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Blog

How To Photograph Ghosts

Posted on December 13, 2011 at 1:54 AM
How to Photograph Ghosts,Ghost Photography 101,Haunted,Paranormal,New England Paranormal Investigators,Boston,Full Spectrum,Infrared,AnthonyDuda,www.AnthonyDuda.com
 
 
 









Two Blogs This Month?
 
Yes, I said this was going to be a monthly blog, but since it's my blog, I reserve the right to occasionally break the rules. So...get over it :-) Just like bad Hollywood marriages and even worse Hollywood movies, some things deserve a sequel, so welcome to the December 2011 edition of The Booo! Blog, Part Two!
 
Smile, and Say "Cheese"!
 
Without a doubt, the most frequent question I receive is, "How can I photograph ghosts?", naturally followed by questions about camera type, best time of day, use of flash or external light source and questions concerning the ultraviolet and infrared spectra. As there is so much more to this than one might think, please allow me to take the easier (and lazy!) route and attack them from the 'ghosts really do exist' angle and assumption. Let's tackle them in no particular order...
 
What's the Best Type of Camera to Photograph Ghosts?
 
The best camera is always the one you have with you! While theories abound as to what ghosts are and the best methods to capture their image, the truth is that it's a complete mystery.
 
Digital Cameras
 
Almost everyone has gone digital, and for very good reason: no film or processing costs, ease of sharing/emailing, instant gratification as results can be seen immediately, hundreds or thousands of shots can be taken and stored on one small memory card, and ease of editing on any computer (or even in the camera itself). All are, without a doubt, a huge advantage in convenience over analog (film) photography, but the last is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to your quest for proof of the paranormal. Sure, you'll be able to proudly send your shots with ease to all the paranormal websites, but the fact is that digital data is easily manipulated. Whether it's that elusive ghost in your town's oldest cemetery, the UFO that's buzzing over your neighbor's house, or the lake monster that you're convinced has taken up residence in your city's municipal reservoir (and doing its business in your drinking water...eeeeew!) your photographic 'proof' will forever be suspect if captured digitally. While a single photograph, regardless of medium, will never and should never be accepted as definitive proof of the paranormal, your digital shot will always send skeptics, debunkers and naysayers in to a fit of denial. Why? Because they'll ask one question consisting of three simple words: "Where's the negative?"
 
"Film? They Still Make That Stuff?"
 
Yes, film is still being manufactured, albeit more of a niche professional product than a mainstream consumer item. And, guess what? With all types of negative (a.k.a. "print") film you'll get one thing that your digital camera and printer will never spit out or cough up: a film negative! Positive (a.k.a. "slide") film will produce a film slide, which is just as good as a negative, only it's a 'positive' rendition of the scene as opposed to a negative. Ughhh...is your head spinning yet? Well, to make it easy, just remember that any type of film that requires processing will produce either a negative or a positive color slide, just like what Grandpa used to send out and pick up at the drug store or camera shop back in the day. Why does an image caught on film make for a more convincing pro-paranormal argument? Because the physical film negative or slide is much more difficult to manipulate and alter, and can easily be detected by independent experts and the film's manufacturer. Of course, all bets are off if the actual scene itself was fabricated; film would probably have no advantages over digital capture in such a scenario. The same would also be true if the film negative or slide was digitally scanned, then altered in Photoshop or another program. However, when push comes to shove and the name calling and accusations start to fly, the film photographer will always have the advantage in that he/she will have the original negative or slide to fall back on. The digital photographer? Well, good luck with that.
 
