How to photograph pumpkins – The RottenWorks Way

I’ve been asked quite a few times how I take pictures of the flaming pumpkins. In actuality, it’s very simple and doesn’t require expensive cameras or tricky setups. I’ve listed the camera equipment I use and the settings. You should be able to do the same thing with your DSLR or Point and Shoot camera.

Equipment:

My camera is a Canon Rebel XTI with an 18-200mm OS lens. Any camera body and lens will work, you just need to be able to set the camera to use a long exposure; meaning you have to control the shutter speed.

The camera is mounted to a tripod. This is pretty much essential for these photos. There is no way you can hold the camera for 1/2 to 2 full seconds and expect anything more than a blur. You can get Gorilla Pods from BestBuy relatively cheap. You can also use any hard flat surface to hold the camera. Even a box will work as long as the camera doesn’t shake. I use both portrait and landscape shots when I take pictures. You may find you are using portrait the most since the flames will be pretty high and won’t show up in the shot otherwise.

A shutter release is good to have but not absolutely necessary. As long as your camera has a self-timer of 10 or 2 seconds you’re good to go.

Taking the shot:

I set my camera to ISO 100. The shots will be long exposures and I want as little noise as possible. Pick the lowest setting you have.

I put the camera in Shutter (Tv) priority. I usually start with a 1 second exposure and experiment from there. After awhile you may need to increase the exposure to capture the details.

Put the camera on the tripod or sturdy surface.

Set the timer or use the remote function so you can trigger the camera.

Line up your camera before you light the pumpkin. Use a flashlight to focus on it and get the right distance for your lens. You’ll want to be able to zoom in and out without having to get too close or adjust positions. You also want to be ready for those first few seconds, that’s when you can get some wild results.

With the camera set, light the pumpkin then move back into position quickly. Check your focus since now it should be very easy for the camera to lock in on the pumpkin.

I stand off to the side and trigger the camera. I just keep taking photos and checking my results. Try longer exposures like 2 – 5 seconds for a really "after burner" style effect. Slow speeds like 1/40 or even 1/500 will show wisps of flame that almost look like liquid.

To get the higher shutter speeds you will need to increase the ISO settings. I usually go to ISO 1600 or at least ISO 800 to get past 1/100. I usually try a couple at this speed but much prefer the 1 second exposures that you see in my pictures.

Try all sorts of different settings and check them in the preview. But take a whole bunch and see what you get!

Even if the pumpkin isn’t on fire and you use tea lights the same technique applies. Put the camera on a tripod, set a long exposure (1 sec is still a good choice) and set the timer. Check what you have and adjust accordingly.

Good Luck and have fun!!

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