Whatever your views on Hallowe’en, there’s just no escaping it. And if Pinterest is to be believed, it is to be photographed to within an inch of its life. Every costume, pumpkin and sparkler must be the best ever and you must take 25 shots of each! But I don’t think this needs to be how you spend this weekend or half term holiday, so I’ve compiled my own little guide to help you get the best photos you can without using up every memory card or your entire phone memory!

Let’s start with the pumpkin. My Facebook memories for this week over the past 3 or 4 years include the phrase, “I love carving pumpkins, said no mum ever!” Or something similar. But they have been a prerequisite of our half term holidays for many years now, and there are 3 sitting in the kitchen right now, awaiting this year’s designs. But what’s the best way to photograph them? I have a couple of suggestions for you.

1 :: The tools of the trade. Let’s face it, no one ever carved an entire pumpkin with just one of those £2 kits from Tesco! Last year I laid out all the knives, skewers and scoops I thought we’d need and took a photo of them altogether. It’s an odd photo on its own, but as part of our pumpkin traditions it will serve as a reminder of the effort required for this particular activity!

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2 :: For me, the lasting impression of every pumpkin carving session has been the mess! So much mucky flesh and pumpkin seeds for days! And how come the kids suddenly disappear for this part? But it’s impossible to do it without the mess, so why not include it in your photos, if only to serve as a reminder to your kids in 25 years time when they’re up to their eyes in the same activity with their own kids, that what goes around comes around!

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3 :: Of course, it’s the finished product that you’re ultimately aiming for, and as any good parent, you’ll need the customary shot for Facebook or Instagram so you can all compare notes and then wonder at how yours still looks like a 4 year old did it. Or is that just me?! My top tip for the pumpkin shot is simple – don’t wait until it’s completely dark to capture it, and most importantly, turn your flash off. The contrast between the bright design and the dark makes it tricky to capture perfectly or without blur. Instead, photograph it at dusk. You will still see the glow perfectly, but all those lovingly carved (by you, obviously!) details will be much clearer. If you’re an Instagram user, a filter can add extra definition and a cool twist like in the photos below.

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So now you’ve got all the required pumpkin photos in a mere 5 shots, you should have plenty of room to start thinking about Trick or Treating. I sort of hate that we’ve lost the tradition of Hallowe’en rhyming that we did as kids, so being the harsh parent I am, I make mine do the rhyme anyway! None of this “Trick or Treat!” nonsense at someone’s door! And if you happen to come to my door, you can surely have the treat once I hear the rhyme!

I digress! There’s something I love about the whole traipsing around the neighbourhood business with a crowd of friends. Maybe it’s a sign that community isn’t dead and that we can all be generous, even to people we don’t know. Or maybe it’s just the excitement of watching our kids get excited as they wait for the all important treats to be thrown their way. Either way, it’s worth a photo or two. But how can you get a decent shot in the dark with street lights dotted around, I hear you ask. Well, you can’t really. And especially not if you have your flash popping off for every photo! My tip is basically this…

4 :: Turn your flash off, follow the kids and wait for the door of the house to open. With any luck, there’ll be light from inside that will highlight your kids a little. You may not get perfect shots and you may have a little blur, but you’ll capture the mood much better without the harsh light of the flash.

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Which leads me nicely on to the costumes. I wish I had a greater variety to show you, but we’ve pretty much specialised in zombies from day one around here! Every year an old pair of jeans and a few school shirts bite the dust and are slashed and covered in much fake blood. I can’t help it. I have boys. So there was never much hope of a Disney costume for us. And on the plus side, I could probably get a job as a make up artist for a second rate stage production of The Walking Dead if push came to shove! So costume advice.

5 :: If it’s a scary kind of costume, I’d suggest the good old dusk shot again, with no flash. Are you getting that no flash is key here a lot?! Really, I can’t stress enough how big a difference it will make to your photos! The light at that time of night has an eerie bluish tinge that is perfect for the sort of atmosphere you want in your photos. However, without flash, you can still get a great shot of the costumes inside. Maybe think about getting your kids to stand side on to a lamp for a softer light than spot lights or downlights. And I’m sorry, but even as a zombie or covered in a shocking amount of fake blood, he’s still quite the looker in my books!