There are a few very good film emulsions still in production for paranormal use. No, that's not their intended and stated purpose according to their manufacturers, but "good" in the sense that they tend to record a wider light spectrum than can be seen by the human eye. As we don't know at what wavelength of light ghosts reside, it's always a good idea to cast as wide a net as possible. Kodak Professional T-Max 100 and 400 black and white negative films pierce the UV-A spectrum down to about 360nm or so. Rollei Aviphot (Superpan) 200 and 400 black and white negative films made by Agfa in Germany, reach up to 820nm in the near-infrared range. Ilford SFX200, also a black and white negative film, has "extended red" sensitivity, and goes just beyond normal human vision to 740nm. All of these films also record the visible spectrum, which is approximately 400-700nm for most humans, and can be used with various filters to selectively block or allow individual spectra. And while we're on the subject of film, don't think your garden variety drug store film can't be used. Those, of course, record visible light, which may be all that's necessary to snap that once-in-a-lifetime (yours, not hers) shot of Aunt Wanda sitting in her favorite recliner with a scotch and soda in one hand and a filterless Camel dangling from the other...charming, and just how you always remembered her. Remember to use a relatively 'fast' film; ISO 400 or 800 is what I recommend, unless you can use a support such as a tripod. Avoid using the camera's flash (I'll talk more about that in a minute). One thing to keep in mind: long before everyone on the Internet (including yours truly) was talking about fancy schmancy, expensive "ghost" cameras capable of amazing feats, photographers were recording supposedly paranormal images with their Kodak Brownie box cameras and $20.00 Kodak Instamatics. Yep, the best camera really is the one you happen to have with you!
 
Does the Brand of Digital Camera Make a Difference?
 
All digital camera manufacturers try, as closely as possible, to have their products track the spectral sensitivity of the human visual system, and all do an admirable job. If that were not the case, your photos would have weird coloration and would not look like the scene as you, with your human eyes and brain, remember it. The problem is that most digital sensors can 'see' a much wider spectra than humans, digging deep in to infrared and somewhat piercing UV. The camera manufacturers solution? Filtration, and lots of it. The trick to avoiding photos with red, pink and blue hues is to filter out most IR and UV before the light rays hit the sensor. While most manufacturers now have it mastered, some of their older models did a good, but not great, job of it. For example, some models that used a previous generation Sony sensor particularly adept at recording IR information and using less-aggressive filtration could be used for infrared photography, even without modification. The Pentax K100D Super is such a camera. Others, such as the Fujifilm FinePix E550, using the offbeat (but excellent) proprietary sensors and filtration that Fuji is known for, did only a fair job of filtering UV and IR.
 
Why does this matter? Because if you're in the market for a new digital camera to use exclusively for ghost hunting, you may be better off with a used, older model. If you're in the 'ghosts are visible within the normal range of human vision' camp, any camera, new or used, should serve you well. On the other hand, if you believe that ghosts have only been photographed because of some of the quirks and filter/sensor combinations that allow the UV/IR spectra to shine on through, do an Internet search and find some older models that others have had success with. Some sites devoted to UV and IR photography have excellent, albeit dated, recommendations.
 
Just a (sort of) quick note concerning Canon DSLR cameras, both new and older models, and why they may not be the best choice to catch a shot of Honest Abe if, by chance, Barack and Michelle invite you to spend a night in the Lincoln Bedroom:
 
Decades before electronics companies such as Sony and Panasonic jumped in to the digital camera arena, Canon was a traditional camera and lens manufacturer. Canon, along with Nikon, have long produced the lion's share of gear professional photographers rely on. However, unlike Nikon, Canon saw the future of photography and, in the 1960s, began to develop in-house electronics capability and expertise that helped it immensely in subsequent decades; first with electronically controlled film cameras and all the way to the digital marvels we have today. With its professional backbone and capabilities, almost every part on a Canon camera, from proprietary digital sensors and filtration to the buttons that control the beasts, are made by Canon. In contrast, the sensors used by Nikon in their cameras are made by Sony. Yes, some other manufacturers do have that in-house capability, such as Sony and Panasonic, but not the commitment to the professional market or traditional background. For those reasons, Canon products are consistently among the best in image quality, with their proprietary components delivering the exacting results professional photographers expect. And that, my friends, is where the problem may lie in their paranormal use.
 
