Close up portraits are great but to really capture the creepy vibe, you want to include the environment in your shot and that means finding the right, creepy location. We went to the forest and to an old, abandoned building, both of which made for super spooky locations.
This time of year is great to use the forest as the trees lose their leaves giving a more desolate look to the forest. It also gives a lot of opportunity for framing using trees, bushes and branches. Abandoned buildings can give a super creepy vibe to your photos but it's important to make sure it's safe to enter. The old, abandoned mill we went to was too scary for us to stick around long.
When composing your shots, it’s worth trying to vary using tight and wide shots. The wide shots allow you to use the environment to give context to your photos and add a lot of atmosphere.
Being deliberate with your lighting is the key thing here. Whether you're using natural light outside or whether you're using flash or continuous lighting in a studio or at home, it's a key part to creating the right atmosphere to your photos.
We often say, ‘shoot at the right time’ and we usually mean sunset but in this case, you’re not trying to make everything look as beautiful as possible. The flat light from an overcast sky can actually work in your favour here and gives you a lot of room to change things in post production.
When it comes to using flash and continuous lighting, when taking portraits, you’d usually set the light above and to the side of your subject but with a spooky portrait you can try all kinds of interesting things. For example, setting the light below your subject and pointing up creates very unnatural shadows and looks very creepy.
This is a great way to add some horror to your shots. By getting low to the ground and shooting up, you add a new element to your photo. In the forest context, the trees suddenly seem taller, and you’re looking up at your subject while she looks down at you.
Subconsciously, this helps to add an element of fear and intimidation to the image. Often we can create hero shots by aiming the camera up at our subject but the same is true here in a different way. By aiming up at our subject, she is above us and subconsciously, that does a lot for the feeling of your photo.
I'm a big fan of using something in the environment to frame your subject and it's no different here. It helps to add visual interest to the foreground of your image and add depth to the overall photo. You can end up with a foreground, the subject and then a background giving you a layered image which looks great.
It can also help to tell a story and add atmosphere and context to a photo, for example, in the photo below, I shot past a tree that was blocking part of the shot to be able to shoot my subject. It almost gives the impression that we are hiding from her and adds to the fear. Add in the low angle and suddenly, there's a lot going on to make this feel extra creepy.
Another example is the photo below where we have our subject crawling out from behind a tree. The tree takes up between a quarter and a third of the photo but it works to block our subject and create a feeling of unease as she appears from behind it.
This is a big part of making your final image look the way you want it to look. For me, editing scary photos is one of the most fun types of photo to edit because you can go much further than you would normally go. You don't have to worry so much about skin tones or keeping things looking natural, you can push things a bit further which can be very fun.
In the example below, I shot the image on an 85mm f/1.4 lens and it's nice and bright but with fairly flat lighting. That's perfect for editing as I can then go in and play around with the exposure, the contrast, the colour and in this case, the tone curve to really make the final image look the way I want it to look.
Those are our tips for spooky photography but we want to see your Halloween photos so we've setup a competition to see your best Halloween themed photos. Head on over to this page to submit your best Halloween photo to be in with a chance to win a Canon camera kit and all kinds of other prizes.
By Park Cameras on 29/10/2019
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