9 Tricks for Parents to Try When Photographing Halloween

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Move over baby pandas and Boo the Dog — there’s something else vying for the cutest darn thing you ever did see. Try a parade of kindergarteners decked out in Halloween costumes. October generously ladles up some pretty good family photo opportunities, but before you get snap happy with the old “Look here! Say Cheese! Hold hands!” routine, here are nine tips to help you avoid pained forced smiles and capture natural light, good fun and all the childhood wonder this holiday brings.

1. Try on the Costumes First and Use Dress Rehearsal for Photo Ops

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As my family has grown, the chance of getting a good picture with every kid in the shot has diminished. Add Halloween costumes, and it’s even harder — She pulled her tail off! She smeared her cat nose! He won’t keep his hat on!  The fact of the matter is, when Halloween night arrives, who knows what everyone’s mood will be like, or if the baby will let us paint on his fake mustache, or if my daughter is going to cry because her mouse hat is itchy or because she wants to ditch the planned costume all together and go with a princess dress from the dress-up stash. As moms, we’re prepared to go with the flow.

If your heart is set on getting a great picture of all your kids in costume together, have them try their costumes on a few days early when everyone is in a good mood — and take a group shot then. We’ve had a tradition of sending out Halloween cards for years, so we get our group shot (admittedly sometimes Photoshopped) early — the one that’s tucked away in baby books for years to come.

2. Play with Depth of Field

Before you line your kid up straight against a wall of pumpkins for a “flat” one-dimensional shot, try having him stand several feet in front of a good landscape, focusing on him and letting the fall scene blur behind him. This creates a much more natural look with visual interest.

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3. Take Pictures of Things You’ll Want to Remember

That face she drew on the pumpkin, the pink fuzzy purse she insisted on bringing to hold her candy while trick-or-treating, the way he wore his cowboy boots backwards so his Woody costume had a funny walk. Those pictures are the ones that will make you smile years from now — far more than the traditional poses. Capture their quirks, their uniqueness, their funny little selves.

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4. Start Trick-or-Treating Early for Good Light

Natural light photos are always my favorite. Keep an eye on sunset time and head out before dark for a few bright, detailed photos.

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5. Don’t Make Them Look at the Camera

To truly capture the magic of childhood, take photos of your child simply being a child — not looking at the camera and not tightening up her cheeks in an awkward “Cheese!” pose. Besides, sometimes the backs of costumes have the cutest details!

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6. Play with Interesting Details and Colors

Clothing patterns and color contrasts can add a lot of interest to your Halloween photos, especially set against the backdrop of fall leaves or a pumpkin patch. Here, the thin blue stripes of the overalls and the bold red stripes of the rain boots make a nice statement against the green grass and the sea of orange pumpkins.

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7. Don’t Slump the Baby — Take Photos from Above for Babies Who Can’t Sit Up Yet

I know, I know — babies in costume are just too irresistible not to take photos. But babies who can’t sit up yet look awkward when propped up against hay bales and pumpkins, and end up just slumping over. For babies who still need to be held, try taking “aerial view” photos from above. More comfortable babies make for much cuter pictures.

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8. Pumpkins Look Good from Above, Too

Babies aren’t the only ones who look good when photographed from above. When you’re visiting the pumpkin patch, play with perspective and take some overhead shots of all that beautiful orange.

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9. Play with Darkness

Just because the sun went down doesn’t mean you have to resort to flash pictures. Turn your flash off and play around with the surrounding light — from street lamps, landscape lights, candles, etc. — for some fun, silhouette shots with a festive glow.

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