"Exacting results" and images as true as possible with digital sensors requires aggressive filtration, and Canon has it down to a science. It's the reason images from their unmodified DSLRs have very little IR or UV contamination and, therefore, the reason you may not notice Abe stopping by to say "Hi" if you're sleeping in his bed. To be sure, the lines between camera manufacturers are blurring in this regard, and are not nearly as prominent as they were only a few years ago. All are quickly approaching a level playing field, but it still may be a factor you want to consider. As with any major purchase, do your research.
 
"Full Spectrum" Cameras
 
I wrote about these in some detail on my website, so I won't go in to too much here. There are brand differences, and I can only recommend those made or modified by Moditronic and Spectercam. Suffice it to say, these are the 'must have' item in the paranormal field at the moment, and I've caught some very cool images with them. The UV-A portion of a full spectrum camera's range is the most difficult to capture, and is easily blocked by lens coatings, multiple lens elements, and even air itself. The visible light and infrared spectra can completely overpower the ultraviolet so, for all these reasons, special care, balance and expertise are required in creating a competent and capable full spectrum camera. However, there's still no scientific proof of their superiority in capturing the paranormal. My thoughts? If you've got 'em, use 'em. Planning on purchasing one? Go with one of the two brands I've mentioned. Can't afford one? Don't let that stop you from searching for spooks! Use whatever you have; you may be very surprised at what you're able to capture. When it comes to equipment to photograph ghosts, often the old adage "less is more" rings very true. Why? Read on...

Ghosts on the Cheap!

The visible and near infrared spectra are easily captured by full spectrum cameras. However, as stated above, near ultraviolet is much more difficult. In short, the more you put between the UV-A wavelength and the object attempting to record it, the less UV-A gets through. It is important to keep in mind that what is transparent in visible light and to human vision, such as clear glass, is much less so in the ultraviolet wavelengths. The more glass in the form of camera lens elements you pile on between the UV-A light waves and the camera's digital sensor or film plane, the more those waves are blocked. Add to that the anti-reflective multi-coatings used on virtually all modern camera lenses, and that advertised zoom lens "full spectrum" ghost hunting camera you bought on Ebay is simply a "visible light/near infrared" camera. Yes, the camera's digital sensor may be capable of recording the UV-A spectrum, but the multi-element, multi-coated lens attached to the camera is completely blocking it from reaching that sensor. Those modifying and selling these cameras don't tell the buyer that very important fact or, worse, don't even know it.

And, yes, that's why less really is more when trying to catch a glimpse of a ghost on digital or film. A cheap, simple camera with an uncoated lens with the fewest elements is the way to go. If you want to buy a fixed lens (a lens that cannot be removed) full spectrum digital camera, look for one that has the most basic lens available. When buying an SLR film camera, digital SLR or digital mirrorless camera with removable lenses, always use an uncoated, basic lens for ghost photography, and that's when Ebay does come in handy! Starting in the mid-1940s, most lens manufacturers started to use a single-coating on their lenses to reduce glare and reflection, resulting in increased contrast and image quality. Later, in the 1950s and 60s as their technology improved, they advanced to multi-coatings for an even more dramatic improvement. Unfortunately, by design, as lenses became more complicated and lens coatings more effective, less of the UV-A spectrum could penetrate. The result, if we are to believe that ghosts are visible in that spectrum, was less spectral photobombing. Skeptics and debunkers love to use the "If ghosts a real, why aren't we seeing more ghost photos if nearly everyone has a cellphone camera with them?" argument. Well, the reason above, and manufacturers purposely filtering out UV-A, could very possibly be the answer. Now, let's get back to that online auction...

You will find the largest selection of old, uncoated lenses and cameras with simple, uncoated lenses on Ebay. For lenses to use on your digital SLR, search for some 1930s and 40s models, even into the early 1950s. Read the seller's description of the item carefully. If you are still unsure, Google the name of the camera or lens and do some online research. The optics of an uncoated lens should be completely without a color tint, just clear glass. Although it may be difficult to tell in the seller's photos, in your hand, single-coated lenses will have a slight monochromatic tint, usually yellow or blue when held up to the light. Multi-coated optics will usually exhibit multiple colors when doing the same. You will not find an old lens with the same mount as your digital SLR, but conversion adapters for most mounts can also be found on the cheap on Ebay. Keep in mind that you will not have all the exposure modes your camera offers available when mounting an old lens with an adapter, and you will have to manually focus, but it is doable and the possible results certainly worth it. And that leads us to... 

