Tips and Tricks: Jack-O'-Lantern Photography

It's that time again when pumpkins are sacrificed in the name of spooky glowing decorations. While there are plenty of interesting subjects to photograph this time of year (costumes, fall colors, holiday festivities), photographing jack-o'-lanterns can be a little tricky especially if you want to capture them in the dark. Low light photography is a bit more complicated, but don't let that deter you from experimenting. The results are well worth the extra effort. And, in truth, so long as you keep a few key things in mind, it's not very difficult to achive that great glowing photo.

Hold Still

No, not the pumpkin, they are pretty stationary by default. Well, unless they're sentient wandering jack-o'-lanterns, but that's an entirely different topic.

With any night time or low light photography, the more steady your camera the better. Even if you think you are pretty good at holding still, really, nothing beats not holding your camera at all. This means go pull out that old tripod, or if you don't have one of those, finding a nice spot on the ground or table, or even pressing your camera body up against a stationary object. This will afford you the opportunity to get a greater depth of field, minimize any camera jitter that would cause fuzziness, and not have to use the flash.

Experiment

Now that your camera is nice and still, play around with the composition. Get close, use the rule of thirds, fill the frame, and try different angles and perspectives. If your camera will allow tweaking of the aperture settings, try using a small depth of field (low number for aperture - like 3 or 4). You'll never know if there is a cool shot hiding in your subject if you don't try different things. In the world of digital photography the only thing this will cost you is a few extra minutes.

Flash

I for one am the first one to say "Argh! Yuck flash! Blerg. Evil evil awful flash!" That's not to say that it has its time and place. If you are able to adjust the strength and/or position of your flash, this can actually add an interesting lighting element to a low light photo. Sometimes a little flash actually does work, just remember to keep it gentle. Bright harsh flash will drown out the wonderful orange glow of jack-o'-lanterns and destroy the creepy otherworldly atmosphere of the photo. Again, experiment.

Have fun this Halloween, and happy spooky photo shooting.