Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH HALLOWEEN

For a camera, I am outfitted with a Nikon D5100. It was a close race between that and a Canon, which I have favored over the years (I had a Canon Super-8 movie camera back in the early 70's -- I ended up needing to pawn it for some quick cash -- and used it for stop-motion and some other monster projets . . . alas, lost to the sands of the Sahara).

While the kit lens that came with it is quite serviceable, I needed more zoom. At the time, the buzz was going around about so-called all-in-one lenses. The idea sounded appealing, as I didn't have the extra discretionary funds at hand to invest a grand or more into a lens. If that had been the case, then I would have upgraded the camera purchase first.

After doing some research, I decided on the highly-rated Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens. I am an avid wildlife and landscape photographer and this lens, while not the cat's meow for telephotos, is a definite step up. For anyone looking for an all-in-one lens at a more than affordable price, look no further than this baby.

As a new Tamron lens owner, I subscribed to their monthly e-newsletter. The following is from their October issue. It describes getting the most out of your Halloween shots using the 18-270mm lens.

How to Shoot Halloween Festivities

Kristi Bonney captures the frightfully fun action using the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens.
Article by Jenn Gidman
Images by Kristi Bonney

Halloween is right around the corner, so start prepping now so you don’t miss a single shot of your little munchkins decked out in their scary regalia. Kristi Bonney recently threw a mini-soiree with six children (two of them her own) and used the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens to capture the festivities.

Read on for Bonney’s tips on how to showcase the most fun holiday of the year.

Go for setup and detail shots before the party starts.

I was initially going to shoot this little celebration in my dining room, but I had a lighting issue. So we moved the Halloween party outdoors under the trees on a cool, crisp autumn day, and I basically put some treats out for the kids and set up all my props and decorations. I took a couple of shots of the setup to capture the mood of the party, then I took some individual shots of the treats on the table before I let the kids have at them.

It’s really cool to get the details in some of those decorations or treats. When I framed my shot of one of the cupcakes, that swirly chocolate looked so delicious. I really wanted to concentrate on that and kick everything else out of focus so that the viewer’s eye was drawn into the cupcake itself. I positioned the cupcake further away from the other items in the background — by distancing it, I was able to get that nicely blurred background.


Let the action unfold naturally

I always try to figure out what kind of shots I want beforehand. For instance, I hadn’t choreographed the shot of the kids digging their hands into the bowl of candy corn. I just knew I wanted to get the kids eating snacks, laughing, and having fun — those silly, natural moments. I knew if I put that bowl there, they’d be digging into it, no doubt! I just stepped back and waited with my camera.

Make your images stand out with interesting compositions.

There are all different ways to show the kids dressed up and ready to party. I wanted to get a photo of my daughter looking at herself in her costume, because I knew the smiles would come naturally then. I moved a large mirror into my dining room and placed it right next to a window so I could get lots of natural light (it was the middle of the day). Once my daughter was dressed, I told her to go over to the mirror and take a look. I stepped back so I wouldn’t be in the mirror’s reflection. My main focus was on the ruffles of the dress, the details along the sleeve, and her hair (I loved her curls!), but I was also able to get her facial expression and that blurred background. It was the best of all worlds.


I like to switch things up in my compositions. When I started taking pictures, everything I shot was dead center. Those types of images can look OK, but they can get pretty bland after a while. I find that if I put my subject off to the side a little bit and follow the Rule of Thirds in composition, it creates more visual interest. Sure, there are times when I just want the focus to be a beautiful autumn leaf or gorgeous pumpkin, and in those cases, I’ll center my subject. But I really try to thoughtfully frame my subjects. I’ll put them in the middle, see how I like that, and if it doesn’t move me, I work my way around and look for a different perspective.

Those different angles can help with lighting, too. For the shot of the little witch with the spider on her cheek, for instance, it was midafternoon, and the sun was really harsh. I had her sit on my shaded porch, and I stood above her and had her look up at me. The sky behind me acted like a softbox, and I was able to get that reflection in her eyes, which really makes them pop.

Mix up posing and candids for great group shots.

Most people are going to want to get some shots of their kids in full costume mode, but look, it’s Halloween. The kids just want to get their friends, go trick-or-treating, and load up on sugar. They don’t want to stand around and take photos. What I did for the images of the kids against the side of the house is something I do a lot. I said, “If you pose for me for a second, I’ll take three shots of you guys standing in your costumes, and as soon as I get my three shots, you can do whatever you want — make silly faces, jump up and down, go crazy!” And that’s what they did. It’s a terrific way to get those pretty posed shots, and then, after they have their crazy time, all of those great candid moments that you can’t stage.

Turn typical jack-o’-lantern shots on their heads.

People often take jack-o’-lantern shots, but sometimes they can be kind of boring. First of all, when you’re shooting a lit pumpkin in that blue hour after the golden light is gone, I recommend using a tripod. If you can’t do that, set your camera down on a sturdy spot or handhold if you can brace yourself really well. Get your elbows in against your body, hold your camera still, and hold your breath if you can.

For a shot I took of my daughter with one of our jack-o’-lanterns, I kicked up the ISO (don’t be afraid to do that, a little noise is fine!) and exposed for the lit area of the pumpkin. I wasn’t looking for a typical jack-o’-lantern shot — I wanted to add a bit of nostalgia by adding my daughter into the shot. I placed her next to the jack-o’-lantern, standing there in her little dress, her teeny-tiny feet in those oversized, high-heeled Disney Princess shoes. She stood still for a while, but then when she started fidgeting, she pulled her dress up a little and I got a perfect shot that showed her feet peeking out from under the dress, with the jack-o’-lantern sitting right next to her.

Tap into black and white to focus on fun Halloween expressions.

During our trick-or-treat outing, I wanted to do something different and beautiful. When you think about trick-or-treating as a kid, you remember how excited you were when you went to all the different houses and never knew what candy you’d get. I wanted to capture my daughter in that trick-or-treating moment when the candy is being handed over, with the light streaming in from the house’s doorway to light her face.

When I took the image, I already knew I wanted to convert it to black and white. Even though she had this great expression on her face, and that’s what was pulling me in, the colors of the Halloween lights along the trim of the door, the light from the pumpkin, and the purple reflecting from her costume just took away from that smile on her face. So I purposefully converted to black and white because I wanted the focus of the image to be her expression, not on the Halloween decorations or on her green trick-or-treating pumpkin.

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