Ghosts on the Cheap, Part Two!

Here's an example of a film-based still ghost camera setup that will equal or better any modified digital "full spectrum" ghost camera you'll find on Ebay, and you can have it for under 20 bucks. Yup, that's right...$20.00.

Start with a very basic 35mm, fixed-focus point-and-shoot camera that has an electronic flash, such as the Vivitar PS33. Remember, as I mentioned above, the golden rule to capturing images in the UV-A spectrum is putting the least amount of uncoated glass between the ghost and the film, and the PS33 and several similar cameras meet that requirement. The PS33 has only two lens elements, and both are uncoated. That's about as simple as you are going to find with the exception of a pinhole camera (a camera which has no lens). However, pinhole cameras are impractical for ghost photography due to their fuzzy image quality and the long exposure times needed. I bought my Vivitar PS33 camera new on Ebay for the astronomical sum of $1.49. Now we add the magic...

Buy a roll or two of 36-exposure Rollei/Agfa Aviphot Infrared 400 or Kodak T-Max 400 film. These are black and white negative films with sensitivity in the UV-A, Visible (white light) and Near IR spectra. Their 400 ISO speed is also a perfect match for basic electronic flash cameras such as the Vivitar PS33. Neither film requires special handling. While it will equal the Near IR and visible light capability of most expensive modified digital "full spectrum" cameras, this inexpensive camera/film combination will literally blow them away in its ability to capture UV-A. While you may not get the instant gratification of immediately seeing the image on the LCD screen of your digital wonder, keep in mind that you will likely have a better chance of capturing a ghostly image with this cheap camera/film set-up than with your high-priced, dedicated digital ghost camera. You will become more judicious, learn to rely on your intuition and take images that count, not just shoot with the shotgun approach and hope for the best, as most ghost hunters do with digital. Remember, paranormal investigators back in the day were capturing ghostly images, and arguably higher-quality ghostly images, long before digital came along.

Ahhh...but what about developing the film? Isn't it expensive? It's difficult, right? No and no! You can easily process black and white negative film in your bathroom. In fact, you can even develop it in coffee and Vitamin C (how cool is that?!). Google the subject; there's a wealth of information online. Buy a super-cheap 35mm negative scanner (Ebay or Amazon) and download the images to your computer. If you still don't want to attempt processing the film yourself, you can send it to a lab, such as my friends at The Darkroom in San Clemente, California. They're fast, cheap, do awesome work, and will send you postage-paid envelopes to mail your film. And yes, you can request high-resolution scans of your film to CD instead of prints to satisfy your digital cravings. The best part? When the naysayers and debunkers who masquerade as healthy skeptics try to convince you that you didn't see what you know you saw dosmugly ask, "Where's the negative?", you can confidently reply, "Here it is, Mr. Randi" (or Mr. Nickell, or Mr. Shermer...or any of the countless debunkers masquerading as healthy skeptics in the media). The even better than best part? You've done it all on the cheap!

Ghosts on the Cheap, Part Three!

If you still insist on the instant gratification rush of digital capture, it may cost you just a bit more than taking the film route, but not by much. Let's go back to Ebay...

If you're not particularly handy with a screwdriver, search "Full Spectrum Digital Cameras" on the site. You'll find a lot of offerings but, again, remember the golden rule about what you put between the capture device of the camera; in the case of digital, the imaging sensor instead of film as in the example above. The same rule applies regardless of if the camera is analog (film) or digital. You may be tempted to spring for the more expensive modified cameras with well-known names, such as Canon, Sony, etc., and these are fine cameras to capture the visible (white light) and Near IR spectra. However, because of their more complex lenses (because the lens has more elements) and multi-coating, you'll be missing out on most, if not all, of the UV-A spectrum. Again, technically the modification will allow the camera's digital sensor to record UV-A, but the lens and coatings in these more expensive and sophisticated models will block the UV-A information before it ever reaches that sensor. The solution? Our favorite word: CHEAP!

