Q. How do you kill a Zombie?
A. Impale a hard object into the brain.
That would work for the zombie apocalypse, but that’s not what I was going to talk about. If you Google “how to photograph zombies,” a ton of results pop up. I read a few blogs that talked about getting the right pose, use a hard light source, and add film grain for a more distressed look. I didn’t read anything about processing the photos. Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought this would be a great way to share my tips for shooting and processing zombie shots. Click any image to enlarge.
October 12th was the Fort Lauderdale Zombie Walk. I went to check it out for a couple of hours and take a few shots. After reading through a few blogs about photographing the zombies, I had some ideas running around in my head. I was in for a big surprise–the event started at a club. After a zombie has a few drinks, they want to pose instead of eating your brains…lol. So, this presented a different problem for me, as I wanted the more realistic, cinematic feel for my shots. I had to work with what I had.
Click any image to enlarge.
I shot my zombies with a Nikon (no, I have not gone to the dark side. I have sold all my Canon bodies for the new Canon body that will start shipping in December), a Zeiss 35mm f/2 and my Canon 580EX II flash mounted on a small Manfrotto ball head triggered with Radio Poppers.
Tips for shooting the Zombies
- Isolate the zombie. Shooting in the club was dark and a little cramped. I tried to take my zombies off to the side or to an area less congested.
- Use off camera flash. I had my flash set-up mounted to a small Manfrotto light stand. I could use this set up to get my side edgy lighting and even some bottom lighting for that very dramatic horror effect. Isolating the subject to a less congested area also helps with less traffic tripping over your light stand.
- Use a wide aperture. I shot all of these photos around f/2.0 to f/2.8 to have shallow depth of field. Add the side lighting with a a quick flash duration and you can control the amount of light in the background. Doing this can help if there are a lot of people, not zombies, that you don’t want to see in the photo. It also gives good separation from the subject to the background.
Since the event was at a club, I had to use what was around. I used a couple of different walls, a iron gate and nothing. When I mean nothing, I used side lighting away from a wall to let the background fall to black.
Click any image to enlarge.
Now that I have shot the zombies, I can process the images. I use Lightroom as my DAM (digital asset management) processing engine. I had an idea of showing my zombies with a cinematic feel. I didn’t exactly get the flesh-eating, blood oozing, eye popping, limb-less zombies that I wanted, but I was able to get some pretty cool and creepy shots. I pulled all my images into Lightroom to give them a tweak. This tweak helped give that cinematic feel I wanted.
The Lightroom tweaks I used
The first adjustments were in the Presence panel: see panel to the right
- Up the Clarity. Slide that slider all the way to the right.
- Up the Vibrancy. Slide that slider all the way to the right.
- Lower the Saturation. Slide that one to the left until the desired look.
Now under the HSL panel, I used these adjustments: see panel below
- Lower the Red Luminance. Slide that slider to the left to help bring down the skin tones.
- Raise the Orange and Yellow Luminance. Slide each slider until the skin tones start to look white or have a gray tone.
- Raise the Red Saturation. Slide that slider to the right until the color of the blood starts to look bright and bloody.
- Lower the Orange and Yellow Saturation. Slide those sliders to the left until the skin looks dead.
I will tweak some of the other colors to help bring out the color in the clothing. If the make-up is applied where the skin looks bruised, I will up the purple and magenta to help those colors pop. To help draw attention to the subject, I will add a vignette. If adding the vignette makes the overall photo too dark, then I will go back up to the Tone panel to bring up the exposure. One final thing I will also do, if applicable, is to bring out the eyes. I think that a zombie with bright alive eyes is so very creepy. Enjoy the tips and have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!