How to Create Halloween-Themed Spooky Studio Portraits

If you’re searching for inspiration in creating a spooky studio setup, look no further. This tutorial details how to create chilling portraits with silhouetted trees and a smoky backdrop, just in time for Halloween.

In this video, Gavin Hoey takes you through step-by-step how he arranges and lights these sinister portraits. He demonstrates how create silhouettes from tree branches by directing a backlight on a plain gray backdrop. He then uses two lights on the subject: a rim light for background separation and a key light to illuminate the subject’s face. Hoey achieves a cool and eerie look by shifting the white balance to a low Kelvin temperature, and using an orange gel on the key light. He notes that in order to avoid lighting the trees to maintain them as silhouettes, the key and rim lights must be placed just behind the subject and directed away from the backdrop.

The portrait is completed by adding in a tree trunk to the foreground, and incorporating smoke from a smoke machine. Hoey adds in additional smoke during post-processing using digital smoke textures, so this look can still be achieved even if you don’t have access to a smoke machine. Setting up this style of portrait will give you practice in how to create a dramatic effect by sequentially incorporating and fine-tuning multiple lights.

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Curt Alexander's picture

Gavin Hoey is great. I've watched only three videos of his, but all have demonstrated how to get a distinctive, seemingly complicated look out of simple steps.

Rubidium Wu's picture

I tried my hand at this as well, with more of a horror vibe.

I tried this, only with a vampire theme.

Here's mine.