Look for low-end models such as DXG and others. Many paranormal groups sell the modified, full spectrum versions of these cameras on Ebay to raise money for their investigations. They have less-complex lenses (fewer lens elements), are usually uncoated, and therefore allow more of the UV-A spectrum to pass through to the camera's digital sensor. This really is an example of "less is more"; you'll have a device more capable of capturing the advertised "full spectrum", and it will be a win/win scenario...for you and your wallet. But wait, you say you want cheaper still? Keep reading...

If you are handy with a screwdriver (and you'll probably need a set of 'jeweler' screwdrivers available at Home Depot, Lowe's, or any hardware store for about five bucks), you can modify a digital camera yourself. Go to a place like Wal-Mart or K-Mart and get one of those cheap digital still or video cameras, you know, the ones for sale on the rack in blister packs, usually for under $20,00. I strongly urge you not to attempt to modify an expensive camera that you may already own; the cheap camera will better suit your purpose, will be more capable of full spectrum photography once modified (the lens again), and won't break the bank if you screw-up the modification. The Internet abounds with 'how to' instructions and, even if you can't find the exact model they are modifying online, remember that most of these cheap digital cameras are very much alike, many coming from the same factories, so you'll be okay. Save the bucks and good luck!

Flash and External Light Sources
 
There's no inherent problem in using the flash on your camera or an external light source on an investigation; the problem is with the thought process of many paranormal investigators and amateur ghost hunters in their use. They may be the most misused and overused tool in the paranormal equipment arsenal. Instead of thinking outside the box and attempting to come up with something truly unique and innovative, most equipment manufacturers continue to crank out 'me too' camera/video lights almost as frequently as they produce yet another model of 'me too' EMF meter. Everybody and their brother is offering some type of "full spectrum", ultraviolet or infrared lighting on eBay or for sale through their group's site for use with still or video cameras. That's all fine and dandy if you want to photograph a room in those spectra, and can be helpful if, for example, you want to keep a camera trained on a trigger object to see if it moves, without the glaring distraction of bright, visible lights. Unfortunately, that's not how most are used.
 
There are really only two ways that we're aware of how images appear on film or a digital sensor: via reflective light or via luminescence. Reflective light is how we are able to see most of our world; a light source that produces rays in our visible range (approx. 400-700nm) that reflect or 'bounce' off an object and are perceived and processed by our visual system. Film and digital sensors, while more crude in their sophistication, work in a fairly similar fashion to our visual system in that light from an object is reflected on to them to form an image, just as it is on the retina in the backs of our eyes. Luminescence is the emission of light from an object itself, a form of cold radiation, and does not involve or need a reflective light source. A good example would be a dayglo wall poster from 1960s, the type excited by black lights (Yeah, even with everything you were smoking back then, you remember those!). Cold luminescence is very different from thermal energy, which standard photographic films, digital sensors and even our visual system cannot see. Yes, all can see fire or the red glow of a hot burner element on a stove, but that's not thermal energy itself, it's the visual result of thermal energy. Thermal imaging cameras are sometimes used in paranormal investigation, but despite being touted and featured on some ghost hunting television programs, they're of dubious value. I have one, but after several months, realized the technology offers little with regard to paranormal investigation. It is among the many pieces of equipment that I've put 'out to pasture' and have retired from investigations.
 
