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Getting Great Pictures of the Kids this Halloween

By Jeff Westover

There she was in all her glory. Long white lab coat, frizzy hair, safety goggles — and a face smeared with the black ash of an experiment gone terrifically wrong. She was, at least on this Halloween night, Dr. Abby Normal. But for most of her life I had known her as Abigail, my daughter, and I had just taken some of the most legendary photos of her life.

These weren’t your garden-variety portraits. Not exactly Wal Mart studio stuff either. They were pictures taken of my kids in their natural element — being kids. That is the real photo opportunity of a holiday like Halloween.

For treasured images this Halloween, here are some quick tips to remember to get once-in-a-lifetime photos:

  1. Stop Posing — Halloween is not a formal affair. So don’t bother with the wedding style shots. Engage the kids in the play associated with their costumes — and THEN shoot the pictures. Candids reveal the smiles much more than a “Hold still, honey!” moment.
  2. Shoot Early, Shoot Often — Film is the cheapest part of photography. And in this digital age, there just isn’t a reason not to shoot several images. There are many good reasons for being trigger happy with the camera. First, if kids are use to you constantly firing away they won’t bother with the plastic smiles. But most importantly, shooting more simply increases your chances for great pictures. With Halloween pictures some of the best pictures are taken while the costuming is in process — don’t wait for the finished product in getting out the camera.
  3. Get in Their Face — Halloween was made for pretend. Kids love to make faces, don costumes and assume a new personality. It is the ultimate form of exhibition. You just can’t let the opportunity pass. They WANT to be noticed. Most point-and-shoot variety cameras have wide-angle lenses. While this helps them to get sharp results and to work well in lower light, they tend to move the subject matter further away. Most have a minimum shooting distance of around three feet. Don’t be afraid to push that limit at Halloween. Get in close, have them make faces, ask them to talk to the camera. They will. It is, after all, Halloween.
  4. Let Them Call the Shots — It’s their party. Ask them what kind of pictures they want. When my son was Harry Potter a few years back he wanted to jump off the roof on his Nimbus 2000. We had to reason with him a bit. But a little leap from a lawn chair to the grass did the trick and we got the shots of Harry in flight. Chances are your kids have an idea of the persona they are adopting. Let them call the shots to document the experience.
  5. Use the set — Most of us decorate for the season. There could be haystacks, a bubbling pot, a roaring fireplace. Use these props, even if they don’t fit the theme of the costume. Down the road the memories you cherish will include all the fun that went into creating the holiday environment in your home.

Good candid pictures of children require active participation and putting them at ease. Halloween is the easiest of seasons in which to do this.
© 2004 by Jeff Westover

About The Author
Jeff Westover is a freelance writer and father of seven from Salt Lake City, Utah. He is the managing editor of My Merry, where folks have been making merry online for more than a decade. He writes about holidays, families, parenting, home schooling and photography for a variety of publications both online and offline. Please visit for more articles like this one.

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[…] forget there are costumes and fun-times to capture at Halloween. Before the make-up wears off or the costume get accidentally ripped, try getting some candid shots […]

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