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So this was totally last minute before Halloween (mostly due in part to my brain not thinking of amazing things until the very last minute). But I created and held a Zombie photoshoot in the backyard for about $20 in materials.

While I truly believe that a good photographer is worth their weight in gold, my wallets are simply not capable of supporting such worth at the moment.

I literally had to buy 2 brand new cell phones within a 2 week period (paid cash each time) and then my husband’s paycheck was cut in half due to a health benefits thing. So handing a few hundred dollars to a skilled photographer, just isn’t going to work, at least not right now.

The plus side is that I made extra money this summer so we were able to afford some pretty nice expenses (like 2 new cell phones and 4 new truck tires). So it wasn’t all bad.

Thankfully my new cell phone takes amazing photos, so I figured why not?

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To create this DIY zombie photoshoot on a budget, I needed:

  • Location
  • Props
  • Actors (the kids)
  • Zombie makeup for kids
  • Zombie clothes
  • Photo filters
Playing in the cauldron


The location was easy, just about anywhere can work for zombie pictures. I highly recommend doing this-

Look around your own yard (or your parent’s yard) and see what you have that you can work with. I give this same advice in my party planning posts!

I used the side of my parent’s home. The left side has a wooden fence that is as old as the houses and really looks it too! There was a wooden pallet that’s been sitting out and getting older as the years go by and a tall patch of grass that no one cut this summer. (There used to be a cage there).

While 9 out of 10 times, it looks like an unsightly and God awful mess, it was EXACTLY what we needed to create a “spooky” backdrop for the photo session.

See my “before” pic? It took a little vision for this to come together.

before and after location for zombie photo session


For the props, I loaded the family up and went off to Walmart hoping to find everything that I needed. I came out with $10 worth of props and a $7 bunt cake that called out to me as I passed by the bakery. This is why I shouldn’t shop while hungry.

The actual props I bought included:

  • 2 small boxes of Great Value brand Cherry flavored jello mix at $0.59ea
  • A pack of black spider rings $0.98
  • A tray of bloody body parts $5.98
  • Horror face paint crayons $1.98
  • Total spent $10.12

Because Walmart failed me on getting the stuff I had set out on buying, I then headed to my local Dollar Tree (I should have stopped there first).

I tried to find an image or listing for the body parts online, but can’t seem to have any luck with Walmart. Here is an Amazon listing for the same product (costs twice as much, but gives you a visual idea).

Props I bought at Dollar Tree:

  • A brain jello mold
  • A can of evaporated milk (you’ll see why soon)
  • Small witches cauldron
  • A plastic black rat
  • Plastic eyeballs
  • A spiderweb!
  • Plastic tape saying zombie warning
  • A tombstone
  • And a serving tray
  • Total cost $9.00

Total spent on props at both locations $19.12 (not including taxes).

zombie meal

DIY Props that I put together for these zombie pictures

Alright so I already mentioned the location and how it had a natural “scary” look, but I also added to it using things I found in the yard and made some awesome zombie blood and brains, so check out how I pulled that together.

“Household” props included an old rusty shovel and a rusty ax that is so dull I don’t think it could cut a soft stick of butter. I set them up against the fence so that they weren’t too “in your face” and were much further away from the kids.

I talk about finding things around the house to use as decorations in my winter themed baby shower post. As a frugal person, I highly stand by this. Using a little creativity, you can create anything from stuff you already own!

You actually can’t even see them in 90% of the photos, but having small details filling the entire area really helps to give you more freedom with your photo angles.

My dad also had a garden this summer and had several stalks of corn he said that I could cut and use. This was an awesome bonus, and you can no doubt find fake or cheap stalks at local stores as people intentionally buy them for decor purposes this time of year. Again, you can’t really tell they’re there.

There was also some tall dead bush-like grass that had grown in another unkept area of the yard. I literally cut the thick stalks with kitchen shears, and tossed them into the tall grass area to fill in any “gaps” so it’d look “fuller.”

Zombies eating brains and body parts

Just look at this cute Zombie Baby!

My DIY Zombie Blood Makeup

I posted to my Facebook account looking for friends to weigh in on ideas for making the perfect edible blood. I need it to be edible because I had no doubts that the kids will try to eat it, and honestly, it’s better for photos if they did get it near their mouths.

So after much debate and suggestions being tossed around, I decided to pull together the chocolate milk option.

Other thoughts included cornstarch, raspberry syrup, and jello. But, those all came with added expenses. I already had milk and chocolate ice cream syrup!

What I used for the zombie blood:

  • About 2 cups of almond milk.
    • Honestly, I just poured the last of the carton in there.
  • 2 cups of Karo syrup
    • We had a huge jug of this because my husband made DIY bubbles this summer.
  • Red and blue food coloring
    • About 3 to 1 ratio. Only needed about 2 or 3 drops of blue.
  • Just before the photo session, I dipped all of the plastic body parts in the blood for them to drip, and I poured about 3 tablespoons over the brain jello. Then I added water to dilute it a little more.
edible zombie blood

That’s it!