While the debate rages as to what ghosts actually are, most agree they do not seem to consist of solid matter. A more likely and probable scenario is that we are dealing with something akin to a projected image or something with luminescent properties. They could be 'visible' in any or all spectra; ultraviolet, visible and/or infrared. Why, then, would we want to blast them with high-intensity light in those spectra in an attempt to capture their image on an analog or digital medium? Is the projected image on a screen in a movie theater easier to see with the lights on? No, of course not; image quality and contrast suffer greatly. Would you want to snap a photo of a candle flame bathed in the intense brightness of a searchlight? No, because the flame would be completely washed-out and invisible under such conditions. Should you blast a non-physical being with UV-A light in hopes of making it visible, in similar fashion to that '60s wall poster? No, because the key term here is "non-physical", which is very unlike that poster. If ghosts are visible in the ultraviolet spectrum, use of any light source would be counterproductive, as their image would be overpowered. Yet, many in the paranormal field still insist on 'lighting up', using every type of light source imaginable, and happily snapping away. That makes absolutely no sense unless we're dealing with solid, physical matter that can reflect light, and everything we do know through anecdotal reports and observation leads us to believe that's not the case. It really comes down to an issue of independent thought; thinking things through to their logical conclusion, applying as much scientific theory and probability as can be applied to paranormal investigation in context of the limited information we have on the subject and, most importantly, not becoming a flock of sheep and doing something just because everyone else is or because it's how the clowns on cable say it should be done.
 
So, what's the best lighting technique to photograph our spooky friends? Whether digital or film and regardless of conditions, use a tripod, avoid the use of flash, and never use an external light source (normal indoor room light is okay as long as it's not too bright) unless you are not attempting to photograph the actual spirit, but only the movement of a physical object, such as a trigger prop. For more information on ghost photography, see the Ghost Hunting Myths and Ghost Hunting Questions pages of my website.
 
Is There a Time of Day/Night That's Better for Capturing Ghostly Images?
 
No, but it's always best to be there at the time most ghostly activity is reported to occur. Obviously, daylight photography is easier to accomplish, has less variables and is less suspect in the eyes of skeptics, but follow the suggestions in the paragraph above for night or indoor activity. And no, it really isn't like TV would have you believe; ghosts seem to be just as active during the day.

Rain? Snow? Fog? Stay Home and Watch a Scary Movie Instead.

You know those spooky-but-ubiquitous nighttime cemetery orb photos that are posted on just about every paranormal website? How about those creepy-but-ubiquitous nighttime graveyard 'ectoplasmic mist' shots? They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", although that idiom no longer holds much truth in the age of digital manipulation and Photoshop. And it has never been true of outdoor shots featuring floating spheres and misty goo. Unless, of course, you're talking about the weather.

Most 'ectoplasm' and 'orbs' are nothing more than the intense light of the camera's flash reflecting off something very normal, not paranormal, in the atmosphere. The combination of rain or snow, darkness and flash photography is certain to conjure orbs every time. Cold temperatures, your breath and a camera's flash will conspire to summon ectoplasm, seemingly out of thin air. As for the latter, I'll give you a reason to quit that even the American Cancer Society fails to mention: cigarette smoke will do the same, regardless of outside temperature. What's that you say? You still refuse to quit? My only reply to that is, as a paranormal investigator, you should have a unique perspective on one absolute truth: it is much better to be above the ground than below it.
 
Location, Location, Location?
 
I've often wondered why ghosts would want to hang-out in a cemetery; wouldn't they rather visit a location connected with happier times in their lives? Chilling and spending time with living friends and family seems as though it would be much more appealing. Well, many are spectral couch potatoes and prefer home sweet home over grass and granite. Still, many interesting 'ghost in the cemetery' photos exist, even after discounting the ridiculous orb and mist shots offered as 'proof' on the sites of some New England paranormal investigators and weekend ghost hunting groups. How, then, are we to explain this ghost/cemetery connection?
 
