Tips for photographing a Haunted Mansion ghost
I had posted a photo on flickr a couple of weeks ago of Lady Renata, one of the ghosts who sits outside the Haunted Mansion during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. The photo itself was a shot I had wanted to take since last year when I first tried (and failed) at photographing her. Due to the extra lighting on the Haunted Mansion during these parties and the fact that it is dark around where she sits, it is difficult to get a good shot of her. I had received a comment on my flickr post asking if I would go over the steps I took to get the shot, which is what I will do now.
To be completely honest, I did not have a real plan going into this. I knew that it would take a bit of trial and error in order to capture the scene the way I wanted. I decided my best setup would be to use my tripod and take multiple photos at different settings. That way I could always do some masking in Photoshop if I needed to combine some shots.
I started off with a long exposure (15 seconds) at ISO 200. The idea being that I could capture the Haunted Mansion along with the fog and special lighting used during the party. I knew that Lady Renata would not be captured correctly though and would end up a blur because of her movement. I figured I could use a layer mask later to combine the background with a good shot of her.
I then went the opposite direction and tried a few shots at ISO 3200. I knew there would be more noise (a lot more) but again had the idea of capturing Lady Renata without any blur. You can see two examples of this setting below.
The second photo includes some post processing including noise reduction. I had thought this would be what I ended up with until Lady Renata spotted the tripod and asked what I was doing. After telling her that I was taking photos of her, she told me that there was no use because she was a ghost and the camera would not see her :) I took this as an opportunity to tell her there was one way the camera would capture her but she had to sit still for a few seconds. Luckily she played along and I was able to quickly get a few shots off at a lower ISO and to make things even better she posed for the shot.
I ended up with a final photo that I was very happy with. The colors on the Haunted Mansion looked good and I had a great shot of Lady Renata thanks to her taking the time to sit still and pose.
I ended up not needing to do much processing to the photo in Lightroom. To start with I applied Noise Reduction in Lightroom to make up for shooting at ISO 2000. I also adjusted the White Balance and increased the Recovery slider to 46. I then increased the Clarity slider to +66 and the Vibrance slider to +17 to boost the colors of the Haunted Mansion a bit. I then decided to add a slight Vingette around the photo and finally decided on a crop that brought her forward in the photo more.
In the end I did not even use the layer mask idea I had with the photo shot at ISO 200. I was happy with the photo I shot at ISO 2000 and after applying some noise reduction, I felt I did not need to use the layer mask.
This was an example of knowing the photo I wanted to end up with but going into it I was not sure how I would accomplish it. I took the time to test a few settings and luckily had a cast member who was willing to help out. By the time she noticed me I had an idea of the settings I needed and was ready to fire off a few frames. It also helped that I went over to take these photos after the second Boo to You parade on a night with low crowds. There was not much of a crowd at the Haunted Mansion at that point which I am sure ended up being to my advantage.