How to Shoot Unique Halloween Photos

How to Shoot Halloween Festivities

Kristi Bonney captures the frightfully fun action using the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens.

Article by Jenn Gidman
Images by Kristi Bonney

Halloween is right around the corner, so start prepping now so you don’t miss a single shot of your little munchkins decked out in their scary regalia. Kristi Bonney recently threw a mini-soiree with six children (two of them her own) and used the Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD lens to capture the festivities.  Read the entire blog post on Tamron’s website here.

Go for setup and detail shots before the party starts.
I was initially going to shoot this little celebration in my dining room, but I had a lighting issue. So we moved the Halloween party outdoors under the trees on a cool, crisp autumn day, and I basically put some treats out for the kids and set up all my props and decorations. I took a couple of shots of the setup to capture the mood of the party, then I took some individual shots of the treats on the table before I let the kids have at them.

It’s really cool to get the details in some of those decorations or treats. When I framed my shot of one of the cupcakes, that swirly chocolate looked so delicious. I really wanted to concentrate on that and kick everything else out of focus so that the viewer’s eye was drawn into the cupcake itself. I positioned the cupcake further away from the other items in the background by distancing it, I was able to get that nicely blurred background.

Let the action unfold naturally
I always try to figure out what kind of shots I want beforehand. For instance, I hadn’t choreographed the shot of the kids digging their hands into the bowl of candy corn. I just knew I wanted to get the kids eating snacks, laughing, and having fun with those silly, natural moments. I knew if I put that bowl there, they’d be digging into it, no doubt! I just stepped back and waited with my camera.

Make your images stand out with interesting compositions.
There are all different ways to show the kids dressed up and ready to party. I wanted to get a photo of my daughter looking at herself in her costume, because I knew the smiles would come naturally then. I moved a large mirror into my dining room and placed it right next to a window so I could get lots of natural light (it was the middle of the day). Once my daughter was dressed, I told her to go over to the mirror and take a look. I stepped back so I wouldn’t be in the mirror’s reflection. My main focus was on the ruffles of the dress, the details along the sleeve, and her hair (I loved her curls!), but I was also able to get her facial expression and that blurred background. It was the best of all worlds. (read more)

Mix up posing and candids for great group shots.
Most people are going to want to get some shots of their kids in full costume mode, but look, it’s Halloween. The kids just want to get their friends, go trick-or-treating, and load up on sugar. They don’t want to stand around and take photos. What I did for the images of the kids against the side of the house is something I do a lot. I said,”If you pose for me for a second, I’ll take three shots of you guys standing in your costumes, and as soon as I get my three shots, you can do whatever you want – make silly faces, jump up and down, go crazy!” And that’s what they did. It’s a terrific way to get those pretty posed shots, and then, after they have their crazy time, all of those great candid moments that you can’t stage.

Turn typical jack-o’-lantern shots on their heads.
People often take jack-o’-lantern shots, but sometimes they can be kind of boring. First of all, when you’re shooting a lit pumpkin in that blue hour after the golden light is gone, I recommend using a tripod. If you can’t do that, set your camera down on a sturdy spot or handhold if you can brace yourself really well. Get your elbows in against your body, hold your camera still, and hold your breath if you can.

For a shot I took of my daughter with one of our jack-o’-lanterns, I kicked up the ISO (don’t be afraid to do that, a little noise is fine!) and exposed for the lit area of the pumpkin. I wasn’t looking for a typical jack-o’-lantern shot… I wanted to add a bit of nostalgia by adding my daughter into the shot. I placed her next to the jack-o’-lantern, standing there in her little dress, her teeny-tiny feet in those oversized, high-heeled Disney Princess shoes. She stood still for a while, but then when she started fidgeting, she pulled her dress up a little and I got a perfect shot that showed her feet peeking out from under the dress, with the jack-o’-lantern sitting right next to her.

Tap into black and white to focus on fun Halloween expressions.
During our trick-or-treat outing, I wanted to do something different and beautiful. When you think about trick-or-treating as a kid, you remember how excited you were when you went to all the different houses and never knew what candy you’d get. I wanted to capture my daughter in that trick-or-treating moment when the candy is being handed over, with the light streaming in from the house’s doorway to light her face.

When I took the image, I already knew I wanted to convert it to black and white. Even though she had this great expression on her face, and that’s what was pulling me in, the colors of the Halloween lights along the trim of the door, the light from the pumpkin, and the purple reflecting from her costume just took away from that smile on her face. So I purposefully converted to black and white because I wanted the focus of the image to be her expression, not on the Halloween decorations or on her green trick-or-treating pumpkin.

To see more of Kristi Bonney’s work, go to

Photo Contest: Win a trip for two to Los Angeles!


Okay, folks… this is kind of an emergency.  You have FIVE… yes, 5 days to enter this photo contest that ends on April 16. We just received an email about it, and we think one our OUR customers should win because y’all are amazing. We see your stuff… you are amazing.

Look at this Grand Prize and tell me you don’t want to enter:

Win a trip for two to The Big Photo Show Los Angeles 2014, including round trip airfare from anywhere in the contiguous United States, accommodations in The Big Photo Show host hotel for up to three nights, and admission to The Big Photo Show Los Angeles, a Canon Rebel T3i kit and Pixma printer, and a deluxe frame job from On the Wall Gallery & Frames.

