Compositing Ideas

HandlePod®, Halloween and HDRHpy-Halowen.png

Elaborate decorations abound in most neighborhoods near Halloween. Some residents go to impressive lengths to fill their front yards and lawns with pumpkins, tombstones, skeletons, witches and all manner of macabre displays. These subjects provide a great photographic opportunity, but one that demands care and attention to achieve satisfactory results. A point-and-shoot with flash will record the scene, but not very impressively. These subjects are best shot at night under lighting conditions that are often demanding. Low light levels are typical, as is high contrast and extreme variations from light to dark.

Camera Stabilization

ScareCrow-tonemap.pngA stabilized camera is essential to avoid blur from camera shake. HandlePod® provides reliable stabilization without the need for a heavy tripod.
It can be used quickly and discreetly on any available solid support. Setting up a tripod can be intrusive and likely to attract attention. But bracing the HandlePod on a lamp post is not likely to be easily noticed. HandlePod is easy to carry and simple to use whenever and wherever an interesting subject grabs your attention.
A straight shot of a Halloween display can be rather ordinary unless given some enhancement to make colors pop and the scene jump out and grab the viewer.


Photomatix® High Dynamic Range Enhancement

LoveSkulls-TonemapThere is nothing like High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing to make a Halloween decorated house look haunted. Photomatix® is a popular High Dynamic Range Program containing presets that can make Halloween photographs positively ghostly.
Begin with three bracketed exposures of the scene. One shot will work, but at least three is better to cover the range from light to dark. Proper focus and blur avoidance from camera shake is important. HandlePod provides reliable stabilization. All photos in this article were shot using a HandlePod held against lamp posts or trees. It also keeps all the shots aligned, which is difficult when hand holding the Camera. Photomatix® will align photos automatically, but there is the possibility of some mismatch. It is best to start with perfectly aligned, similar shots.

Bracketing & HDR Processing

While the entire display might be impressive, it is also important to look for details and isolate subjects of particular interest. HHouse-tonemap+moonHere again, the lighting, color saturation and detail may not be satisfactory in the original shots. But a series of brackets and HDR processing can create a very spooky effect. Presets in Photomatix® like “creative” and “grunge” can totally transform the original shot. Some are a bit extreme, but there are enough adjustments to fine tune the shot to your liking. Also, Photomatix® gives you the option to keep or eliminate “ghosts”; things in the bracketed photos that move between shots. Keeping them can create a ghostly blur on the parts that move. Eliminating them will retain the moving object from one shot and eliminate the others. This can reduce sharpness but works well. It is up to you whether to keep or eliminate ghosts.

Finishing Touches

A finishing touch to your Halloween photo composite is a ghostly, cloud-shrouded full Moon floating in the sky. Caspermoon
No Moon? No problem. The wonders that Photoshop® provides will let you add the Moon wherever you want, if you already have the Moon in your image files. On full Moon lit nights, when clouds pass by, take a lot of bracketed shots and use them wherever you want.
That’s all there is to it! And the same techniques of image stabilization and HDR apply to Christmas displays as well.
Happy Holiday shooting.

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