Halloween presents the perfect opportunity to have some fun with your camera, especially with little ghosts and goblins as subjects.
Your own kids getting ready on Halloween night, picking out a pumpkin or the visitors at your door should give you the incentive to start firing.
You can start by making a trip to the pumpkin patch. Try to capture such moments as your small child trying to lift an oversize pumpkin or playing with one of the many farm animals at the patch.
Plan to shoot either early in the morning or late afternoon to take advantage of the light. Stay home at noon when the light is too harsh. Shooting in the late afternoon will give you the beautiful golden light and long shadows that will add drama to your photos.
But don't put the camera away yet; you're just getting started. Carving the pumpkins, decorating the house and costume planning should be next on the agenda. A picture of your youngster cleaning out and carving a jack-o'-lantern always goes over well.
Another idea, especially if you have a young child, is to catch him or her in costume. But get a picture of him doing something different from what you would see in a typical Halloween shot.
How about the office Halloween party next Friday? It's a once-a-year chance to get pictures of your co-workers in unusual garb.
Now, if your teen-agers are having a Halloween party, try to capture reaction shots of them bobbing for apples. Snap them encouraging their friends to dunk their heads, then get them holding their breath, the plunge and the apple between their teeth. But move in close. Good pictures are often missed because people are intimidated and stand too far back.
In the evening, when the kids are heading out, you might want to take your camera along to capture the kids at your neighbor's door. In this case, a flash is a must. Make sure the batteries are fresh. Look for expressions when they look in the bag to examine treats.
At night is when the real work starts, especially if you're looking for something different. Start with a time exposure of your pumpkin. Use a tripod or a table to steady the camera and a cable release to fire it. Turn the lights out and just use the light from inside the pumpkin. This will give you a a dramatic opener for your Halloween pictures.
With your camera on a tripod, try a multiple exposure of a scary witch, Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, mummy or whatever ghoul is handy. This shot must be done at night. You need total darkness, so stay away from bright street lamps. Also, look for a background that's very dark. You can also move the subject to a spot where the background is in the distance. It will give the appearance of darkness because the light from your flash will drop off in the background. But just light your subject.
Next set your camera to the B (bulb) or T (time) setting, which will leave the shutter open for an extended period. Fire off your flash at different times, with the shutter open. Have your subject make different scary expressions in various parts of the viewfinder range. Darker costumes will probably work better for this type of work. You might even try lighting your subject with a flashlight for a change of pace. Also move the light around for a streaking effect.
You will definitely have to bracket your f-stop. Getting a perfect exposure is almost impossible, so shoot a lot of film to get the right one. Color print film will give you the most latitude for this type of work (with slide film, you have to be right on the money).
Remember, you have to shoot fast. Autofocus or prefocusing is a must--it's just too dark to focus.