Halloween photography is great for getting dressed up or trick-or-treating with the kids, but it also offers a special shooting opportunity for photographers. This unique holiday provides built-in characters, props, and scenes that we can use for a creative photoshoot. To help you make the most of this annual costume party, we’ve put together a list of Halloween photography tips and ideas that you can easily put to use.

Tip #1: Use Props

Halloween, like other marketing-friendly holidays, gets a dedicated month or so in the stores. You’ve no doubt seen the shelves lined with countless Halloween-themed props, decorations, and costumes. If you don’t already have your own collection of Halloween gear, you should have no trouble finding some. Even a pumpkin or two should do the trick. This year, however, rather than use the items solely for their intended purpose, you’re going to feature them in Halloween-themed still shots.

We often think of props as objects we use to complement our subjects (which is a great use for them). But, we can also feature the props themselves as our subjects. Put together a few of your favorite Halloween items, compose your shot, dim the lights, and capture Halloween still-life magic. Of course, you can put these props to further use by placing them around your subject when capturing classic Halloween portraits.

Tip #2: Find or Make the Perfect Halloween Photography Backdrop

You might have the perfect subject wearing a movie-quality costume, but if the background doesn’t fit the occasion, the shot won’t work. Instead of capturing amazing Halloween portraits, it’ll look like you’re shooting BTS for an amazing shot the viewer will never see. Luckily, you won’t have to go far to find the right location. If your travel options are limited and you can’t make it out to a cemetery or some creepy old abandoned buildings, don’t worry. You can transform a small, unassuming space into the perfect Halloween photography backdrop, and it’s easier than you think.

In the video above, Gavin Hoey uses lighting, some plain gray and black fabric, sticks/branches from his yard, a smoke machine, and a bit of creative execution in-camera and during post to transform a small studio space into a spooky Halloween scene.

Halloween Photography Tip #3: Create Drama with Lighting

While lighting plays an important role in all photos, it is absolutely the key ingredient for setting the mood for Halloween photography. You’ll want to lean more towards the dark and dramatic side. Using shadows and contrast to capture the spirit of Halloween. In terms of lighting patterns, then, you’ll mostly avoid flat lighting. And opt for harsher angles, whether from the side, underneath, or above your subject. You can learn more about lighting patterns here in this video on Adorama’s YouTube channel.

Dramatic lighting for Halloween photography does not require the use of flash. But it can afford you the most control, especially depending on the location. For indoor shoots, natural light through the windows or any areas in which you can control the amount of light. Entering the scene can work well if you don’t have (or want to use) flash. Closing down the curtains or placing v-flats near the windows can help block out light when needed. Other light sources, for both indoors and outdoors, include candles (like those used inside jack-o-lanterns), flashlights, or other constant lights. Even a phone light will work.

If you plan to shoot outdoors, you’ll want to wait until it’s darker. Unless you have a dark neutral density filter and one or more powerful flash units.