With Halloween weekend nearly upon us, we are well and truly in the midst of spooky season. Whether you love the opportunity to get dressed up as your favorite creepy character, use it as an excuse to indulge in the most frightening horror flicks or think you're a dab hand when it comes to pumpkin carving, Halloween is the perfect time to plan a spooky shoot.
A good Halloween shoot doesn’t need to be extravagant - while it would look incredible to hire out a castle and all the ghost stories that go with it, you can create some really striking Halloween images using your local area. The most simple backdrops are sometimes the best; a narrow cobbled street or a wall of black bricks are perfect locations for a Halloween shoot so get out and see what your local areas has to offer.
To help you feel inspired, we’ve put together ten Halloween shoot ideas all of which can easily be done on your doorstep. Some of them will require you to have a willing model but we’ve included a couple that you could do without.
• Check out this tutorial on how to create a scary Halloween portrait (opens in new tab)
Pumpkins have been associated with Halloween since the 1800s when people left England and Ireland to go and live in America. Back then they would carve turnips instead of pumpkins but over in the States they switched as pumpkins are easier to carve and the leftover insides can be used to make delicious meals.
In the last few years, it's become incredibly popular to visit a pumpkin patch to buy your pumpkin rather than getting one from your local supermarket. There are often lots of different varieties to choose from in all shapes and sizes as well as your traditional big orange pumpkins. These are great spots for an easy Halloween photoshoot that doesn't have to involve any people just take your camera and snap away.
Last year I was lucky enough to take part in the Bristol Shooters Halloween Portrait meet which brought together more than 30 photographers and 10 models who had dressed according to the theme – villains. The free event was open to anyone – all you had to do was bring a passion for photography and bundles of creativity. The models went all out on costumes delivering a twisted Harley Quinns, a sinister Bellatrix Lestrange, and even Alex Burgess from The Clockwork Orange. If you can find a local photography group running something like this definitely get involved! It's a lot of fun, you meet lots of other creatives and you come away with a whole stack of images!
3. Witches Coven
Throughout history, witches and witchcraft have been perceived as wicked due to their ability to summon evil spirits and cast harmful spells. Witches were mostly pagans and thought to be doing the 'devils work'. From the 15th century to the 18th century many were executed for their 'crimes' as a wave of witch derived pandemonium spread across the US and Europe.
There has been a recent resurgence in witches and witchcraft but thankfully those terms are met with a lot less fear, anger and death than in the 1690's. You can buy lots of books on witchcraft that contain magical rituals, ancient incantations and recipes for potions that could bring you love, luck or happiness. Today witches have entirely more positive connotations but that doesn't mean they don't make for a great Halloween shoot. Set up an alter with crystals and animal skulls, light some candles and burn some incense, even if you don't have someone to dress as a witch, you could just shoot some witchy still life.
4. Abandoned buildings
Whether you have a model or not, abandoned buildings make great locations for a Halloween themed shoot. Nothing screams spooky like a house that hasn't been inhabited for years allowing it to be overtaken my spiders, dust and ivy. While abandoned building do make for good photos, some are abandoned for a reason. They could be structurally unstable so make sure you do your research and tread carefully - no one wants to end up falling through a rotten floor or have bits of roof fall on them.
5. Apply a spooky edit in post
If you've gone out and shot something spooky but feel your images could be a little more exciting, you could manipulate your image in Photoshop ( or whichever editing software you prefer). Some edits are much easier to do than others so if you're new to it maybe start with something basic like adding in some atmospheric mist or make your model look like they're wearing black sclera contacts.
Alternatively, if you're a Photoshop wizard and fancy a challenge, you could completely change your image by adding in objects using layers and masks. The more realistic you can make it look the better. You might even have a final image in mind before you take the photo such as editing the clouds to look like dark mark has been cast in the sky.
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6. Smoke grenades
Smoke grenades seem to divide the photography community; some can't get enough of them and others despise them. Whether you're in the smoke grenade camp or just think they're tacky, they really do add a little something something to a spooky shoot. You can get them in lots of different colours or just plain white if you want to create a believable, low-lying fog effect. They're not all that expensive but you will have to be quite quick at shooting as they don't last very long.
7. Black cats
For as long as people have been cautious about witches, people have been superstitious about black cats. Of course there's no real evidence to prove that a black cat walking across your path is going to bring you bad luck and they are in fact just as lovable as a tabby or ginger cat. However, around this time of year a black cat with piercing green eyes makes for a great subject - you'll just have to be a patient person to get the perfect photo.
8. Simple costumes can be the best
Sometimes the best fancy dress costumes are the simplest – an old-fashioned sheet with two holes cut out for the eyes is a really cheap and easy way of dressing as a ghost and it actually looks pretty good in photos too! You could even have a go at making your subject look like they're levitating using this (opens in new tab) easy-to-follow tutorial for that added Halloween flair.
9. Recreate scenes from your favourite Halloween films
There are SO many good Halloween films out there you can base a Halloween look on, the hardest part might be picking which one to go for. From The Addams Family, to Corpse Bride or the long contested Halloween/Christmas crossover, The Nightmare Before Christmas, each has their own set of loveable but spooky characters that will make for great photos.
10. Blood bath shoot
This is not for the faint-hearted (or anyone who doesn't like a mess) because this has got to be one of the messiest Halloween shoots you could do. For those who love gore, however, a blood bath photo shoot is the ultimate Halloween activity. You can make a mixture for the blood bath using cocoa, coconut milk, cornflour, and red food coloring – just pour it into a path of water and voila you're ready to get gruesome. Just a pre-warning, it can be known to stain!