Tips for a Successful Haunted Photoshoot - Haunted Farms

Scream and Say Cheese!

Setting up and executing a haunted photoshoot can be an intimidating and stressful task… especially if you have not been through it before. There are many moving parts, and coordinating all of them can seem overwhelming. Here are 10 important components to having a successful haunted photoshoot…

© Alexis Abare and Benjamin Selecky, Haunted Farms of America

Haunted Farm Photoshoots

You have everything you need...from chainsaws to soil
A back shot of a girl with an axe - Haunted Farms

Characters

Which characters do you want to highlight in your haunted photoshoot? You should choose the characters that best fit the feel of your haunt and give your customers a glimpse of what to expect when they arrive. The characters that you choose should be unique in some way. Think about what makes these characters stand out and why they represent your haunt. Icon characters make great subjects and are very useful for marketing and branding efforts as well. Use them to make your haunt stand out among the pack.

Costumes

Costumes can be considered a category its own…although you could make an argument that it is part of the character…because with it, the character doesn’t exist. Think about their costumes. Should they be dirty and distressed or crisp and clean? Think about why this character is memorable. Each costume should have some sort of focal point that makes the customer remember them. Be mindful of brands and tags/ labels, etc…especially if your theme and characters relies on a specific time period. Also think about how the costume will show up in photos. The costume should have color contrast so it won’t appear flat and uninteresting.

Makeup

The choice of characters will steer the direction of the makeup. Makeup will look much different on camera that what it looks like in a dark cornfield. Sure…a lot of aspects of the makeup can be corrected in post edit…but why not save the time by adding the detail from the start. If the character is bloody, don’t just smear a bunch of blood on them. Create depth and texture…deep shadows and highlights. Do whatever you can to create contrast between the deepest parts and the high points. Build with layers. Use modelling and veining to break up large areas and to create detail and visual interest. Also, the timing of makeup is critical. Be sure to plan enough time for the artist(s) to complete each character in time for their scheduled slot in your haunted photoshoot.

Compensation

Usually actors are willing to volunteer their time to be a part of an event like a haunted photoshoot. The main investment from them is time. For makeup artists and support staff, this is not always the case. Makeup artists use materials out of their kits. These costs can add up. It is best to offer to cover the cost of any makeup used for the shoots…this is especially important if the makeup artist is donating their time. Don’t wait for them to ask…offer it first. They will remember that gesture and feel good that you are thinking of them. When they feel appreciated, it will keep them passionate about their work, and help to make your overall haunted photoshoot a success.

Portfolios

Make sure the YOU own the rights to ALL of the photos that are generated from your haunted photoshoot. Makeup artists may want to use the photos as part of their portfolio. This is okay…as long as it is on YOUR terms. The artist does not own the photos. It is best to apply your brand logo/watermark and credits to the photo before sending them. It is also important to make sure to credit all of the artists that had a hand in the different makeup components, ie special fx, makeup, etc. The photographer may also want to use the photos as part of their portfolio. In this instance, it is at your discretion. Since the photographer has signed over all rights to photos, you may feel it is the right thing to do. This can go either way…and both are okay.

Power

If there is no power in the area(s) being used for your haunted photoshoot, you will need to have generators fueled up, in place, and ready to roll. Less time setting up equipment means more time shooting and a more seamless transition from set to set. Extension cords are also a must. Any other specific equipment that will be used for the shoot should also be gathered and tested prior to the day of the shoot. This will allow for some time to repair, clean, etc any items that are in need of service.

Critters

Since dusk is prime time for bugs, be sure to have bug spray on hand. Also, any other means of controlling bugs is encouraged. Some farms have the ability to spray for bugs prior to a shoot and others have “mosquito magnet” type equipment that attracts and catches them. Be sure everyone does a thorough tick check as well. It is also good to know if any animals have made their home on the farm in any areas that the haunted photoshoot will be taking place. If time allows to safely relocate the animals to ensure everyone’s safety…this is the best approach. However, if relocation is not an option, it is best to at least make sure that we keep our distance from any dens, etc.

Refreshments

Hungry and thirsty actors don’t make for good subjects in photos…well…maybe for a haunted photoshoot it’s okay to look emaciated and on the brink of death…but let’s not go there. Since this will be a long day for everyone involved, it would be good to plan for food and drink. Think of your team and plan appropriately…maybe it’s pizza and beer…or salad and water. Whatever it is, just make sure people are happy…especially since they are volunteering their time. This shows them that you understand and appreciate their needs, and are sensitive to the fact that their time is valuable too.

Haunted Farms - Crow Taking Flight

Lighting

Lighting is an important part of creating the mood for the scene. How the lighting and background will look on camera may be different than the way our eyes see it when we step back and look at the large area. Dramatic up-lighting mixed with fog can create some ominous looks, while a pinspot light can highlight certain elements and direct the eye’s focus. Depending on how the scene is set up and how far away the character is from the set will be a factor in how it looks in the photo. The background may be soft and out of focus, in which case the lighting will be more of a mood setter as opposed to a focal point. Play around with different angles, color, and methods. One last, but important consideration is how the set lighting will affect the flash and other lighting that the photographer is using. Trial and error using some test shots will give everyone a good look into how the lighting may need to be adjusted.

Supplemental, portable lighting should be considered as it will likely be dark for at least a portion of the shoot. Lanterns, spotlights, flashlights, vehicles with mounted lights are all good options. Light and noise will also help keep any animals at bay.

Planning

Planning and communication are critical. Be sure to plan all aspects of the shoot well in advance. Assign important tasks to responsible people and verify that the tasks are completed in a timely manner. Communication with the group is also important. Pulling together many actors, makeup artists, support staff, management, etc can be daunting. Start a group email chain, or a “Secret Facebook Group” that you can use to relay messages to the group quickly and efficiently. If you do create a FB group, keep the focus on the photo shoot. Once the project is done, end the group. If there are longstanding groups that people are excluded from, it can turn into hard feelings, etc. Be sure you also have the phone numbers, email addresses, etc for all people involved. Collect them into a document or spreadsheet. Make sure that you are not the only one that has access to it. If an emergency or other unforeseen issue comes up, there should be someone that can pick up where you left off. The show must go on.

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