Look beyond the lens at some of history’s most haunted photos and learn how to capture the unexpected
With Halloween fast approaching, fascination with the supernatural is set to peak. From debating the cause of a strange blur in a photo or who a vague figure in the background could be, ‘haunted’ imagery is one way the paranormal world continues to capture our imagination.
Canon (Canon-CNA.com) has partnered with renowned still life photographer and Canon Ambassador, Eberhard Schuy, alongside Professor Chris French, an expert in the psychology of paranormal beliefs at Goldsmiths University London, to show people how they can capture the unexpected, as well as debunk the myths surrounding some of the most widely debated haunted photos .
#1 - Levitating Objects
Canon Ambassador Eberhard Schuy explains how he created this striking photo (Image 1) of a levitating chair, “This image consists of two exposures, one with the chair balancing on a tripod and the other without, so I was able to easily retouch the photo and cover everything that I didn't want to show in the image.”
Professor French says, “In the early days, photography itself was seen as a mysterious process and the discovery that double exposures – as shown by Eberhard Schuy’s photo of the girl with the levitating chair - along with other darkroom tricks could be used to produce ghostly images was soon exploited by a number of notorious fraudsters of the day.”
Eberhard provides an easy alternative to using double exposure to create this image, instead showing how cheap fishing line can achieve a similar affect, noting, “For lighter objects I use very thin fishing lines on which I hang the objects. The line is so fine that you almost never have to retouch the picture.”
Using the fishing line, secure an object to the ceiling so that it appears to float unsupported
Position a glass half full, with a bottle of drink floating next to it or perhaps float a pen over a half-written page, so it appears as if the pen is writing by itself. Thousands of different images can be created with this technique, so get creative
Ensure the hanging object is still so you can focus on the subject and create the impression of a poltergeist in action
Fishing line – the thinnest you can find
A prop of your choosing. This will be suspended from the ceiling so ensure its shatter-proof in case it drops
#2 - Phantom figures
Floating apparitions appearing behind unsuspecting individuals is typical of haunted images, however is everything as it seems in these paranormal pictures?
According to Professor French, there is no need to worry about ghostly figures appearing from behind in images stating, “Despite much criticism and numerous exposures of deliberate fraud, spirit photography had strong support from many people early on. The image here of an ethereal woman’s face floating above the two sitters (Image 2), taken around 1920, is almost certainly a deliberate fake, probably by proven hoaxer William Hope. Close inspection of the photo of Ellen Nammell (Image 3) reveals that this is almost certainly another example of double exposure, possibly unintentional.”
It’s easy enough to produce photos of apparitions like the one above, as shown by Eberhard Schuy’s Dancing Girl (Image 4). For a simple solution to creating transparent portraits of friends or family, he suggests using a small pane of glass:
Hold the pane of glass rotated to the right or left at an angle of about 45 ° directly in front of the camera lens
Position your model next to the camera in the direction the glass is tilted towards
The model will be reflected in the pane of glass and appear to float transparently in front of the rest of the background
For an even more striking effect, have the person shine a light on themself or maybe even hold a burning candle in their hand
Capture the picture with your digital camera, trying different variations of the model and glass position to create the desired effect
To capture your own spooky snaps at home, check out Canon’s range of digital cameras and lenses
A pane of glass the size of a postcard – try taking the glass from a picture frame
A torch or candle
#3 - The ghost on the stairs
Looking at the picture of the alleged ghost of Sir Robert Peel (Image 5), Professor French states, “A number of artefacts can lead to spooky images being produced by the camera itself or else the processing involved. These include long exposures giving ghostly images of someone walking through the scene, camera straps being caught in the flash resulting in mysterious “energy swirls”, and so-called “orbs” produced when specks of dust are caught out-of-focus in the flash.”
For those fascinated by the supposed ghost of Sir Robert Peel, Eberhard shares his advice on how to turn friends into seemingly stair-dwelling spirits:
Take this shot at dusk, just as the light is getting low
Select the highest aperture your camera is capable of – this should be an f value of around f/8 or above
Switch off the automatic ISO setting and select the lowest value possible. Aim for a value between 100 or 200. This should produce an exposure time of at least 6 - 7 seconds
Ask your model to walk down a flight of stairs. The model should stop at a pre-determined point for 4 – 5 seconds and then continue walking quickly until they are out of the frame
The shot should show a transparent figure, looking like a ghost on the stairs
If the person becomes too indistinct, simply shine a flashlight on them the moment they stop
A model, dressed in subtle coloured clothes – white or grey would be best
#4 – Circling spirits
In his own interpretation of the ghost on the stairs, Canon photographer Eberhard Schuy takes a more abstract approach to create the swirling spirit (Image 6).
“For this technique I use a very light white cloth and asked my daughter to stand at the top of the stairwell and drop it, spreading the sheet a little so that it slowly sailed downwards. Using a tripod to take the picture, I could use long exposure times creating this mysterious form without blurring the rest of the picture,” says Eberhard.
For those wanting to try it for themselves at home, Eberhard recommends using four simple steps to capture these circling spirits:
Using a tripod or stable surface, position your camera facing upwards towards the staircase
Rather than asking a model to walk down the stairs, have them stand at the top of the staircase and drop a white, very light, cloth down the stairwell from top to bottom. The lighter the cloth, the slower it will fly
Capture the photo, using an exposure time of around 1/4 to 1/2 second (see instructions for tip #3 - the ghost on the stairs for how to achieve this)
The result will be an ethereal swirling energy
A white, very light cloth
Amine Djouahra, Sales and Marketing Director at Canon Central and North Africa says, “Many will undoubtedly remember 2020 to be the year that COVID-19 changed and shaped our lives forever. Some things gratefully remain the same. At Canon, we always try to engage with our customers at every occasions such as Halloween, that continues to give people reason to dress up, have fun and celebrate. While this year may not be the normal way of celebrating, many still look forward to fun scary outfits, enjoying trick or treat and decorating their homes- the spookier the better.
Canon’s creative (Creativepark.Canon) park has a plethora of ideas to make this a perfect, yet safe and fun Halloween. Download our spooky Halloween house pop up card, make a magician’s hat and even photo booth props. All of this can be created with our range of products from printers, paper and cameras, ensuring that your memories are captured forever. Wishing you a spook-tacular Halloween!’
To capture your own spooky snaps at home, check out Canon’s range of digital cameras and lenses. From the lightweight and versatile EOS 250D (bit.ly/35LEoz9), perfect for those venturing into interchangeable lens cameras, or the powerful EOS 850D (bit.ly/35H3dMR) for aspiring professionals.
 Images 2, 3 and 5 are sourced from Getty images and have no supporting metadata to identify camera make or model used to capture the photo.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA).