Tips on Spirit Photography



by Dale Kaczmarek

Spirit photography is a bit tricky and, at times, downright frustrating, however I hope these tips will better your chances of capturing something, of a paranormal nature, with your camera.

First of all, any camera at any given time can capture a ghost on film. We have examples on: 35MM, SX-70's, 110 Instamatics, Polaroid Instamatic Land cameras and even video tape recorders. However, a good 35MM SLR camera is by far your best bet since you can vary the ASA setting, shutter speed and exposure time. Infrared film even betters your chances still further since this type of film is very sensitive to a broad span of invisible light; much broader than the visible light that our naked eye picks up.

When I attempt to photograph ghosts, I always use two 35MM cameras. One loaded with black and white high-speed infrared film and the other loaded with ordinary black and white high-speed (ASA 400) print film. Then you can compare the two different prints when they are developed.

If the phenomena is of an invisible nature, then it will only appear on the infrared film; however, if it's a strange shadow, light reflection or flash bounce, then it should appear on both films. Therefore you can use the ordinary high-speed film as a control mechanism for verifying your own results!

For those who wish to try infrared film, I offer these tips. First of all, use only black and white infrared film and not color ektachrome. It's much easier to discern if you have captured something on film if you only have to deal with blacks, whites and grays. Besides that color ektachrome only comes in 36 exposures and is slide film and not everyone has a slide projector. It's also much easier to place the developed prints side by side for close-up examination.

Other tips are as follows:

1) Infrared film is very tricky to use and highly sensitive to heat and therefore it must be kept refrigerated before use. About one hour before loading, take out the film and allow it to warm to room temperature to prevent possible fogging of the film.

2) Since this type of film is highly sensitive to infrared light, it must be loaded and unloaded in TOTAL darkness, not subdued light. A pitch-black closet will do quite nicely, and while a photographic darkroom is even better, do not use a red safety light since it also gives off infrared radiation. Put the exposed roll back in the original film canister, tape it shut and mark properly for the film developers. If you are not going to have this developed immediately, place the exposed film back in the refrigerator. I also suggest not keeping the film in the camera for more than a few days, but if this is not possible, place the entire camera in a cool location. A basement is often an ideal place.

3) Since infrared film has no set ASA (film speed), you must decide in which lighting conditions you intend to work. When shooting the film outdoors in bright sunlight, a setting of 100 ASA should be sufficient. However, if you intend to use it indoors or at night, then the setting should be at least 400 ASA. Be sure to inform the processor as to what ASA setting you have used so the film can be developed accordingly. DO NOT let anyone open the canister in the film store, (that's why you taped it shut!). It must be opened in TOTAL darkness, otherwise light will ruin the film and all photographs on the roll!! Also pay strict attention when you are purchasing the film. If the clerk does not take the film you intend to buy out of a refrigerator, DON'T BUY IT!!! It most likely has already been heat damaged.

4) Kodak recommends that black and white infrared film be used with a Number 25 red filter. This is only advisable under certain conditions. It is good to try a variety of filters and no filter at all since all filters restrict certain light and color spectra from reaching the emulsion layers of the film. And since we are attempting to photograph spirits, we don't know if they operate within these certain frequencies or spectrums. You still get varied responses but this is the best bet for capturing images on film that I have found.

5) Try not to use a flash when you photograph since this will only tend to give you strange light reflections and a flash bounce which might be mistaken for ghostly images. Use a steady tripod, cable release and time exposures. Doing all the above should provide you with much better photographs!

I hope these tips will be useful to you and if you are indeed lucky enough to capture something with your camera, remember the Ghost Research Society performs FREE analysis on all photographs submitted to them. All photographs will be returned within 2-4 weeks, if requested and all information will be held in the strictest of confidences! Good luck!

Additional books and magazines on the subject of spirit photography include:


Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org)
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