Halloween is one of those obligatory "photo holidays." You need shots before they get in costume. Shots of them knocking on their first door. And don't you dare forget to get a pic of all that loot!
Throw that long list in with trying to keep track of a busy toddler and the impending dark, and photographing your kid's Halloween seems scarier than the kid with the creepy Scream mask down the street.
OK, deep breath, Mom.
As a family portrait photographer, I can walk you through this.
1. Take photos at home before you leave. There are fewer distractions, so you will get your child to look at YOU and give you some cheese instead of their face in hysterics because they don't like the neighbor's skeleton.
Your home lighting is also likely to be better than out on the streets at dusk. You may not get the action, but you'll have the money shot -- your child in costume -- in case something happens (like, ahem, forgetting batteries).
This will also let you leave the camera at home and simply enjoy the holiday with the kids. You're going to have enough to carry; leaving the camera at home can take a load off.
2. Get down low. These are short people. You don't want a lot of shots of the top of their costume. You want the whole thing. A great trick is to sit at the bottom of the steps while your child goes up to the door. When they turn around with their goodies, you're at a perfect angle to get a photo of their grin.
3. Use the flash. It's starting to get dark at dusk in most communities in America, and the last thing you want to do is chance your photos being too black to see.
4. Or go flash free. This is the best way to catch the natural glow of a jack o' lantern or candles and skip out on red eye, but it does take some skill. Invest in a tripod or perch the camera on a solid surface to reduce camera shake.
Using aperture mode will allow you to just choose the F-stop, while the camera picks a shutter speed. Using shutter mode will let you pick a shutter speed, and the camera will pick an aperture.
If you're ready for manual settings, read your camera manual. It will tell you how to increase the ISO -- the higher the number, the less light you need. You'll also want to find out how to change your F-stop. The lower the F-stop number, the less light you need.
Finally, you'll want to set your shutter speed (also in the manual) to something relatively quick to catch the action.
Take a few practice shots, then adjust.
5. Shoot in red-eye mode. This is one of the hardest parts of night photography. A bright flash will cause the retina to open wider, reflecting back a reddish color at the camera. It's actually been proven to be worse in kids whose retinas go wider than adults. If you have the funds, an off-camera flash and a flash bracket can help with this, but for everyday shooting, take advantage of your camera's settings. That's why they're there.
6. Go candid. You will never get your toddler to sit perfectly still. Or your dog for that matter. And forget two kids. So keep shooting. A lot. You'll find something good in there. And thanks to digital, you only have to pay to print the ones you like.
Image by Jeanne Sager