Whether you are photographing pumpkins for fall, Halloween or even Thanksgiving, it’s easy to get creative with lighting for your pumpkins.
Want something a little dark and dramatic, possibly even spooky try a beauty dish on the lowest setting, but at least 5-6 feet away (2 meters). This creates deep shadows and soft highlights. I also added in some candles as ambient light as well. The fake cobwebs and spider together with the skeleton cat create a spooky Halloween style image. The lighting is basically Rembrandt lighting, but with deep shadows and no reflected light.
Dark & moody fall
If you are looking for something a little dark and moody to celebrate fall, try shooting in the shadows. A super creative effect is to light a small scene (it will not work so well with a bigger scene) with a candle and use a reflector to bounce a little light back into your scene. It’s kind of like the old-style lamps that used to expand the light from the candle by reflecting it of shiny surfaces. There is also some ambient light in the room, but the reflector was blocking any natural light from directly touching the image.
Even in natural light, you can stick to the shadows to create soft shadows and a flat highlight. I have an area behind my house which has the most wonderful light in the afternoon and lots of junk; old ladders, work tables and such, great for creating some simple country style fall images.
Soft & dreamy
Soft diffused natural light is best to achieve a soft and dreamy look. Whether it’s a fall celebration look or a Thanksgiving dinner, set the scene with some sheer curtains placed in front of a window and place your table in front of it.
The play of light and shadow through the sheer curtains can make for lovely soft images, with some added interest. In the pulled back behind-the-scenes shots, I have used a silver reflector (camera left) to bounce some more light back into the shadows on my scene. This really is a must when shooting into natural light (behind your scene) as it can cause unwanted shadows on the front of your scene with this reflected light. Of course, if you want to increase the moodiness and keep the shadows, simply remove the reflector.
Mix things up
How about those cheap LED lights on a copper wire? They can add some cool illumination to your pumpkins and scene. Don’t forget the Pumpkin does NOT have to be the star attraction. It can be secondary, adding an overall feel to the story you are trying to capture. I even fed the LED on a copper wire into a vase and used that to add subtle lighting. A bit of a twist on the Jack-o’-lantern.
Whichever way you shoot your pumpkins this fall, have some fun with it, especially if it is Spooky Halloween Jack-o’-lanterns.