Thursday, October 27, 2011

Haunting Halloween Portraits


I had the opportunity to work with some models, artists and fellow photographers (from Los Angeles Redditors) on a Halloween-themed photo shoot.


The location was a ghost town, an abandoned oil drilling town that was a couple of hours from Los Angeles.  I figured we would be moving around quite a bit so I opted for a lighting setup that would be easily portable.  I brought three SB-800s, a couple of light stands, a beauty dish and a reflector.  Doesn't sound like a lot but after carrying them for a while it was like dragging a body. :))


We started shooting late in the afternoon.  The sun was still quite strong.  I opted to shoot in the schoolhouse.

For the key, I used a Fotodiox 18" beauty dish with diffusion sock, mounted on the Cowboy Studio bracket.  For the fill light I originally planned to use an on-camera SB-800 with the Coco ring flash as a master/commander.  However, I found that the Coco ring flash diminished the master flash's output so much that it could not trigger the slave flash. 

I instead used bounce flash as fill, bouncing off the walls and ceilings, the way I learned from Neil van Niekerk.  Here are a couple of the shots:



For some of the shots, I positioned a bare flash outside the window, camera left.  Also on camera left, but closer to the camera (inside the room), was the beauty dish.  I then used bounce flash as fill.  Here's the result:


Outdoors:We moved outdoors to shoot atop a rusty gas tank. Our agile model stayed in balance even with her knee-high stiletto boots!

For these shots, I used a bare flash camera left a little behind the subject as accent light, a beauty dish as key light, then I bounced my on-camera flash to a small reflector held by a friend camera right.



We took some shots at a small toolshed that had lots of junk and a partially decomposed animal (small dog? ferret? weasel?).  Because there wasn't much room to setup a light stand (and because my arms were aching from carrying the stands around) I opted for simple bounce flash at this location.

That decomposed creature near her feet is real!


For one of the shots, I added a bare flash as backlight to give a little background separation.


Mansion with 13 Rooms:
At twilight, we moved to the mansion.  I switched to the same setup as in the schoolhouse, using a socked beauty dish as key light, and bounce flash as fill.




I also took some shots with the same setup plus a bare flash as an eerie background light.




I like how the shots turned out and I had fun meeting the other photographers.  I definitely look forward to working with them again.


  1. Man, those are some of the creepiest pictures I've ever seen, good lighting and all, but this post shouldn't be viewed at night.

    I assume that most of the shots were semi wide-angle shots with apertures of f/5.6 or smaller, right? Small flashes did well in the bright sun.

  2. Hehe yes I wanted them to look scary but beautiful/sexy, as incongruous as that is. :)

    You're right about the lens. I used the Tamron 17-50 vc for all of them.

    I think the small flashes did ok outdoors because I was using small modifiers. It would be interesting to work with more powerful studio strobes next time.

    Best regards,

  3. what camera did you use?

  4. Hi. I used a Nikon D300 with Tamron 17-50 VC.

    Best regards,


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