5 Ways to Create Mysterious Halloween Photos
“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” ― Yoko Ono
A little while ago, I was contacted by the awesome folks over at Shutterfly storytelling - asking if I could submit some tips + tricks on creating enchanting and magical photos for Autumn/Halloween. I was honored to be asked and totally jumped for joy at the opportunity to share some of my 'secrets'.
I hope you'll enjoy the article and that it helps you create some spectacularly haunting images too!
UPDATE: October 26, 2016 - I realized the link no longer works as it has been so long... so scroll down for the article, now added here :) Happy creating!
October 2012: Christy Hydeck, aka Chrysti, is the co-author (with Susan Tuttle) of ‘Photo Craft: Creative Mixed Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs.’ She has also had many articles published in various magazines, books and websites, taught mixed media classes, is both an artist and photographer, dabbled in cooking, and even sings in the shower! Chrysti, along with a few other talented souls, was listed as one of the world's best iPhoneographers by Wired.it magazine online and has amassed one of the largest non-celebrity followings on Instagram. She loves to connect with people and inspire creativity no matter what she's into at the moment. She firmly believes that each of us has a creative offering longing to be set free in the world.
5 Ways to Capture + Create Autumn’s Enchantment
Bring 50 photographers into the same setting and chances are, that in the end, you’ll see 50 very different and unique images. It is, in my opinion, one of the most wonderful things about photography! Every experience is unique to the person living it and that singular, individual perspective is often a common element within photographs that I am particularly drawn towards. You know which ones I mean- those shots that make you suddenly see something you’ve seen a dozen times before - in an entirely new way. In a day and age where the act of taking photos is oh-so-terribly-common, it is easy to forget just how much power photography can potentially hold.
The trouble comes in to play when what you see through your eyes + feel in your heart doesn’t translate well within your lens. Those frustrating moments are what have led me to discover and share the following tips to capturing and creating the magic that I see within the world. Since Autumn is hands down, my favorite part of the year (I’m wildly convinced that fairies dance within the rustling leaves and the trees are trying to share their wisdom with me) let’s use that as our inspiration – but you can always adapt these tips to fit the subjects that motivate your creative spirit.
1. If you can’t capture it, create it!
Often, when I am out and about shooting photos (forests are particularly spectacular for this kind of thing) my mind begins to just create these fantastically magical stories – the stuff that fairy tales are often made of. I begin asking myself questions about the people that walked here before me, wondering what could have happened and allowing my senses to fully absorb my surroundings – this line of thought begins to shift my perspective and usually results with images that tell my story.
For the times that what I am feeling, isn’t present within my viewfinder, I use Photoshop to speed things along. Adding layers with my own images in addition to stock photos (the little girl walking is from here http://mrg.bz/PDNDSR , the bird brush is from here http://falln-stock.deviantart.com/art/Birds-Brush-Set-1-92730449 ) and adjusting their opacity helps create the ghostly effect in the scene you see above. I added layers of textures, lens flares and other hidden gems at various opacity levels within the image as well. Because so many colors and elements were competing I opted to make the piece monochromatic. That one step helped unify all the chaos and create calm in the photo. Don’t discard your work without trying it in a monochromatic scheme first, it is often just what the doctor ordered!
2. Enhance Mood with Blur
I have this love/hate thing going on with corn fields. On one hand, I think they are breathtakingly beautiful –but between you & I? … they also kinda creep me out. I used my Lensbaby lens in the photo above to help me illustrate that eerie feeling that sends shivers up my spine. The Lensbaby is a tilt-shift lens of sorts – it blurs the entire image except one area of your choosing, which we shall call the sweet spot. Here, I made the focal point the entrance into the corn field – the blur surrounding it creates the illusion of movement - perhaps some evil, dark entity entering the maze… I converted the photo to black and white to strengthen the mood, and then added a film texture over that to create a sense of haunting stillness. While all these elements work together well to create this photo, it is also proof positive I’ve watched one too many horror movies in my lifetime!
3. Get Crafty With It
We have a hidden spot in the forest, not terribly far from here, where we love to go and spend an afternoon tucked away from the noise of the world. I have photographed this same spot so many times that it became.. well, a bit of a bore. Determined to break that rut, I gathered up a bag of household items – saran wrap, trash bags, colored sunglasses, petroleum jelly, old hosiery and so on… to wrap over my lens and shoot through. The results were awesome! I discuss this exercise more in depth within my book, ‘Photo Craft: Creative Mixed Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs’. As wonderful as digital editing programs are, going back to the basics and exploring physical, handmade filters is an essential way to experiment and create dreamy looks that aren’t easily replicated.
4. Experiment with shadows, light + perspective
Take advantage of Halloween costumes this year by placing them behind a curtain. Use a light to illuminate the form and snap away! Think of all the mystical creatures and forms that can be found within a single shape. Alternatively, head to your favorite local stores and ask for permission to photograph their displays. Don’t just shoot them straight on, look for unique ways to frame the shot through other objects in the store.
5. Personalize It
Earlier, I talked about creating your own dreamscapes through the magic of programs like Photoshop. Take it a step further and incorporate scans of your family’s history – maybe a handwritten recipe or an old letter your beloved grandfather sent to your grandmother. Think about your family treasures and how you can give them a second life within your imagery. In the piece above, the deaths page in an old family bible along with hand painted textures enhanced the eeriness of a foggy morning I spent watching blackbirds.