Photo: amboo who? via Flickr)
2. The right time is before night time
Photographing a dress rehearsal can be another smart way to make use of natural light, but if that’s not an option — should you have the only kids on the planet who didn’t want to start putting on their costumes at 6 a.m. Halloween morning — then getting an early start is perhaps the best photo tip for parents when it comes to capturing Halloween fun. However if you prefer playing up the night mood, one of my favorite tricks is to try taking kids’ photos at dusk, just before it becomes totally dark outside. Like the amazing photo by Ty Bebe up top, or my own photo of my son right here. You’ll be amazed at what a difference an hour can make. (Photo: @nbee3 via Instagram)
3. Use the Night Portrait setting
Most digital cameras — even the nifty cameras on many smartphones — have a Night Portrait setting that essentially combines the flash (an instance where it works) that acts as a spotlight on your subject, with a long exposure that helps to “fill in” the background of the image. Be sure to play around with it before Halloween though so you have a sense of how to make it work for you before the little goblins get restless.
And if your phone or camera doesn’t offer Night Portrait, there’s an app for that! Download the LongExpo app (free, shown above) for the same effect.
About our sponsor
(photo © Cool Mom Tech by Aaron Adler Photography)
Maybe it’s your kids fault; they just can’t stop doing cute things that you must capture on camera and completely fill up your device’s memory.
Thanks to the very easy Amazon Cloud Drive, you can securely backup and store all your existing photos, video movies, music and files, plus auto-upload even more as you create them. That way it’s safely stashed in the cloud and easily accessible across devices, whether you log on from your computer or download the free Amazon Cloud Drive Photos app on Android or iOS devices.
Best part is, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re already in the Cloud Drive club for free. Amazon Cloud Drive with Prime Photos even gives you unlimited photo storage, plus an additional 5GB of storage for other files too. Turns out there’s more to life than pictures. Sometimes.
If you’re not a Prime member (what?!) take advantage of the free three-month trial for either The Unlimited Everything Plan or the Unlimited Photos Plan to see which is right for you. Considering the low cost and the free trial, it’s kind of hard to go wrong.
Plus, don’t miss details below about Amazon’s Halloween photo contest below,
with a grand prize that includes a $10,000 gift card to Amazon.
4. Use the glow from streetlights outside
If it’s officially dark out and you opt to nix the flash altogether (still my recommendation), you can find an environmental light source using the glow of the streetlights outside, a TV screen, a flashlight, or even a front porch light. Hey, even some rad jack-o’-lanterns will do the trick, like in this terrifically eerie shot from Randen Pedersen. The pumpkins provide ambient light, which is just a fancier way of saying natural light. As in, not that dreaded flash.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking around to see what’s glowing, then positioning your subject a little closer to that existing light source. Psst…zombie family…a little to the left. (Photo: Randen Pedersen via Flickr)
5. Create a silhouette
For something truly unique and cool, make a spooky silhouette by using a bright, but low-sitting light source, such as the setting sun, to your advantage. Place your costumed kiddos so that the light is behind them, creating a shadow, while you snap your pics facing the light. Another smart tip is kneel down so you’re shooting from below while your photo subjects are slightly elevated above you. Or maybe there’s a small hill or sloping playground nearby that you can use. Then you can all bask in the glory of that frameable photo you’ve captured that’s as good as any movie poster. (Photo and lots of great nighttime photo tips and inspiration via Simple As That blog)
6. Steady does it
A shaky hand can ruin a picture in a blink, especially at night, and fortunately there are some reinforcements you can use. A tripod is a safe bet when working with a dSLR or point-and-shoot. Or if you’re on a smartphone, there are steady cam options for you too, like the very cool Nova, a Bluetooth off-camera flash for iPhone (shown above). It’s small enough to slip into your pocket and can be used with any iPhone.
Plus, pairing it with Joby’s GripTight GorillaPod Stand which we love, gives you total control of the lighting in your “outdoor studio.” The Nova-GorillaPod Stand combo is light and small enough to tote anywhere, and the GripTight’s rubber grip pads mean your device is safe and secure whether you’re stabilizing it on a tree branch, a deck chair or a vampire’s coffin. But not the real kind, because they don’t exist. Riiight??
Also, as an extra precaution, I suggest you try holding your breath when you hit the shutter button. Sounds basic, but it really helps to keep the photo that much more steady.
7. Shoot first, ask editing questions later.
Sometimes, to get your photo looking perfect, even the pros turn to the app gods for help. Or, the app developers. There are so many great programs that let you adjust contrast, bump up shadows, and fiddle with filters and other ton features. You may already have a favorite, like VSCO cam or effects editors like PicMonkey. As for me, one of my all-time favorite easy photo editing apps is Camera+ 6 (above) which always helps get my images looking just right. Or, shall I say, boo-tiful?
Sorry, had to do it.
EXTRA COOL: WIN IT!
Calling all pet parents, pet grandparents, pet godparents, or just friends to the costumed animals: Amazon is hosting a Costumed Critters Photo Contest, giving you the chance to win $10,000 in Amazon Gift Cards and $2,000 in pet supplies from Central Garden & Pet.
To enter, Submit an original photo of your pet in costume to AmazonCostumedCritters.com before 11:59 p.m. ET on October 31st. See the full details at the website.
(photo by e_haya via Flickr. We’d give this one a big prize!)
Thanks so much to our fantastic sponsor, Amazon Cloud Drive, for making it so easy to backup and organize our photos. The service is free for Prime members or about $1/month for non members. And if you have lots of video, check out the Unlimited plan which is about $5 a month and definitely frees up all that storage space on your computer and mobile devices.