Shootoween 2020: Free Halloween Portraits in Poconos

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Shootoween 2020: Free Halloween Portraits in Poconos
Reading time: 7 mins

This Halloween, I decided to offer both trick and treat to my community, giving free Halloween portraits to the neighbors.

I hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween 2020! Mine was extraordinary as I did something new and really thrilling two days ago. Let’s call it Shootoween.

As some of you know, we moved out of a tiny NYC rental 1-bedroom apartment to a cute little lake house in Poconos area in 2018 for the birth of our youngest daughter. Life has been more of a bliss since then, despite my NYC area work commute with some weekends racking up 500-700 miles.

Be the Community

Living in a smaller community gives you that heart-warming sense of belonging, getting to really know your neighbors, and ideally — wanting to contribute to that community. I had my first volunteer opportunity as a professional photographer last year when I covered Wild Acres summer carnival in 2019. Coronavirus year 2020 gave more chances, albeit less rosy. My documentary Porch Portraits: Lockdown in Poconos reflected on the stories of 14 families coping with the pandemic and socio-economic hardship. For Easter, I chased the bunny on the fire truck. And for the grads robbed of graduation parties, covered the community car parade.

A Not-So-Spooky Thought

With the pandemic far from over and the scaled down Halloween parties, we need to liven things up. There ought to be more happy moments and events this tough year! So an idea dawned on me: since trick-or-treating is still happening, what if I snap a quick portrait or two of those little monsters that creep in, bumble bees that fly in, princesses that grace in, and all? I waited until the week of Halloween to be sure I’m not booked that day and put the word out of free Halloween portraits on my site and in our local groups.

Idea Development

First, I thought of just stepping out to trick-or-treaters with the camera and candies. But, as with many projects, what starts with the basics, grows in my mind and adds layers of good stuff. I decided to build a pop-up photo studio. Knowing that I won’t be spending as much time as for the regular photo sessions (the creative ones start from 2 hours), I’d just use an off-camera flash on a stand. Then I thought, perhaps I can also put a background. I have one on a spookier side (crazy but I bought it for one nursing home gala…). Even decided on a blue screen for optional digital fantasy art in post-production. I now realized that the latter was an overkill for the first trial. Maybe a Shootoween another year.

There were warm days earlier that week in Poconos but a cold front rolled in. Temperatures dropped below freezing the night before and hardly touched 40 F (5 C) degrees. Poor kids… Why didn’t they come up with an earlier date for Halloween? Thankfully, it was sunny all day!

COVID-19 Precautions

As a health safety precaution, everything was set up outdoors, I wore the mask throughout the day, used a zoom lens to shoot from a further point, provided hand sanitizer, and had all candies packed individually in ziploc bags spread out on a table for the kids to help themselves. I also encouraged visitors to keep distance between the groups and wait in the cars if I was working with someone already. It mostly worked. There were a couple of groups who came as an extended family or close friends. They were spending that day together indoors or outdoors, anyway.

The Flow

In all, my free Halloween portraits ran for 40 children, from toddlers to young adults. There were also over 20 adults but not all were dressed for the shoot. The earliest came around 11 AM, the latest — after dusk at 7 PM. I just sat in the car all day, waiting for the next group. You may recognize some faces from the Porch Portraits project, there were about 10 familiar kids. Expectedly, some felt more comfortable with the camera and could even act, following my directions or suggestions. Developing a concept/character requires time and a few minutes to spare was not enough for everyone. If we were doing full sessions like these family shoots or these young adults, I’d help even the shy (or scared!) ones but I was happy to cover the basics, at least.


The last family could only make use of my speedlight as a source of light but they got the full moon in the background as a neat prop! As for the rest, I alternated natural light for the softer family-friendly portraits and single speedlight for a little edgier and dramatic feel. Different editing approaches followed the mood in post-production.

Photos for the Families

I spent my Sunday processing photos and enhancing the selected images for the blog, and pleased to finally share these! To the participating families: these are not all the photos I took, of course. The digital images, enhanced for this blog and the rest in standard editing, will be provided to you individually later this week, free of charge. I will be in touch via email with details.

Thank you all who stopped by and brought so many fun, boo-tiful, and creative moments to Shootoween! This was a Halloween for me to remember. Let’s see if we can do more free Halloween portraits in the future! 🙂

Have a safe election. Peace out.

Kindly refrain from re-uploading images to social media during the first week of feature. Share instead and give credit to @ZorzStudios.

Image Delivery

UPDATE 11/06/20: All images are now delivered via email to the participating families. Let me know if you haven’t received them but check your spam folder first, please.

Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov is a creative director and lead photographer of Zorz Studios, Manhattan-based boutique photography studio, offering arousing and daring fashion, commercial, beauty, and wedding photography. Multiple Fearless Photographer™ award winner, named among the top 50 US wedding photographers, top 10 NY wedding photographers, winner of Adobe contests, featured by Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle et al, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week photographer, and a distinguished member of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style‘s Platinum List, he is eager to step out of his and willing clients' comfort zone to pursue original artwork with a lasting impression.


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