My husband and I reached a new phase of parenthood this Halloween. We got to experience more grown-up fun—not just vicariously enjoying the holiday (and feeling totally exhausted) via our children.
It started last weekend, when we dressed up in a family costume: the Scooby-Doo gang. This has long been one of our family’s favorite cartoon series (heck, even before we had kids!) We transformed my Toyota Sienna minivan into the Mystery Machine just for the occasion. We all wore our Mystery Inc. costumes to a local Halloween carnival/trunk-or-treat, as well as at my company’s Halloween party.
For the big night, I thought it was only fair to let the kids pick their own costumes. Cassie opted to be a black cat and James a firefighter. For the first time ever, our kids got to trick-or-treat in the neighborhood without us as chaperones. It. Was. AWESOME.
After all, they’re now 9 and 6, and frequently ride their bikes or scooters around the block with friends, or take our puppy for walks, sans parents. We figured they could safely roam the streets of our suburb among a large traveling pack of neighbor kids (corralled by a few parents) to beg for candy.
Meanwhile, we were able to stay home during trick-or-treat hours, together as a couple, for the first time in years! So how did we celebrate, you ask?
We lit up the jack-o-lanterns, set up folding chairs on the driveway, and chatted with our neighbors a bit. We even ordered pizza for ourselves, which was delivered about halfway through the evening.
I also doled out to-go cups of warm pumpkin infused sangria to grateful parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who accompanied trick-or-treaters. I thought it would be nice to give fellow parents a treat of their own. I know what it’s like to schlepp all over the neighborhood with your sugar-fueled children as they shed costume pieces and race from house to house. Trick-or-treating is hard work!
Perhaps my favorite part of the evening—other than sitting outside with my sweetie—was setting up a Halloween photo booth in our garage to capture our visitors in full costumed splendor. I got the idea from the cofounder of SmugMug, a photo storage and sharing site we’ve used since our daughter was born. SmugMug’s Chris MacAskill wrote a blog post about How to Become the Neighborhood Sensation with Halloween Photos. (Scroll down to see how we did it.)
Neighbors of all ages seemed to enjoy mugging for the camera with their friends and family members. After they collected their goodies and got their photos taken by Jay, we wrote down their email addresses to send them a link to an online SmugMug gallery. Then, they were off for more Halloween adventures.
Our kids made it home safely about 20 minutes before trick-or-treat hours ended, bags loaded with candy and sweaty from all the running around they did. I must admit feeling an enormous sense of relief when I heard them coming. But I also reveled in this rare “parenting win” and made a note to inject more grown-up fun in future holiday celebrations.
Halloween photo booth tutorial
Here’s how we created a Halloween photo booth for trick-or-treaters in our garage. Keep in mind that Jay is a pro, so he has more gear than the average person. But you could totally do this with everyday items you already have at home.
What you’ll need
- Photo backdrop: We used a large black photography backdrop, but any plain-colored or white bedsheet would work)
- Structure to hold up the backdrop: We used Jay’s two light stands with sand bags to prevent accidental tip-overs, with a cross bar and clamps to hold the backdrop in place. You could also use a clothesline, ladders and a broom, or whatever system you can easily cobble together.
- Lighting: As it gets dark outside, you’ll need enough ambient light or a proper flash to make sure your photos turn out. Jay used a hot shoe flash with swivel head bounced into a reflector so he could move fast and not have to waste time messing with strobes (so kids and parents can get back to trick-or-treat activities).
- Table: A folding card table or whatever you have on hand will do.
- Props: I set out a few Halloween-themed items from our house, including decorative signs, tarot cards (sent to me by the folks at The Divining Rod wine label), and a cute little ghost pillow.
- Camera: You can either have a photographer with a digital camera, or use your laptop with a built-in camera and a photo booth app.
- A way to share your photos: We collected emails and send people a link to view the photos the next morning. You could also hand out little cards with a website people can check out when they get home. Or if you have a printer and want to print photos right on the spot, you can do that, too.
What to do
- Set up your photo backdrop. Depending on the weather and your own preference, you could set up inside your garage or out on the driveway.
- Arrange the props table for easy access (but out of the way of photos, of course).
- Make sure your camera or laptop is charged, set up, and ready to go. Take a few test shots beforehand to make sure the photos will look good.
- Invite guests/trick-or-treaters into the photo booth, but don’t pressure them. Not everyone likes to be captured on camera (vampires, for example, or people who are overly concerned with their double chins).
- Have fun with it! Snap lots of angles, expressions, and poses. Group people in different ways, but the closer together, the better.
- Make the photos available as soon as you can. Your guests will be excited to see their pictures, so don’t make them wait too long.