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Sometimes though, your opportunities are limited, especially with a toddler, and your best bet is to just shoot and see what you get. Because sometimes you get a gem like this…

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Now many of you will be braving the ‘Hallowe’en Party’ at some point this weekend. And I send you all my best wishes for that!! I have been there and done it and while I nearly had a nervous breakdown, the kids had a blast. But beware the temptation to just photograph the kids and the costumes. Because what was the point of all that preparation if you don’t remember to document the details? For me, the details are what marks a particular event. And as you will have spent hours on Pinterest stocking up on ideas, you should definitely capture your hard work.

6:: So look for the details. What did you make for the party? Do you have decorations you and/or the kids made that you don’t want to forget? A photo is much easier to keep than the actual decoration and you are much more likely to look at the photo than get the 10 year old decoration out of the memory box you put it in. It’s a win win! Again, you need to shut that flash off! Some of these I took with my Canon but the bottom two I took with my iPhone 4 about 5 years ago. Go Instagram and the amazing filters! Also, thank you Pinterest for the best Hallowe’en craft ever with those lanterns!

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7 :: And if you want to get photos of the kids, get one big group at the start of the party – before the sugar has kicked in – and that will surely do in place of tens of photos so you can concentrate on picking up the bowl of crisps that just fell off the table before you mop up 5 half spilt cups of juice! This is one of my favourite photos of my son and his friends from early primary school, and believe me when I say I have hundreds! All it took was telling them to pull their scariest face!

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The final thing you may want to document is the good old sparkler. An essential in the half term break, who doesn’t love a sparkler? Well, apart from parents with small children, some small children themselves and possibly your canine friend! But most of us do. I think! What advice can I offer you here? Well to be honest, I’ve only one tip.

8 :: Turn the flash off (*snore*), point and shoot! That’s it. I’m sure there are lots of technical YouTube videos you can watch with much more accurate advice, but when there is a white hot naked flame in the hand of your kids – and possibly those who aren’t yours but are in your safe hands for the evening – you just want to get a shot and keep them from harm! Ideally, you would have someone ensuring the safety of the kids while you take the photos just to be sure, but you already knew that! Aside from pointing and shooting, you could try and focus on the kids’ faces, which will be lit by the sparkler – you might just get a wee look of utter amazement as they wave this spark-shooting stick around in the air. And that will be much more fun to look back on in years to come than any amazing shape they managed to create in the night.

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So there you have it – a brief guide to documenting all things half term and Hallowe’en-ish without the stress of capturing it all. Because it’s so much more important that you be there and enjoy it. Get messy with the pumpkins, wave a sparkler in the air and actually make a few of those crafts you pinned. That’s what the kids will remember, and you’ll want to be part of those memories. But maybe just have your camera handy, because you never know what you might just capture in the spur of the moment.

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Now off you go and have a wonderful weekend and half term! And if you capture anything wonderful, I’d love you to share your images with me on my Facebook page.

 

 

  • Jo - October 30, 2016 - 8:38 am

    Great blog post, although this year will be our first of not carving pumpkins or trick or treating. I have to say I’m quite happy with that and hope they don’t decide tomorrow to change their minds! I’m afraid I don’t know the rhyme, what is it?ReplyCancel

It’s funny how some things just sort of creep up on you, and then there’s a moment, an epiphany, and you wonder how you hadn’t realised it before. I’ve photographed so many different things, from weddings to restaurants, in amazing gardens, parks and locations. And yet, I’ve discovered over the past year that the thing which makes me happiest when I have my camera in my hand, is photographing families at home. Maybe it’s because at home we are most ourselves. Our true selves, with messy kitchens and fingerprints on walls, toys spilling all over the place and more noise than you ever thought you could cope with!

I’ve had some amazing lifestyle sessions with families at home and I really think I should start sharing them with the world. So lets me start with the O’Rorke family, an amazingly warm and open family with two adorable little sons. When I went to their session I felt instantly at home, coffee was brewing and a very cute two year old was excited to tell me all about his Transformer toys – so glad I had prior knowledge from my own boys! Really, it was a dream session.

