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Halloween Camera Tricks: Light Painting Your Pumpkins

Kyla from the Eugene Shutterbug location is known as the lighting guru! She loves playing with lighting, color and taking photos of all things Halloween. Today, she has written up this blog post on how to get the BEST Jack O' Lantern photos!

Kyla teaches classes at the Eugene location. She is a Canon-fanatic, who also happens to love light painting. If you would like to sign up for a class with her, check out her class schedule here, or give her a call at the Eugene store!

* All pumpkin carvings and photos were taken by Kyla herself!*

Preparing Your Pumpkin Shoot

I've played around with a number of different lights, including headlamps (turned to the red mode), bike lights (usually the rear ones, because they're red) light up hula hoops, or any kind of color changing LED lights that you can hold in your hand, like the VidPro RGB 152 lights.

I highly recommend using LED lights to light up the interior of our pumpkin. If you really enjoy fun colors and don't want to feel limited to one color, check out our VidPro RGB 152 lights($99.99). You can control the lights remotely via an app and they offer a variety of vivid lighting in a portable size.

VidPro RBG 152
VidPro RBG 152

Double check that your batteries are charged up fully or you have back up batteries for any cameras and lights you have, otherwise you may have a very short photo shoot. Play around with different settings on your lights, if you have them. For example, a light that is solid will produce a solid line, but a flashing light will produce a dotted line or streak.

Make sure any light source inside the pumpkin is pushed back inside. If the light is too far forward, a glare will be visible through the pumpkin carving.

Placing your pumpkin on a table or a chair with plenty of space around is the ideal. I cannot recommend using glass surfaces enough! The reason? The reflective surface will give you a mirroring effect. Make sure to give yourself space to move around your set-up so you don't trip.

If you're shooting a group of pumpkins, make sure to align them in a way where they aren't blocking each other.

Last of all, to whoever is moving the lights: Wear black clothing. Black clothes will mask your figure when you are light painting.

Some cameras have a remote function built-in!

Your Camera Settings

Place your camera on a tripod, point at your subject (the jack o' lantern). Turn your camera mode dial to "Shutter priority" aka "S' or 'Tv' mode. You can also use your "M" Manual shooting mode. To find the right settings, you will have to play around with your dials a bit as each person's setting will be slightly different. A good place to start is to set your ISO between 250-500, Aperture dialed around F/5.6 - F/7.1 and your Shutter speed set to somewhere between 2-10" (2-10 seconds). Be sure to have a cable release remote or the self timer function on your camera on-hand to remove the possibility of a shaky image.

Depending on your camera model, you may be able to use your camera's built-in WiFi enabled remote function. This function is controlled by your cell phone via an app.

Nikon's Camera Remote app: SnapBridge

Canon's Camera Remote app: CanonConnect

Sony's Camera Remote app: ImagingEdge Moblie

Take the Photo

Once you have everything set up, fire your camera using one of the remotes you have and wave your handheld light quickly around your pumpkin for the whole duration of your shutter speed (2-10 seconds).

You can see that this light changed colors during the exposure.

If you move the light in front of your pumpkin, keep it low so you don't block your carving with the light painting. Make sure to play around with how you're moving the light.

Taking the perfect photos takes plenty of trial and error. Take your time and experiment!

If your light painting looks too dark or like there's not enough light streaks, increase your shutter time and try again.

Draw attention to pumpkins that have no light by shining a flashlight on it for a moment.

Have any pumpkins uncarved pumpkins (white painted pumpkin above)? You can still include it in the group photo. While the shutter is still open, briefly flash the unlit pumpkin with a flashlight (white light). This works best if you put the unlit pumpkin on the side of, or slightly in front of the other lit pumpkins.

Capture some cool shots? Let us know how you did! Email with any of your Halloween photos and we will happily feature your festive photos (with credit, of course) on our newsletter!


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The Shutterbug is a Oregon Family Owned & Operated Camera Store, with four locations in Oregon. We have been in the industry of helping photographers like you since 1971.


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