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Forget the Pumpkin Heads! Spice Up Your Halloween Portraits With These Tips and Ideas

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/5/2014

For some great Halloween portraits you don't need to look like something out of Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Use these tips, techniques and suggestions to add a unique twist to your photos that people will love.

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    Try Something Different This Halloween

    Do all your Halloween portraits look like Jack o' Lanterns? You don’t have to have a Halloween costume that makes you look like you spent too much time in the pumpkin patch, although you certainly can. But for some truly memorable Halloween holiday portraits this year, why not try something a bit more upbeat, photogenic and recognizable? Not only will these types of photos be more presentable the rest of the year, but you might also find additional uses for them as well.

    For something different, consider a few of the following suggestions.

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    Makeup Costumes

    geisha IMG 5448 You can dress up using makeup to put you in fun fantasy character without altering your client's facial features using Halloween face paint to the point they’re no longer recognizable. Try a typical costume or folk outfit from a foreign country. Don a pair of lederhosen, a feathered hat and shorts along with a fancy beer mug and you’re set with a fanciful Halloween holiday costume you can use in a number of other applications until next “All Hallow’s Eve.”

    Be a bullfighter, a cowboy, a geisha, a fireman, a wizard, a good witch, a clown, a comic book character or super-hero, or try other fantasy character ideas to spruce up your Halloween holiday portrait. Trust me, if you (or your client) dress up as Spiderman, Superman, a Power Puff Girl or Superwoman (don’t forget the cape) with a pot belly, runaway hips or a sagging double chin, your portrait photo will never be forgotten. Gasp! I shudder to think of it even now!

    Ever thought of being the Tin Man, a scarecrow or an Irish Leprechaun? Well then, a few animal makeup costume ideas might strike your fancy. How about making up yourself or a Halloween holiday portrait client, as a cat, puppy dog, squirrel, owl, panther or lion? What do you mean, you want to be a werewolf again. Grow up, Tiny Tim.

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    A Few Tips for Getting Great Shots

    tres amigas IMG 5433 One of the best aspects of non-frightening Halloween costumes is that they can not only be interesting and pleasant, but you could also consider incorporating them into other uses during the rest of the year. If you or your Halloween holiday portrait client sport a pleasant smile while “in costume” for your photos, a number of additional uses may well be in the offing. Also keep in mind:

    Get up close. Don’t be afraid to get up close or zoom in to get a tight portrait shot of the subject. Remember that if you physically get up too close to your subject, the camera lens will distort the person’s face by prospectively enlarging the subject’s nose, lips or eyes. Shoot the portrait both ways – physically up close for a tight portrait shot, then back off and zoom in using the camera’s optical or digital zoom to tighten up a close up portrait shot.

    You might find the distance perspective distortion, where closer objects appear larger, creates an interesting photo effect that enhances the portrait. You might also prefer the zoom shot, but shooting the portrait both ways allows you (or your client) the choice of photographic effects.

    Want to try a neat lighting trick? When shooting for a “spooky” or “eerie” effect, light the subject from below. Position a flash unit, small flood light or even a flashlight shining up to the person’s face. The unusual lighting angle will give your Halloween holiday portraits a “ghostly” cast with shadows in places opposite to where they normally are. That is unless you usually walk around upside down – but hey, you never know, remember Aunt Maude.

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    Stay Recognizable

    If the Halloween costume makeup alters your skin tone or color be sure to consider the camera’s white balance setting when shooting digital images. Using a flash or flood light covered with colored glass or cellophane; red, green and blue or orange work well and will also allow you to get unique lighting on your subject.

    Be sure to keep the subject fairly recognizable in the portrait. The late Stanley Kubrick had his “ape” costumes so realistically done on the actors in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, that the film didn’t win the “Best Costume” award because nobody realized the “apes” were actually people! Go easy on the Halloween face paint. You don’t want your Halloween holiday portraits to be so overdone that the subject is not recognizable. If the costume has a face-covering mask, it may need to come off for the portrait. You also don’t want Halloween holiday portraits that are distasteful or unpleasant in any aspect. Except for your strange Aunt Maude - with her, anything goes.

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    Other Possible Uses for Your Photos

    girl in Halloween mask IMG 7463 Have you considered using tasteful Halloween holiday portraits at other times of the year for other purposes? There are advertising posters, ad illustrations, stock photography options, personalized greeting cards for year-round use, “Don’t let this greeting card scare you”, birthday cards, “So you’ve managed to scare up another birthday, have you?”, graduation or promotion celebration cards, “Don’t be afraid of the future” or “Don’t let your new future prospects scare you.

    Business cards, “We’re not afraid to take on new clients” or "We’d like to scare up some new ideas for your business – give us a howl” or a simple, “Here’s smiling at you” can also be effective, novel approaches for using Halloween portraits. Now get out there and “scare up” some Halloween holiday portrait clients. Use a few photos or so as samples to show prospective clients, family and friends what you can do. Oh yeah, those ones of Aunt Maude in the Halloween face paint should work just great.

    Say, wasn’t she born in late October?