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I read a brilliant quote recently by another photographer, Tara Whitney. She said that her clients know how it feels to love their families, and that she could show them what it looked like. I admire her work so much, and I truly hope that the families I am lucky to photograph feel they get a little of that from their images too. If you’d like to know more about my lifestyle sessions at home I would LOVE to hear from you. You can use the contact form here or find me on Facebook, so please, give me a shout!

August 1 is both an exciting and daunting day on the calendar for those of us involved with Open House Festival. Exciting as we gear up for a month of non stop events, and daunting for the very same reason! 128 events in 40 different venues over 31 days, and that’s not including the extra dates that have been added due to the runaway ticket sales for several of the events. That’s a lot of fun going on around the town, planning and fine tuning in the office and photographs being uploaded to my laptop! In anticipation of a great month, I thought I’d choose a few of my favourite images from the festival programme just to get things going.

Full details and tickets are still available on the festival website and you can pick up a programme from the office at The Fountain Centre on Queen’s Parade, or in many local shops and businesses. For now, these are some of my favourite images showcasing some of the events I’m most excited about.

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From Burgundy to Bangor – limited tickets available

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Festival Cookery School – limited tickets available

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Dear Agent – sold out

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Ain’t No Sin to Love Gin – sold out (and I’m so glad I booked early!)

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Comber Gourmet Trail – sold out

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Irish Tapas – sold out

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Talking Out Your Arts – sold out

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Colin Middleton: The Bangor Years – limited tickets available

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Fish ‘n’ Sips – limited tickets available

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Party on the Pitch – tickets available

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Bluegrass Picnic – FREE, so you’d be a fool to miss it!

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Seafood and Sea Shanties – sold out

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Music in the Park – FREE every Sunday afternoon

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Whiskey Galore – all events sold out

Booking links – you’re welcome! But I would get on that sooner rather than later if I were you! I’m off to charge my batteries (camera, physical and mental!) and prep my camera bag. Do pop back later in the week for a few more of my faves from the first week. And you can keep up to date with all the goings on on the Open House Festival Facebook page, on Twitter and on Instagram.

  • Nannisandi - August 1, 2016 - 12:39 pm

    Brilliant photographs as always!! Looking forward to seeing more!!ReplyCancel

Sometimes it’s true that a photograph speaks a thousand words. I’m going to let these photos speak for themselves, save to say that I’ve known Aly for many years and am lucky to count her amongst my close friends. And that makes a photo shoot very special. I’ve photographed all 3 of her boys as newborns, we’ve bemoaned and celebrated life as mums of boys, we’ve shared dreams and a lot of coffee and I love them all to bits! Her husband’s pretty ok too!

Anyway, this session took place when Abraham was one whole week old, the kids were running around, there had been one bloody nose (dad!) before I even arrived, and Aly was swanning around looking fabliss as always! And that is exactly my favourite way to shoot – in the midst of the crazy, wonderful mess that is life.

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If you’d like the crazy of your life documented, please give that contact button up there a push and we can make that happen!

  • Nannisandi - June 23, 2016 - 11:44 pm

    Those are really great pictures! The boys obviously loved it when their baby brother cried and crumpled his wee face!!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - June 24, 2016 - 8:50 pm

    These are all so gorgeous, the one of him over Aly’s shoulder and his little hand up to his face ❤️. xReplyCancel

Here’s to the dads.

The superheroes.

The rescuers.

The fixers and menders.

The BBQ-ers.

The tear wipers and plaster stickers.

To the ones who make us laugh so hard we think we might be sick.

And the ones who stand on sidelines and touch lines and boundary lines, week… after week… after week.

Where would we be without the dads? Some of us know all too well exactly where we are without them. But lots of us are lucky enough to have the things they taught us and their sense of humour and their noses (lucky, eh?!) with us no matter where we are or where we go.

So this one is for the dads. You rock our worlds and we love you to bits!

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  • Suzanne - June 19, 2016 - 11:19 am

    Love this Janine! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jo B - June 19, 2016 - 11:54 pm

    Aw, thanks for including Jeff! xxxReplyCancel

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