Okay, so here’s what you have to do according to their website:

Enter this photo challenge and help us to explore all of the fun you can have with photography.  What is the most fun thing to capture with photography? You tell us with your entries! Is it people interacting, emotions, animals, the world around you, sunsets, sports? We cannot wait to find out!

It’s easy to enter. Click here to enter online or email them your entry (one entry per email, please). Use subject line “Seriously Fun Photography”. Enter today for your chance at great prizes and to see your images displayed at The Big Photo Show Los Angeles, May 17-18, 2014, and on The Big Photo Show website.  And be sure to tell them you’re a Calagaz customer… you might get some brownie points :)

Submission deadline is April 16, 2014 so don’t delay! This photo challenge will award prizes for both popular choice and judging by professional photographers. Open to all photo enthusiasts but winners must be in the US for some prizes. Find the full challenge rules here.

Oh wait. There’s more… the other prizes for the Professionally Judged entries aren’t too shabby either. Check it out below.  Oh, and if you want to size-up the competition… the entries are all on this website!

2nd Place: Pentax K-50 camera, $100 certificate from Nations Photo Lab, Metallic print from Fullerton Photographics, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
3rd Place: Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM lens, Creative Kit by Macphun Software, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
4th Place: Sony a3000 camera with 18-55mm lens, LumiQuest Strobist Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
5th Place: Erin Manning Home Studio Lighting Kit by Westcott and Sunpak Ultra Pro 423 Carbon Fiber Tripod

Popular choice winners:

1st Popular Choice: Panasonic Lumix ZS30 camera, Westcott 304 5-in-1 Reflector Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
2nd Popular Choice: Tamron SP 70-300 Di VC USD zoom lens, Macphun Creative Kit, and a mini flash umbrella
3rd Popular Choice: Tabelz laptop table and Macphun Creative Kit software

Now get out there and shoot this weekend!  We need to represent the Gulf Coast, people!

A Colorful Weekend for some of Calagaz Photo’s finest…

Calagaz Photo's Finest Color Run Crowd

In case you missed it, this weekend marked the 2nd year for The Color Run in Orange Beach at The Wharf. Two of our employees, Jessika Kirkland and Bailey Chastang, were part of the crew documenting the entire event for all who participated – and they’re sharing their experience with us!

So, how was it?  Was the weather beautiful down in Orange Beach? 
JK: We had a blast, except we were drenched and covered in colors! I mean, its been two days and my toes are STILL blue!

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It was raining the whole time?  What did you do about your camera? 
JK: Well, luckily I had my ProMaster Rain Jacket that covered all my equipment. Living in Mobile, and knowing it could rain every afternoon, I never leave home without it… and this weekend, the rain jacket didn’t just protect my camera from the weather… but from flying colors too!

What did you take pictures of while you were there?  What was the most challenging part of photographing this event? 
JK: I was inside the running course, set-up at the purple station called “Purple People Eater” – it was so much fun capturing people’s expressions as they’re being bombed with purple powder! The kids would run through, and then run back to get bombed again… it was really funny. It was so challenging though!  I was constantly having to change my exposure settings due to it being overcast at times, and then sun peeking back out… all while trying to keep a high enough shutter speed to catch the action. Last year when I photographed The Color Me Rad Run in Mobile, I learned that I should have brought a monopod or a tripod. But, with all the constant movement, a monopod would be ideal. So, you bet this year I didn’t forget it!  I like the ProMaster XC525C because its a lightweight, carbon-fiber tripod, but also includes a monopod by unscrewing one of the legs so its perfect for events like this because its so compact and versatile.

Bailey's Photo Booth Area

BC: I did the studio part, or the “photo booth” with the Color Run backdrop. Sometimes working a photo booth can get monotonous, so I just tried to keep things fun and interesting the whole time.  I asked people to jump in the air, throw their colors, make goofy faces… doing basically whatever they wanted. I feel like I really captured how fun the moment and the event was, which is really what’s most important.  I would say the most challenging thing was the number of people!  The line was probably a football field long, so we didn’t have that much time to get posed so I just had to stay on my toes and come up with creative ideas on the fly. The most difficult thing would be changing the shutter speed based on what the runners were doing. For instance, if they decided to jump in the air, I would need to raise the shutter speed and still be in-sync with my lights. Or, if they decided to throw color, I might need to drop or raise my exposure depending on how much color they threw and how bright it was compared to my lights.

What was the craziest thing that happened? 
BC: Well, the WHOLE THING was crazy!  But, for me… having a 6-year old attempt to chunk a large amount of paint directly at my camera was definitely a memorable experience for BOTH of us!  I freaked out at the moment, but afterwards realized that it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal because not only did I have my rain jacket on my camera, but I also had a ProMaster HGX Filter on my lens, which means that the paint would have come off very easily with a lens cleaning cloth. So, no need to see a cardiologist this week!

There are more 5k runs involving this color mess if you want to check it out… The Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds is hosting the Color Me Rad Run on May 3 and if you use the promo code “RONALD” you’ll save 10% on your registration, and a portion of your registration fee will benefit The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile!