When most people start investigating the paranormal, one of the first pieces of equipment they use is some sort of camera. It might be your mobile phone, a digital camera, a DSLR, or even a converted IR/UV camera. There are a number of things that can affect a photo - these are very natural phenomena that are often mistaken as paranormal. From lens flare to reflection from a flash, being aware of them and adapting some simple techniques can help if you are planning to take photos during a paranormal investigation. Here is my list of Dos and Dont's of photography during a paranormal investigation.
You hear a noise down the hall, and you point your camera in that direction and start shooting. Did you catch anything? Maybe but it is hard to tell. One of the first rules any investigator will tell you is that when you are taking photos, take a minimum of 3 photos in the same spot. The reason for this is that it allows you to gain a better perspective of what is happening. When you compare a photo to a video, for example, the context of the overall picture is lost in a photo as it is a freeze frame of a moment in time. Does your anomaly appear the same in all photos? Are you noticing any changes in the photos - such as is something moving? By having at least 3 photos, it allows you to gain some sort of insight into what is happening at the time and makes it much easier to try and debunk. I remember on one particular occasion, I was asked to look at a photo. It had a blurry red mist. The person who took the photo swore to me that there was no one in the area when they took the photo. I asked her to show me photos before and after. Soon it was obvious what had happened. A lady in a red coat had dashed by as she was taking her photos. It was quite clear in one of the other photos. Even though the photography had sworn there was no one in the area. She wasn't lying, but she was looking at the scene through the camera. Think of when you are at a concert and you hold up a mobile phone to film it. You are getting a closed perspective like you are watching it on tv and you become a little disconnected from what is happening. While you may not see anyone in the area, they could be there, but you are focused on what is on your screen. It is times like this that the multiple shots are going to assist you.
Flash photography during a paranormal investigation for me is something I just don't allow. It is annoying to those who are in the room with you, it can be a safety hazard and in a nutshell, the flash is going to give you false results. The light will bounce off any sort of moisture or dust in the air and this is when you start seeing 'orbs'. Put simply, any photo where a flash has been used will likely be thrown out because that is how much a flash can influence a photo. If you need light to see, consider using red light (this is what astrophotographers use as it doesn't affect your natural night vision).
It is inevitable that during an investigation, you are going to be shooting in low light. It means the shutter takes longer to fire and there is a strong possibility that your shots will turn out blurry. One way to combat this is to use a tripod. Ideally, if you have some sort of remote or timer on your camera, this is great too because it eliminates what we call 'camera shake'. Do you know when you take a photo and your hand moves? A tripod with a remote eliminates this completely. It also means that if a camera is positioned on a tripod you will have the same crop in each frame which is handy when you are taking those multiple photos as they should be exactly the same.
Clean your camera lens (yes especially one on your phone) before every investigation. It can get grimey and yucky and it can appear in your photos. Also, try and cut off or detach camera straps, They can fall in front of the camera and often misunderstand as something paranormal.
Is it raining? Is there moisture in the air? All of these things can affect your photos. A raindrop is not paranormal, it's actually just annoying. Even a drop falling on your lens can look abnormal and make you think you have caught something.
Is there dirty carpet? An open window near an old curtain? Is there heating or ac turned on? These can potentially cause add extra dirt and dust in the air. I feel I also need to point out that it doesn't matter how clean a place is, there are always dust particles in the air. Some places however are much dirtier than others.
I don't know whether it is a case of a spirit draining your battery or just bad timing, but it always seems that our cameras drain really quickly during an investigation. Investigating in the cold is one of the reasons why a camera battery can drain faster. Always have a spare battery in your pocket. It seems a camera always switches off just as things start happening. Coincidence? I don't know, but if you have a battery in your pocket you are prepared.
I have seen a couple of photos that I personally have not been able to debunk. Does this mean they are paranormal? Absolutely not, it just means that I don't know what it is. Someone else with more knowledge or experience might which brings me to my last point.
If you catch something, talk to your fellow paranormal investigators and brainstorm. Maybe they can tell you what it is. This is how you will learn. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you need a red circle to point out what you are seeing, it probably isn't paranormal.
Know how your camera works and learn about things that can affect your photos. Be open to criticism and understand that the majority of the time, if someone debunks your photo, they are not trying to be mean, they are just trying to help you. You have to be willing to accept that what you have captured might not be what you think it is. If you are going to put your photos in a public forum, this comes with the territory.
What are your dos and don'ts when it comes to paranormal photography?
Here are some more articles covering paranormal photography
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