How To Take Great Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
| by Dee Grant | Pictures By Mom | Where Moms Learn Photography |
Spending some time with your kids while they carve their Halloween pumpkins is a great opportunity to take some fantastic pictures – so here is a quick lesson on how to take Halloween pictures of pumpkin carving in your kitchen or dining room.
No special gear is required to take Halloween pictures of pumpkin carving in your kitchen. All you need is some white paper to cover the table with.
Camera Required: DSLR / Mirrorless System, Point and Shoot or Smartphone
You can use this lesson on how to take Halloween pictures of pumpkin carving with any camera.
However, the quality of the pictures you will get will be directly related to the low light capabilities of your camera – so a DSLR is best.
Sample Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
Concept for Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
I basically wanted to snap a bunch of candid pictures of me and the kids with my husband while we carved our pumpkins for Halloween.
Carving our Halloween pumpkins is a special yearly tradition, so its important to me to take some great pictures – but to keep the focus on the pumpkin carving, not the picture taking.
Lighting for Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
We are just going to use the ambient light available in your kitchen / dining room. But, we need as much light as possible – so go turn on all the lights in your kitchen / dining room, and all the lights in the surrounding rooms.
For my pumpkin carving pictures, we have a chandelier overhead that has six forty watt incandescent light bulbs in it. So that is the equivalent of 240 watts of incandescent light, right overhead. That’s about the same amount of light as four sixty watt incandescent light bulbs, or four fifteen watt compact fluorescent light bulbs.
If you have more light than that in your room, great! If not – go grab a couple lamps from the living room and bring them into the kitchen / dining room.
I should also note that my kitchen / dining room is relatively small, has yellow walls and a very large mirror at one end. If you have a large open concept room, and / or a room with dark walls, you will need a bit more light.
Next, you will need to cover your table with sheets of nice white paper. The whiter the better. I used sheets of two by three foot drawing paper.
If you have overhead lighting, or lights that reflect off of the ceiling, the ambient light in your kitchen / dining room will be relatively multi-directional – meaning you can take pictures from any direction with a minimal effect on your exposure.
If you only have lights at one end, or table lamps, you will have to be a bit more careful to take pictures away from your lights.
You also don’t want to have the actual lights in the frame.
The white paper on the table will act as a reflector to reflect the ambient light in your kitchen / dining room and create a nice soft fill light to soften all of the shadows on the faces of your subjects.
Staging for Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
Before we sat down to carve our Halloween pumpkins, I cleared out all of the clutter from our kitchen / dining room, took a few of the pictures off of the walls and wiped the kid’s dirty fingerprints off of the chairs. I wanted to make sure that I had a nice clean background from every direction.
My daughter Sadie was wearing relatively nice clothing, even if her purple top didn’t quite go with the orange pumpkins and yellow room. However, my son Isaac was wearing an ugly sports team shirt – so I bribed him with a Halloween box of smarties to go change into a nice rugby shirt instead.
Camera Settings for Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
Indoor ambient lighting is dim no matter how many lights you have on. Therefore, you will be taking pictures using low light camera settings.
I was using a DSLR with a very fast f1.4 lens. However, if you are using a standard 18-55 mm kit lens with a maximum aperture of f 3.5, here are the camera settings you can start with:
- Put your camera into manual mode (M).
- Set your ISO to 1600
- Set you aperture to the widest your lens will go – usually f3.5
- If you have a vibration reduction (VR) lens – make sure that vibration reduction is turned on.
- Set your shutter speed to 1/30th of a second.
- Set your white balance to “incandescent” (the little light bulb icon). If you have compact florescent lights, and you are seeing a weird color shift in your pictures, set the white balance back to “automatic”.
These settings will put you at the limit of pictures that you can take with your camera in your hand.
If you need more light and you are using a lens that has vibration reduction (VR), you can reduce your shutter speed down to 1/15th of a second – and / or you can increase your ISO to 3200 (although, depending on your camera, an ISO of 1600 will already be somewhat noisy and grainy – ISO 3200 will be even worse).
If you don’t have a lens that has vibration reduction (VR), your are limited to a minimum shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, so you will have no choice but to use a higher ISO.
You can also take similar pictures with your camera in program auto (P). Start by selecting an ISO of 1600, take a picture and see what you get. If your picture is blurry, you probably need more light, so increase your ISO.
Post Processing for Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving
If you are using an image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop Express, follow these steps:
First tweak the exposure, using the exposure slider. Bring the picture into a range where your highlights are not too bright and your shadows are not too dark.
Use the burn tool – choose shadows, select a large brush and a high change in exposure setting. Paint over your picture with the burn tool to add detail and definition back to into the shadows. You might have to do this more than once for areas of your picture that need even more contrast.
You can also use a white/blacks slider or the contrast slider to do this in more sophisticated editors. The goal is to increase the blacks to darken the shadows and add definition.
Adjust the white balance. Find a white balance setting that looks neutral – ie. something that should be white looks white.
Finally, increase the saturation a little bit to pop the colors.
For this last picture, I turned off the lights and used a little LED flashlight to light Isaac’s face. I had to increase the ISO from 1600 to 32oo without the ambient light.
The white balance is still set to incandescent, and the LED flashlight has a much whiter light than the candles in the pumpkins, so Isaac’s face has a cool spooky blue color.
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How Did Your Halloween Pictures of Pumpkin Carving Turn Out?
Leave a comment below and let everyone know how your Halloween pumpkin carving photos turned out!