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Month November 2009

Four photography rules to break on halloween (or anytime really)

A party planner emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I was interested in shooting a Halloween party. Not being an event photographer, I hesitated. After a few conversations with the client, where it became apparent that I could basically shoot whatever creative craziness I wanted to, I agreed. My plan was deliberate. I wanted to screw with some common photography conventions and have a bit of fun in the process.

Rule #1: Don’t light people from below.

The Birds

People can look scary when lit from below. This rule of lighting and photography likely has something to do with the fact that the sun and moon are always above us. In nature, it’s not really normal to see light sources coming from below the horizon. Fireplaces and lanterns create light sources from below however.

Rule #2: Be careful with your horizon.

As humans, we like level things. It would be a bit disorienting if everything in our world existed at funny angles. Sleeping would be hard, things would roll off our desks, paintings on your wall would have to be studied with a head tilt. One general rule in making photographs is that we like to keep objects in our frames fairly level. While there are definite exceptions, Halloween gives us the opportunity to disorient with the viewer’s permission.

Rule #3: Avoid making hard shadows with your flash.

Small hard light sources can create intense shadows. Often, these shadows become problematic distractions in photos. I’ve read a few lighting books where different techniques are suggested for avoiding this effect. On Halloween, however, it works.

Rule #4: Don’t make people look crazy.

Ok. That’s not really a conventional photography rule. But I do think that when we are making photographs of people there’s a general sense that people should look normal or sane. Halloween gives us permission to portray people as a little mad. We should take advantage of that exception.

Here are a few more photographs from the Halloween party.