Carving a Jack-O-Lantern is fun, taking loving pictures of the spooky glowing face is even more fun. Here are some techniques I use with a mid-range digital camera to get great pictures.
Step 1: Steady Camera, Long Exposure, No Flash
A steady camera, long exposure times, and no flashes are the basic ingredients.
I used a Canon PowerShot A70 to take all the pumpkin pictures. It has some manual settings modes were you can adjust the exposure time and F-stops. I actually used the "Tv" setting which allows me to set the exposure time and the camera automatically adjusts the F-stop.
If your camera doesn't have any manual modes, turn the flash off and see if it can compensate enough. The answer is it probably isn't enough. If you're really into taking pictures of pumpkins, like me, make sure your next camera has a manual exposure mode (my other criteria was a water proof case...).
Step 2: Tripod or Tripod-like Thing
The camera needs to be still while it's taking the photo. I used to just set the camera on some stuff, like milk crates and books, but have now moved on to a $30 tripod (a Sunpak 8001UT Tripod). It's really nice not to have to search for a book of just the right thickness, and to be able to easily adjust the angle of the camera.
The mini tripods are ok and I keep one in my camera case for when I don't have my tripod.
If you're just setting the camera on something, use the delayed shutter function. With it, you can press the button, take your hand off the camera, and know it'll stop wiggling before the picture is taken.
Step 3: Background
Make sure there's nothing producing light in the background. Open windows, appliance LEDs, or light from other rooms will all get caught by a long exposure shot.
Here, I just have the pumpkins sitting on the dining room table. Behind them is a wall with no windows. I should have removed that flower vase as you'll see in the external lighting step.
Step 4: Long Exposure
These pictures were taken using 0.8 - 2.5 seconds of exposure time. The only light source was two tea candles inside the pumpkin.
Step 5: Place Candles to Avoid Hot Spots
Move the candles inside the pumpkins so that the flame doesn't create a hot spot in the image.
Step 6: Shoot From Below to Create More Meancing Images.
Shoot from below to give the impression the pumpkins are standing over you and laughing right before they do something awful.
Step 7: External Light
Place some candles around the pumpkins to show off any external features. Here, one of the pirate-pumpkins is holding a knife in its teeth. However, this feature is impossible to see without external light.
It's easy to overdo the external light, and you want to be sure your pumpkin's surface is clean. With the external light, you can see I didn't clean off the sharpie marker I used to draw on the pumpkin before carving it.
Step 8: Happy Halloween!
Have a blast taking pictures!