Spirit photography has been popular almost since the dawn of spiritualism and coincided with the dawn of photography as well. Some savvy photographers worked out how to use double exposure to fudge photographs for the unsuspecting public. And the public lapped it up. Fake spirit photos are not a modern age thing only done by someone cluey enough to use Photoshop. Ghost apps by the dozen are available to download for free for smartphones and are unashamedly uploaded to social media. Surprisingly there are still people who fall for them.
The story of the photo usually starts with something like, "a mate of mine took this photo and sent it to me and swears it's genuine". Even investigators are not immune to this folly. On more than once occasion, I have been shown photos on smartphones with the above story and was expected to be in awe. Of course it didn’t go down well with the owner of the photo when I revealed that I was an investigator and a photographer myself and what they were looking at was a fake. Some tried to convince me it wasn't as they took the photo themselves. It makes me a little sad.
I would like to share with you some very simple and easy to follow tips you can use to take great photos even with a compact camera while on ghost tours, investigations or just on a rogue Saturday midnight cemetery dash.
No handheld devices
Forget your smart phones and tablets. While most of them take pictures with excellent resolution, there is precious little you can do photographic settings wise to adjust to your environment. Not to mention that any self-respecting investigator worth their salt will just plain and simple refuse to give you an opinion on your image, should you decide to send it to them. Simple and fairly inexpensive compact and SLR digital cameras are perfectly fine for taking snaps. Some even have really good low light functions and that means you won't have to use your flash all the time. We all know that one person on a tour or an investigation who just can't help themselves but take hundreds of flash photos, ensuring that participants are all but completely blind by the conclusion of the event. Not cool.
Have the right equipment
A tripod is a must have staple in your spirit photography arsenal. It doesn't have to be super-duper, weight balanced titanium with an inbuilt spirit level, you're not photographing for National Geographics. Inexpensive ones can be acquired online and are lightweight aluminium and will easily fit into a small backpack alongside your rations for the night, your torches, spare batteries and holy water. When you take pictures in the dark, whether your camera is set to auto or you adjust the settings yourself a longer exposure will required if you don’t want the images to turn out completely black, if your camera even picks up objects at all. Most camera sensors need something to hook onto when focussing or measuring for autosettings. Longer exposure means that even if the camera moves the slightest, you will have a ghosting effect on your image. This may even be caused if you breathe while the lens is open or the subject in the frame moves. Yes, even if the movement is the slightest.
Moving lightsources, dust, insects, cigarette smoke, breath or condensation are often misidentified as spirits on photos. The great orb debate has raged for a long as digital cameras have been around. Even longer if you take into account sunflares and lens reflections. At least now, in the digital age, where images are no longer captured on film negatives, aberrations on the images caused by incorrect distribution of developing chemicals or a faulty film strip can be excluded. There are steps you can take to avoid the above listed artefacts from appearing on your images. Trailing can be avoided by making sure that there are no prominent light sources in your shot. Someone holding a torch, a candle, even street lights can be misleading once you manage to put your images on your computer days later. It's unlikely you will remember every single details about your environment on the night you took your photos. Insects are hard to avoid but they will be pretty obvious once you get the hang of spotting them in your photos. Exhaled breath and cigarette smoke will not necessarily be visible when you take your picture, but will produce a distinctive signature on the image. Condensation in or on the lens will occur if you move between areas of varying temperatures like getting out of a warm car where you kept your camera and start taking photos outdoors on a cold day or night.