• Photography Tips | DIY Spooky Halloween Lighting

    by Shannon Kalahar on October 31, 2013

    ThreeFishFiesta_hardlight4 BOO!

    It’s a day for ghosts and ghouls, and apple cider and lots and lots of corn syrup. Approximately 90 million lbs of candy will be ingested in the US alone, today. If my first few lines didn’t scare you, I’m putting the rest on you people! Chances are, you or a loved one are probably making your contribution by disguising yourselves in something outlandish, walking the streets like zombies, and knocking on your neighbors doors to ask for a trick or a treat. Perhaps your evenings festivities are a little more relaxed…  maybe you’ll enjoy a bonfire and toast a vegan marshmellow,  très monster chic. Regardless, I want to see! I want to see you make the best possible memories you can, and that’s why I’m launching the photo tips section with a basic breakdown of classic Halloween hard lighting.

    In it’s most basic form, “hard” light simply means that the resulting image will have a strong, definitive shadow line. If you could chisel out the shadow exactly- crisp lines- you have a hard light source! I see it a lot with portraits of athletes. Think about how muscles can be emphasized with strong shadows that cut, (and make you look cut) across the body.

    ThreeFishFiesta_hardlight5 Besides strength and athleticism, hard light is also used to give a feeling of intrigue and mystique! Think Film Noir, the detective in his detective hat, walking through the night as he passes under streetlight. He pauses! An idea! Half his face is cast in dark shadow— exactamundo, mysterious, right?! And today of all days, if you are just trying to look a little distorted and weird, coat your face in non-toxic glue, give your skin a rub when it’s dry and hold that flashlight pointing up at your nose, camp style. Remember, hard light gives an image drama, Mama! Perfect for Halloween snaps!

    ThreeFishFiesta_hardlight3 To keep things simple we’re going to start with a single light source- a lamp, a flashlight, the sun, or your red glowing eyes. The directionality of your light is important for each of these looks!

    For example…

    ThreeFishFiesta_hardlight1 Riddle me this. Are you a werewolf? Will you or a friend be donning a costume with lots of hair? Scales? Muscles? Consider putting your light source (the sun, a big lamp) to the side and a little above your subject’s head. This hard light will emphasize texture and cast some pretty rad (read: spooky) shadows on the rest of you.

    The images here will show you some examples of what light placement can do for your photos! A huge shout out and thank you to my good friend Kéra Holzinger of Kéra Photography who helped model for this post.

    ThreeFishFiesta_hardlight2 I’ll leave you with this totally awesome idea… Make your own simple projector to put bats, or pumpkins, or horns onto your body or backdrop for a 100% fancy scary photo! Have a friend hold a  sheet of transparency paper (with doodles of course) in front of a strong light.  Project, snap, and please share!!!

    Wishing you a safe, fun, and creative Halloween!



    About Shannon Kalahar

    Hi! I'm Shannon, the lady behind the lens at Three Fish Fiesta! I make image based stories inspired by secret handshakes, favorite dates, inside jokes, and (always!) love. I believe in living a healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle and am so excited toy be a contributor for VH! You can find me either in the kitchen or my garden when I'm not adventuring with my cameras. My posts will be mainly focused on camera tips and tricks, but I may not be able to contain myself if I make something especially delicious, or find an inspiring story.

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  • { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    njo technology November 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Hi Shannon,
    The street like photography i think is the most natural lighting recreation. It certainly works as there are good colour contracts i.e skin, costume. If your subject was wearing all black then would it work?


    Shannon November 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Hi! Thanks so much for commenting… I specialize in natural light, and all of the images above were made using lights that existed in the environments. Street lights are definitely most common, but everything from porch lights to landscaping lights (which fit lowers to the ground) can be experimented with.

    Yes! All black costumes would still work. Any time you use a single light source it gives a gradient as it crosses the subject. “Black” would become shades of gray, with true black shadows.


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