If you've read the Ghosts and Hauntings page of my site, you already know that I believe ghosts have free will and, just like the living, can make their own choices. Time and distance are meaningless concepts 'over there', so they can be wherever, whenever. They also seem to be drawn and respond to the emotions and thoughts of those they were close to in this life. That seems to be the motivation behind the use of prayer in so many religions, as it is believed the prayers can be 'heard' by those who have passed. If that is the case, ghostly manifestations in cemeteries actually start to make sense. Where was the last large gathering of friends, relatives and loved ones all concentrating on the departed? Very likely, it would have been the funeral and subsequent burial in the cemetery. When someone is visiting a cemetery, where are their thoughts? Probably with the departed and, if someone does take the time to visit, they almost certainly had some type of emotional connection to that person. No, I don't believe ghosts are squatters and join some type of "Occupy the Cemetery" movement, but they can and do visit, and the catalyst is not the dead, but the living. Ghosts are sometimes photographed at family events such as parties, reunions and weddings, and the combined energy and thoughts of family members, just like in the cemetery, could very well be the reason. While I don't believe a ghost is around every corner, they can be anywhere, and location may not be as important as the person(s) at the location.

Dead Wedding Crashers

Ghost photography is, for the most part, of the candid variety.Think of yourself as a spectral Henri Cartier-Bresson, the famous French master of candid street photography. He happily snapped away, catching fleeting glimpses of people going about their business, often without them being aware they were being photographed. Sure, he captured the living and you want to capture the dead, but let's not sweat the minor details...the idea and technique are the same. While many praise Cartier-Bresson for his sharp eye for composition, I tend to think the magic was in the numbers. I certainly do not doubt his skill, but the simple fact is that if you take enough shots of a subject, odds are a few will be 'keepers'. I often wonder about the shots that never made it to the pages of the countless books dedicated to his work; I'm sure they far outnumber the ones that did. However, opinions such as mine amount to heresy in the world of artsy-fartsy photography. But then, I also dislike French cinema and am annoyed by National Public Radio fundraising week, so I apparently lack the 'artsy-fartsy' gene...

What we can learn and adapt from Mr. Cartier-Bresson, however, is the value of the shotgun approach to candid photography and, specific to our purposes, candid ghost photography. In my experience, dead people are camera shy and truly hate to strike a pose. The exception to that pearl of wisdom is during group photos, such as weddings, family reunions and the like, where they will sometimes photobomb the shot to be part of the group. That leaves us no choice but to try to photograph them unaware and caught in the act, taking lots of shots in succession and hoping for that keeper.

The goal of ghost photography is to document, not to take pretty pictures. You may have to retrain your eyes and mind to be less conscious of composition and more aware of what is going on around you. Get a weird vibe from a room? Start hitting the shutter release button. A particular area of a location giving you the heebie-jeebies? Start snapping in that direction. Metaphorically, put away the rifle and use the shotgun.

WWKD?: What Would Kanye Do?

So you've taken some pictures, now what? Get ready to play haunted hide and seek. Spend some time, somewhere without distraction, and closely examine your shots. Even if using film, it is a good idea to get high-resolution digital scans of your negatives at the time of processing to view them on your computer monitor. That way, if you do think you see something unusual, you can zoom in on it to get a closer look, and a high-res scan will make that possible to do with reasonable clarity.

Unless obnoxiously egotistical in life, a ghost will usually not appear front and center in a frame. Of course, the ghosts of Donald Trump and Kanye West would but, yes, they're still with us. However, as mentioned above, the vast majority of ghosts seem to want to avoid the limelight. Whether that is an unwritten code of conduct rule in the spirit world, I haven't a clue, but it is what it is. Make sure that you examine all areas of the frame. For example, if you have shots in a cemetery surrounded by woods, check not only the main part of the shot, but the margins of the tree line.Taking outdoor shots of a purported haunted house or other structure? Check even the smallest details in the windows. And don't be surprised if you see that someone, or something, was watching you. Boo!

Final Thoughts
 
I hope you've found this information helpful, and please feel free to shoot me an email with anything you've captured. Now...grab a camera and get to work!


 




Legal Disclaimer: All information, opinion and theories on this website and blog are published in good faith and for general information purposes only. I do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on my website and blog is strictly at your own risk, and I will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with its use. All opinion and theories are strictly my own, and should not be construed as fact. 

