Creating Creative Halloween Portraits

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Being born in October meant all of my birthday parties as a child were themed for Halloween. I used to HATE it. It got so old having every birthday revolve around ghouls and ghosts. Now that I am an adult and have two young children, I LOVE Halloween. I look forward to it more and more with each passing year.

This year I really wanted to take some cool photos of the girls in their costumes and I found this year to be a perfect opportunity to show what a difference the position of lighting can make in a portrait. This year, Cora and Adelynn wanted to dress up as two COMPLETELY different characters. Cora, wanted to be Elsa from Frozen….no surprise there. She is OBSESSED with the movie and wants it playing during all hours of the day.

I wanted her images to look more “soft” and “pretty”. After all, she is MY princess dressed up as a queen. I used two lights for her portraits. One key light (main) was just to the camera left (about 45 degrees as well as 45 degrees high), in a large soft box (Westcott Rapid Box) and about a foot or two away from Cora. The second light was a bare speed-light pointed at the greenery on the fence behind her.

I shot at moderate exposure to allow for the In post production, I warmed them up just SLIGHTLY. The following images are some example shots with the same light set up.

Jason Talley Photography - Halloween Portraits 1

Adelynn on the other hand, wanted to be a zombie kid this Halloween. YES!!! My dreams have come true. I had worried that my wife would talk her into something girly…aka: BORING. Nope. This year, Adelynn was pretty adamant.

I used a few Halloween make-up kits to place wounds, paint her face, bloody her night gown. The rest was lighting. I used the same lights as with Cora but added a third. The third was on the ground (pointed up at her) off to camera left along the fence line. This light was gelled green as well. The soft box was further away and off camera right, directly left of Adelynn. This allowed me to make the light a little more harsh (hard edged) and showcased her texture on her face, rather than mitigate it.

I shot at a darker exposure for ambient to add more mood. Additionally, I cooled the images down in post and “fogged” her eyes a little. The following are some examples of the differences these little changes made.

Jason Talley Photography - Halloween Portraits 2

Here are two of my favorite images from their Halloween costume session. Beauty and the Beast!

Jason Talley Photography - Halloween Portraits 3

Let me know what you think and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

All images shot with:

Sony a7rii + Ziess FE 35mm f/1.4