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How to get the BEST Jack O' Lantern Photos!

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!

P.S Kyla teaches classes at the Eugene location. She is a Canon-fanatic, and she loves portrait, landscape and 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 to schedule a class outside of the hours listed.

Light Up your Pumpkin (Inside the Pumpkin)

I like to use tealight candles or LED lights, but I have been known to use headlamps as they can inspire a little more creativity with the white setting and red setting. 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 them remotely via an app and offer a variety of vivid lighting in a portable size.

Make sure any light source inside the pumpkin is pushed back inside so it doesn't give you a bright glare spot through an eye-hole. Put your pumpkin on a table (glass top looks coolest because you'll get a reflection) or a chair with plenty of space around it. Give the pumpkin space so you can move around it without tripping. If you're shooting a group of pumpkins, make sure you set them up so they're not blocking each other.

Light Up your Pumpkin pt. 2 (The Actual Light Painting)

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.

Make sure 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.

Wear dark clothes, this helps prevent your image (or whoever is waving the lights) from showing up in the photo. (If you don't have any handheld lights to paint with, you can still get a cool photo by putting a colored lightbulb in a porch light, or colorful string lights in the background as your main light source. You won't get light painting this way, but the outside of your pumpkin will pick up a color cast.)

Set your Camera Up

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 "Manual" shooting mode. To find the 'right' settings, you will have to play around with your dials a bit, but 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). Remember to have your cable release remote or the self timer function on your camera on-hand to remove the possibility of a shaky image.

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).

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. Try this a lot of times as the first shot might not be 'the one'! If your light painting looks too dark or like there's not enough light streaks, increase your shutter time and try again.

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.

*All of these pumpkins were carved and photographed by Kyla Howie, minus the photo above, which was a group carving effort!


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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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