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Shooting for Halloween

With Halloween coming, it could be time to think about how to take photos of kids (or adults) in costume, and there is a challenge that sometimes escapes your planning.  That challenge is the reflective patches and stripes built into modern costumes.  These reflective features are great for spotting kids on the street, but they can be a nightmare in a flash photo.   

Here is the problem; you take a photo of the kids in their costumes and the camera decides that you need flash, however, the camera does not know what to do with all the flash that comes back from the reflective patches.  This sudden burst of light returning to the camera will typically cause the camera to shut the flash down immediately.  In many cases this situation causes the flash to shut down prematurely and the kids never get enough light on them to make a good photo.  The result is a terrific photo of the reflective elements of the costume, but a sub-par image of the kid wearing the costume. 

Not all is lost, at least not on all cameras, because we can setup flash compensation to deal with this situation.  Flash compensation is typically indicated on your menu or functions by a lightning bolt followed by +/-, and this is where you want to go to handle flash for these shots.  If we increase the flash compensation (using the “+” side), the camera will keep the flash on longer and get some light on the kids and the rest of the costume.   

What you will wind up with is a photo that actually shows your kids and their costumes, with some bright spots where the reflective patches appear in the costumes.  This is NOT an exact science where anyone can give you some magical setting to use on your camera, and there are a number of reasons for this:

  • Some costumes have more reflective features than others do. This may require a higher compensation setting.
  • You may be shooting the kids in a group and have a variety of reflective patches to deal with. 
  • Your child may be posed in such a way that the reflective features are a non-issue.  This may require a lower compensation setting.

In any event, it is best for you to take a few shots and check the results so you can make the proper compensation settings.  Take a look at your photos as you take them to be certain the reflective safety features are not ruining your shots.  While we are discussing this subject, I would like to suggest that you get those photos printed too.  Maybe it’s just me, but what ever happened to hanging pictures of your kids on the refrigerator?   

Before getting off this subject, I might also suggest that you carry a small patch of cotton cloth to drape over your flash too.  This will diffuse the flash and make for a more appealing photo.  There are flash diffusers you can purchase for use with virtually any camera, so check your local camera shop.

If you would like to get you photos printed from your mobile device, you can use the Mobile Order from at: http://www.douglasphoto.com/mobileorder/ and have your prints ready fast. 

©2012 Jeff Cowell, jrcowell.com