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How to Capture Paranormal Phenomena on Camera

Updated on March 1, 2015
Judi Bee profile image

Judith enjoys disconcerting herself and others with chilling stories from near and far.

A Spirit Photograph

An early photograph purporting to show a spirit.  It is a fake.
An early photograph purporting to show a spirit. It is a fake. | Source

Paranormal Phenomena Photographs

For many paranormal investigators, the holy grail is to capture an example of paranormal phenomena on camera. Why? To prove the existence of the thing they are chasing, naturally! Sadly, it's not easy to snap a spirit or photograph a UFO.

Photography has been around for over 150 years and there is still no undisputed photographic evidence of paranormal phenomena. That doesn't mean that it can never happen and it doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. Here are some tips to increase your chances of capturing paranormal phenomena on camera.

Orbs in Paranormal Photographs

Orbs are usually small grey or white circles that appear on a photograph. Their appearance has increased in frequency since the advent of the digital camera. Usually orbs are caused by a rational explanation - an out of focus speck of dust or a droplet of water, caught in a camera's flash. However, this explanation doesn't account for all orbs.

Orbs Captured on a Photograph

Several orbs captured on film at Gunntown Cemetery, Naugatuck, CT.
Several orbs captured on film at Gunntown Cemetery, Naugatuck, CT. | Source

Different Explanations for Paranormal Phenomena Photographs

A great many people have taken photographs over the years that apparently show paranormal phenomena. After analysis most are found to have a rationale explanation. Generally, these photographs are caused by:

  • technological error with the way the photograph was taken - exposure time, out of focus
  • human error - odd angles, objects in front of lens
  • failure to notice real object in the scene, thinking it has "appeared" after photo taken
  • faking.

There are of course other photographs that seen to show paranormal phenomena that cannot be explained and defy rational explanation. If you are aiming to photograph the paranormal you should aim for your photographs to be in this category. You can do this by doing your best to eliminate the factors that cause most paranormal photographs to be found to be normal.

Different Types of Anomalous Photographs

Photographs can sometime have anomalies - something is in the photograph that apparently shouldn't be. Some of these anomalous photographs may be considered paranormal photographs.

  1. The photographer is deliberately trying to take a photograph of something paranormal, like a ghost.
  2. The photographer took a photo of a normal scene and later found something other-worldly (like an orb) in the photo that wasn't there when he took it.
  3. The photographer took a photo, as above, and found something ordinary (for instance a dog) that wasn't there when he took it.

Books for Paranormal Photography

Cameras to Capture Paranormal Phenomena

There is a lot of debate about whether digital or traditional film cameras are better for the paranormal investigator. Both have advantages and disadvantages, which are summarised below. In the end, it is your choice, but for the beginner, a digital camera is probably the most practical solution.

Digital Camera


  • Ability to take and store hundreds of photographs without needing to change a roll of film.
  • Photographs quickly available to analyse, no film to develop.
  • Easily transferable to PC.
  • Cheap models available.


  • The camera's software automatically adjusts light levels, camera shake etc, so the image is enhanced and may not be what was actually there.
  • Although you don't need film, you need lots of batteries, in case you run out.
  • Digital images are more easily manipulated than traditional film, so their credibility is more readily questioned.

Film Camera


  • No software to automatically "enhance" the photograph. What you saw is what you print (generally!)
  • You have a negative to analyse as well as the print.


  • Film can be damaged.
  • Film can run out during a shoot or be improperly loaded.
  • Cost of processing and printing hundreds of photographs.
  • Photographs need to be scanned and uploaded to a PC.

Simple Tips to Help Capture Paranormal Phenomena on Camera

Many photographs of allegedly paranormal events or phenomena have simple explanations. Some of the most common are caused unintentionally by the photographer. Here are some tips for your paranormal investigation to help you avoid those mistakes.

  • Before you start photographing, familiarise yourself with the site. Where are the lights, is there a road nearby that may cause car headlights to sweep across your lens, etc. By scouting the site you will be less likely to mistake the ordinary for the extra-ordinary.
  • Check your equipment. Clean the lens and check for scratches and cracks.
  • Make sure you have extra film or batteries.
  • Keep very still. Shaky photographs cause blurred images that are open to misinterpretation.
  • Keep the lens clear. Tie back long hair and make sure the camera strap is out of the way.
  • Don't use a flash if possible.
  • Don't smoke whilst photographing or you risk mysterious wispy trails in your photos!
  • Don't exhale whilst taking a photo on cold nights - again, mysterious wispy cold breath!
  • Use a high resolution - 5 megapixels or above.
  • Take multiple shots if you think you spot something.
  • Take shots from different angles
  • Persevere!


