How to take ghost photos

Simple rules for successful ghost pictures 

Ghost photos are pictures taken with a film or digital camera in a haunted location.  They usually show an 'orb' or some other unexplained image.  

A few helpful definitions:

Anomalies (singular is 'anomaly') include anything that is reasonably unexplainable in a photo.  It's a general term used by ghost hunters for evidence of spirits and hauntings.

Orbs are translucent spheres, usually milky-looking, that hover in a ghost picture.  People don't see them in real life; they show up in photos and movies.

Sparkles are tiny, sparkling lights that seem to flicker in the distance for a split-second after a flash photo is taken in a haunted location.  The sparkles don't show up in the photo.  Sparkles often indicate that photos will include orbs or other anomalies.  (This term was developed by Fiona Broome at Hollow Hill.)

Ectoplasm, often called 'ecto', is a milky or cloudy area in a ghost picture. Sometimes this is seen in real life, but--like orbs--it usually appears only in ghost pictures.

Vortex (plural is 'vortices') is a vivid column or wavy line of light in a ghost photo. Many ghost hunters believe that this indicates a doorway between the worlds.

Portals are locations where there are unusually high levels of paranormal activity.  Ghost hunters suspect that these are are major pathways between the world.

Ghost photos are easy to take, as long as you're in a haunted location.  (See How to find haunted places.)

Here are some simple tips:

1. You can use any flash camera.  At Hollow Hill, we've experimented with disposable flash cameras from the grocery store, and team that included new ghost hunters.  80% of our photographers successfully captured orbs in their photos, and it had nothing to do with their level of experience in this field.

2. Some people don't get anomalies in their photos.  Approximately 20% of photographers--both believers and skeptics--are unable to capture ghostly images in pictures.  At this time, no one knows why.  They are generally successful with other approaches to ghost research, such as EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena, or recording the voices of ghosts).

3.  Use the flash on your camera when possible.  The vast majority of anomalies (see definition at left) show up best in flash photos.

4.  Avoid light sources and reflections.  False orbs and other anomalies can result from shiny surfaces including polished floors, new gravestones, glass, metal, camera straps, and fingers too near the lens.  Likewise, point your camera away from streetlights, the sun, car headlights, electric signs, and so on.

5. Take two photos in a row.  Always take two successive photos, preferably without moving, and the second one should immediately follow the first.  If an anomaly is caused by something normal such as a reflection, dust, pollen, or bugs, you'll usually see it in both photos.  

6. Use fast film (or a fast digital setting) but not too fast.  At Hollow Hill, we usually use film or a setting of 400 ISO.  With 100 ISO, the lens remains open too long and the image can still be too dark to tell what's in the picture.  At 800 ISO or above, the photo can be too grainy to determine an anomaly.

7. Save all of your photos for awhile.  Unless you're a professional photographer, save all photos from your ghost hunts until you know exactly what to look for when you review them.  At Hollow Hill, we recommend saving at least your first thousand photos.

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