Categories: How to Photograph Ghosts-Ghost Pictures-Ghost Photography-Infrared-UV-Full Spectrum-Camera

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93 Comments

Reply Diane Matloff
3:49 PM on December 14, 2011 
Hi Anthony! I love your site and blogs, and was drawn in by the wealth of information and style. You really are an excellent writer. You're tough on the paranormal community but seem equally tough on yourself, which is a nice quality. Thanks for the obvious effort it took to put your site together.
Reply Evelyn Campbell
7:30 PM on December 15, 2011 
My goodness! The depth of this information is unlike anything I've ever read on ghost photography. Thank you, and I intend to put it to good use!
Reply Ed DeLeo
10:04 PM on December 16, 2011 
This is a subject that I've always been curious about, and have read about it online. I have to say that I've never read anything so precise and detailed about taking ghost pics. It's usually "Be careful to keep the camera strap and fingers away from the lens" etc., but your information is something I've never found anywhere before. I haven't checked out the rest of your site yet, but I'm going to. I just wanted to tell you how much I liked your blog.
Reply Paul
5:12 PM on December 19, 2011 
Great blog and site! I've done some investigating, but I'm still learning, mostly from my mistakes LOL I like how you write for both the haunted and the hunters, sort of on two levels. Very nice, and some fantastic tips on paranormal photography!
Reply Debbie Wilcox
3:59 PM on December 22, 2011 
So now I have some new tricks! My husband already thinks I'm crazy, but I just love this stuff. Thanks for making something technical so easy to follow. I haven't seen this information anywhere before. GREAT site!
Reply Keith
3:16 PM on December 31, 2011 
Hey Anthony- just doing some reading and fell into your site. Let me add if I may more theory to the mix. In particular I am speaking about light- to add, not to add, already present and full spectrum. Light is both a particle and wave and as such can react and act in both relms. This wave particle duality is where most people loose the big picture- choosing one path or another. Lets suppose for a moment that refraction is occuring through an unknown and temporary medium in the air during a paranormal event. Or, that the particles are being Rayleigh Scattered as they are effected by a temproal paranormal event- and one of my favorites- the light is being dopler shifted. Doppler shifting is favored because it could also extend into the sound media and thus be an adjunct to the EVP. So, if shifting is occuring- it would be UP or DOWN the scale. This means that full spectrum would be the ideal capture source as a larger band is being sampled and thus it increases the chance that a capture is made. I will stop there but it is a lot to think about!! Its always nice to hear from you- keep it up!
Reply Rebecca
11:31 AM on January 16, 2012 
This is sounding like it is becoming very scientific. Here in Israel, we don't have access to some of the equipment you do in the States. I would love to get my hands on some of this technology! We have many haunted locations here.
Reply ghostdiva
7:57 PM on January 24, 2012 
I read today that Earth is being bombarded my magnetic radiation from solar flares. Now's a good time to get out there to try to catch a ghost, as that's supposed to give the energy to materialize.
Reply Cory
8:53 AM on February 10, 2012 
thanks for the info.
Reply Krystal
5:07 PM on February 14, 2012 
Spooky :)
Reply Brian
2:40 AM on November 24, 2012 
A slight conspiracy tweak (meaning more of a thought provoker then anything): A small point to most who follow the shows and most 'hunters' that follow the glitz, as you pointed out about the lights making it possibly harder ... what if the point of the techniques shown in the shows, and followed by many, is more to destroy or dissuade paranormal influence? Paraphrasing from above in the light section, the subjects are immaterial objects existing in a certain possible range of the spectrum. If you are flooding that area with a similar energy, would you not be (sorry for the analogy) drowning them? Sideline to this is in regards to forms of evidence. This is in relation to the trouble with observation changing the state of the observed. Do you just see what is being projected from a source, whether reflected or generated, passively without adding to situation? Or, do you shine a light, changing the situation, to get a reflection back? Sorta like the idea of active versus passive sonar. Sorry if this is a little erratic, just wanted to add some ideas, and hear some opinions.
Reply Leah
4:37 AM on March 27, 2013 
Thanks for the tips. This is much more in-depth than what I've found online previously. This is how the topic should be discussed. A treasure trove of information.
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