Take inspiration from folklore to create an editorial photoshoot.
WHAT BETTER WAY TO celebrate Halloween than by delving into the exciting depths of local legends to create a fantastically spooky portrait shoot. While famous British myths are widely known about, such as the Black Shuck and will-o’-the-wisp, local legends are an untapped source of creative fun. From uncanny tales of ill-fated lovers to rumours of beasts let loose over foggy moors, you’re in the unique position to transform your town’s mythology into amazing photography.
Discover local legends
The best part of living in the UK is that there’s so much history embedded in the walls of our old towns. Almost every area boasts a macabre event steeped in mystery from years ago that’s perfect inspiration for your photo. You may find that there’s a particular myth that springs to mind for your shoot, but if not then don’t worry. Many cities, towns and villages will have books or websites that cover events of historical importance that occurred within the town walls. If you flick through, you may be able to find a good story to recreate. Alternatively, try talking to the local librarian or town council, as they may also be able to point you in the right direction. If you’re still unable to find something that interests you, simply look further afield.
Prepare your shoot
Once you’ve chosen your spooky story, the next thing to do is decide how you’re going to interpret it into a great photo. For our shoot, we used the legend of the East Somerton witch, who was buried alive in the middle of a church. In revenge, her wooden leg sprouted into a magnificent oak tree that destroyed the building and left it in ruins. Not only is this a great story, but it’s also set in an amazing location that’s perfect for a shoot. When planning how to visually interpret the tale, we strayed away from the stereotypical witch imagery that you ordinarily see. The legend is set in the 17th century, which was at the height of
the witch trials. Hundreds of innocent women, often midwives or nurses, were sentenced to death. So, we imagined our witch as a peaceful peasant who was unjustly killed and who destroyed the church in righteous vengeance.
While total historical accuracy can hardly be expected for a Halloween photoshoot, if you want to incorporate period costumes into your images, then we’d recommend using theatrical costume hire companies. The clothes tend to be of good quality, and hiring for just a single day can often turn out to be cheaper than buying the individual assets online. While hiring a costume can be a great way to prepare for your shoot, don’t be afraid to get a little crafty as well. DIY-ing your props not only makes your photo totally unique, it’s also a great way to have fun with your photography. When creating your props, make sure you stick to your shoot’s theme. We bought an affordable costume hat from eBay and found a fallen tree branch. We then adorned it with a fake flower garland and some unrefined amethysts to create our witch’s staff.
Capture spooky portraits
Once you’ve found your concept and created the perfect costume, it’s time to shoot your spooky portraits. If you’re using a creepy location like we did, then you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right kind of lens. While portraiture tends to require focal lengths narrower than 50mm, we’d recommend a 20mm focal length for wider environmental portraits. This will allow you to capture as much of your background as possible. You’ll also want to use a wide aperture of around f/4. The shallow depth-of-field that this provides will help your model stand out in her environment at the same time as showcasing the great location. Remember to keep your ISO as low as possible (as this will provide great image quality) while still maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to shoot handheld.
Above Use Photoshop’s Selective Color tool to dim vibrant greens and create a sinister colour effect.
Kit choice Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 £729 We captured our wide-angle environmental portraits with the fantastic Nikon 20mm f/1.8 prime. For tack-sharp images and an ultra-wide perspective, there’s no better lens. nikon.co.uk
Above Use a 50mm or longer focal length for close-up portraits free from distortion.