Cute Halloween

On October 1st I did a not so scary cosplay Halloween session with the lovely Washu Cosplay, who was doing Halloween Eli from Love Live. The set for this shoot was inspired by the figurine’s promotional poster.

For this session I used:

Photography Equipment


Cannon 80D


2 strobes

4 speed lights

2 c-stands

1 Backdrop stands

Grey Backdrop


2 Rectangular Soft boxes

Soft box grids

Purple gels

Orange gels


Fake pumpkins

Fake fall leaves

Orange pails

Real pumpkins

Hay bales

1.5 foot posing cube


Large light up jack-o-lantern

Candy corn puffs

Smoke machine

Plastic Halloween bucket

The set up

This set design was based off the promotional posters for the Halloween Eli figurine. The posters showed a very cute and fun Halloween scene with purples, yellows, and pinks. The primary anchor for this set was the large jack-o-lantern, and I built out form there. I placed a posing cube behind the jack-o-lantern since it was not strong enough to be truly sat on. I also hung two ghosts in the background.  

For the lighting, I placed a speed light with an orange gel in each of the orange pails to light up the jack-o-lantern faces on them. I specifically, placed the speed light so it was facing the back of the pail so it would bounce and fill the whole pail with light producing a more even spread. I then placed a speed light with purple gels at each side of the back drop pointed towards the backdrop to give it a purple glow. I then placed the first strobe with soft box and grid a little past 45-degrees off the center line to my right, raised up and pointed slightly down. The second strobe with soft box was closer to 45-degrees off the center line to my left to act as fill.  The second soft box did not contain a grid. This ensured the model and set was properly lit, for a cute, fun, and bright Halloween session.

Set picture taken after session

Camera Settings

For this session I used ISO 200 with an aperture of F8, and shutter speed of 1/200s. My focal length ranged from 18mm to 50mm with most of the images being taken at 32mm.  By keeping the same camera setting throughout the sessions, all I needed to do was dial in the lighting then just worry about composition. I tend to try to get my lighting as close to correct before the model arrives and then make minor adjustments with the model on set. In this case getting the speed lights correct was important, because if they were too bright, I would lose any color being provided by the gel. 

The Photos

There were a lot of great photos from this set I’m going to talk about three.

This first image is my absolute favorite and it was taken after I removed the big jack-o-lantern and posing block. To get this photo I had my assistant, (i.e., husband) throw one of the ghosts towards but in front of the model, who then acted frightened.  We did this about seven times and got about four decent frames of which two were great frames.  To edit this image, I did all the basic adjustments form tweaking the exposure, cropping, and adjusting the vibrancy of the image.  I also added a small radial filter on the model’s face to bright that up just a touch compared to the rest of the image. I then pulled the image into Photoshop to remove the strings on the ghosts and a few little pieces of dirt on the backdrop.  It was a fairly simple edit overall.

For this second image I brought in the smoke machine and two small hay bales. Note to self, never work with hay bales inside, they leave hay everywhere.  Hay bales are outdoor props only.  I hid the smoke machine behind the hay bales, it has a remote so it was easy to add puff of smoke when I needed them. In post I did all the standard edits and purposely cropped the image to square.  I felt square worked well for this image placing the model’s eyes almost on a rule of thirds line. I then added a vignette to the image. In post I removed the strings on the ghosts and a few minor distractions. Again, another very simple edit.

Not this last image is pure Halloween cuteness but required some complex editing. The large jack-o-lantern actually lights up, and I did have it on during the session. However, the lights were not bright enough to overcome the strobes and be picked up by the camera sensor.  I would have needed to do a long exposure or considerably up my ISO for the lights to register; risking bringing in ambient light. So, I had to add the light during post.  First, I did all the basic adjustments, leveling, and cropping in Lightroom. I then ported the image over to Photoshop to do the more complicated edits. The first thing I did was remove the remnants of the ghosts, due to how the image was cropped. This involved using a combination of the two types of healing brushes.  The next challenge was making the jack-o-lantern glow. To do that I first selected the eyes, nose, and mouth and created a new layer from the selection.  I then converted that layer to a smart object, added a gaussian blur, then set the layer to screen. I then duplicated this process several times and grouped the layers.  I then added a hue/saturation layer, tying it to my layer group, and adjusted the color till I found the right “glow” color.  I did do this on all the images with the jack-o-lantern, so I created an action in photoshop that ran through the whole process for me once the main selection was made. All these actions resulted in the image you see below.

Overall, this was a fun little shoot. I always enjoy working with Washu Cosplay.  I did have a few lessons learned from this shoot. First those little hay bales from JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels leave straw everywhere and are very messy. I will only use those for outdoor sessions from now on.  Second, next time I’m just going to shove a flash into the large jack-o-lantern. I discovered after the shoot I could take the bottom off and have a big enough hole to place a flash in. Finally, instead of throwing ghosts at the model, I’ll attach them to a stick with a string and dangle them in the frame, to get more consistency. Finally, I’m very happy with how the images came out and as a fun little bonus a few of the images will be in the Makeda Magazine Halloween/Cosplay issue.  


Washu Cosplay (@washu_cosplay on Instagram)

Set Design: 
Heather of Munchkin Photos (Instagram: @munckin_photos_by_heather)


Popular Posts