Mixed it together with a whisk and let it sit in the fridge overnight. You probably don’t need to let it sit, but I just wanted to get it done and out of the way.

I’d also like to point out that this blood didn’t stain any of the fabric it touched (which I found to be totally surprising!)

My Zombie Jello Brain

This one was an experiment that I wasn’t 100% sure would turn out. Those two packets of jello that I bought at Walmart mixed with the can of evaporated milk from Dollar Tree and blue food coloring made this brain into the beast it is.

What I did was:

  • Boiled 2 cups of water
  • Mixed with the jello
  • Added in 1 cup of evaporated milk and about 1/2 a cup of cold water
  • Added 3 drops of blue food coloring
  • Poured it into jello brain mold and stuck it in the fridge overnight

It looked so good! I couldn’t wait for my actors to take a bite on film!

The evaporated milk mixed with the jello created a small “curdle” or “cloudy” appearance which I thought was perfect for looking like tissue.

P.S. the actors thought it was delicious.

I added a few sprigs of parsley to be “extra” fancy.


My 6-year-old daughter, (almost) 2-year-old son, and my 9-month-old nephew. Zombie zombies and zombie babies…terrifying.

Originally I had wanted this to just be my kids and to be a bath style photo happening in a galvanized bucket from Walmart, but 1) it wasn’t “in the budget” and 2) the weather is freezing and I couldn’t subject the kids to that. Plus having a zombie baby for these zombie pictures just added to the adorableness.

My son HATED getting sticky and dirty, so I’m really thankful that my nephew was there to join in on the fun. He really got in on the mess!

Zombies eating at a picnic

The zombie makeup for the kids

With the babies, I didn’t give them any makeup. Too much effort and risk since they have sensitive skin.

With my older child, I was able to full-on zombie contour her makeup. That was pretty fun! Using the Walmart crayons and my fingers, I smudged it the black and white around her face and then went back in with some light blue and purples to give it some depth.

Kid Zombie Makeup

The zombie costumes and setting

Since the blood bath thing didn’t work out, the new plan was to set them up so that it looks like they’re well-dressed and enjoying a zombie picnic. My daughter had a white dress she never got to wear and it almost too big for. My son and nephew both owned nice dress-up clothes that they were outgrowing, so it just sort of worked.

Meaning the costumes cost $0! I just needed to find a blanket for them to sit on. My mom had a faded pink picnic blanket older than I am and it had holes in it from the dog– perfect!

Right after the picnic was over, I ran the blanket to the washing machine and ran it with cold water- there were no stains!

The kids had a blast at the picnic

Photo filters

I mentioned earlier how I needed photo filters to pull it all off. This was kind of a biggie.

I have an app called Lightroom on my phone. It’s similar to photoshop and has an option to preset filters.

I buy photo filter bundles every once in a while because it makes my photos look amazing without me even trying. Just two or three clicks of a button and my photos are instantly transformed. It’s awesome.

Side note: You can buy Lightroom photo filters from Etsy or any number of specialty websites.

After your free trial, it’s about $5.99 a month to keep. I use it enough to justify the costs, but if you won’t there are other online photo editing things that are completely free.

If you choose to use Lightroom though, once you edit a photo to the right setting that you like (good balance of color, darks, contrast, etc.) you can save it as a preset and name it. Then when you edit the next photo you can apply that preset and make any minor adjustments. It can REALLY cut down on the editing process!

For these photos I saved a preset as “Zombie” and applied it to every image, the only additional edits were if I needed to lighten the picture ever so slightly.

Zombie kisses

And That’s It!

A lot of minor details that added up to one amazing zombie photoshoot! It’s the tiny details that add up. We had a blast and you’d never know it was done so cheaply!

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How to DIY a budget-friendly zombie photoshoot for under $20! Click through to see how we made an amazing photo session with the kids and ended up with some fantastic shots! No professional photography skills needed (I KNOW I don't have them!) #frugalfamily #frugalliving #diy #affordable #holidaybudget #budget #halloween #zombies #kids
A How-to DIY photo session click through to see how you can do it! A $20 Zombie picnic in our backyard created the most amazing photos of our kids! You'd never know that we were so cheap! #frugalfamily #frugalliving #diy #affordable #holidaybudget #budget #halloween #zombies #kids
Are you looking for a cheap last minute Halloween photo session for your kids? Check out this awesome Zombie idea that cost us less than $20! Warning, some of the images look scary good! #frugalfamily #frugalliving #diy #affordable #holidaybudget #budget #halloween #zombies #kids
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