Submit a Comment
  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Sandy Frost - I think I know the lady on the stairs photo you mention - it's a famous one if it's the same one I am thinking of. As you say, the likelihood of us managing to capture a ghost on film is small, but you never know!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, always appreciated :-)

  • Sandy Frost profile image

    Sandy Frost 

    8 years ago from India

    Once, when I researched up on internet for some original and authentic photographs of ghost entities, it ended up with few ones. One was of president Lincoln's ghost in white house and the other was of a lady standing on stairs in a hall. Whatever would be truth, there were authentic seals on those photographs. I wish I could have a real one taken from my own digicam but it seems like a herculian task. :)

    Well, nice and fascinating hub, thumbed up!

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Chrissie - how exciting/scary, depending on your point of view! Hope they are happy with their tenants!

    Thanks for commenting, always appreciated :-)

  • chrissieklinger profile image


    8 years ago from Pennsylvania

    Just went to dinner a few nights ago with some people that talked about ghosts in their house. Maybe they need to try some of these techniques:)

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Angie - I don't know if I would be brave enough for a night at Bodmin Jail, I've read some unsettling accounts of investigations there - the lower levels sound horrible. I do have somewhere lined up, but it's altogether less scary.

    Great to hear from you, thanks for your comments :-)

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi GoodLady - I guess if you are brought up believing in something you often just accept it. I am still not sure, but I am hopeful! My camera is at the ready.

    Thanks for your comments, appreciated as always :-)

  • Angie Jardine profile image

    Angie Jardine 

    8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

    Hi Judi - I'd be too much of a scaredy cat to go hunting for photos of this sort of thing so I guess I'll have to leave it to you to solve the mystery.

    You could start at Bodmin Jail ... as you know it has a reputation for being haunted.

  • GoodLady profile image

    Penelope Hart 

    8 years ago from Rome, Italy

    Really fascinating. We always believed in the paranormal where I came from. It was quite normal to talk about someone who lived on our mountain as though he were there. I never thought he might not be until quite recently. It's affected the way we accept that there are ghosts about in our family. I know for sure that there are. Great to have the opportunity to share on it. Thanks so much

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Lisa - I think if I was in your father's shoes, I would think the same thing too. I've never actively tried to see a ghost, but that is going to change very soon (I hope), all in the name of a hub, of course!

    Thanks so much for commenting, I appreciate it :-)

  • LisaKoski profile image


    8 years ago from WA

    I really enjoyed reading this hub. My parents' wedding photos have some orbs in it that my father is convinced were from his mother who had passed away the day before the ceremony. They reprinted the photos over and over but just couldn't figure out where all those little orbs came from.

    I've always been interested in the paranormal but I'd be too afraid to go out and try to capture anything on camera myself. Voted up and interesting :)

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Alicia - hopefully one day someone will manage to catch a ghost or a UFO on camera. I love some of the hoax photos though - there are some spectacularly bad ones out there!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, much appreciated :-)

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for the useful suggestions, Judy. I would love to see a photo that shows evidence of paranormal activity, but as you say it's very important to explain the appearance of strange objects in photos by normal means if we can.

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi theraggededge - most probably was dust, that's the obvious explanation, but many people would think they had a weird paranormal phenomena. My daughter used to speak to "someone" in a particular part of the sitting room wall when she was a toddler, but we have yet to meet him/her!

    Thanks for commenting, always appreciated :-)

  • theraggededge profile image

    Bev G 

    8 years ago from Wales, UK

    I took some photos of my kitchen when it was refitted and there were orbs all over them - I put it down to there still being loads of dust in the air. Great hub... but I don't really want to capture anything supernatural in my house! :-)

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi justateacher - I'd be pleased just to see a ghost for myself, but to film one would be amazing.

    Thanks for your comments, always appreciated :-)

  • justateacher profile image

    LaDena Campbell 

    8 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

    This is good info for those who are trying to capture paranormal activity...I would love to have hard evidence of ghosts!

  • Judi Bee profile imageAUTHOR

    Judi Brown 

    8 years ago from UK

    Hi Bill - personally, I'm useless at photographing the ordinary, so there's not much hope for me!

    Hope you are having a good weekend - the sun's out here! That's certainly out of the ordinary :-)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    8 years ago from Olympia, WA

    It is a fascinating subject; not sure I'd spend time trying to film a paranormal activity but I can understand why others would attempt to do so. Well done Judi!


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