A couple of weeks ago we started this thread LINK asking our contributors to post their ideas on how to make scary, spooky, dark Halloween images. And there were some ideas posted, and some fun along the way.
The press release containing the best ideas has already been published and you can read it here.
In this blog I will gather not only the techniques but also the funny parts of the above mentioned thread.
Enigmacypher says that "for getting a "ghostlike" appearance in a photo is to make use of rear curtain flash, slow shutter speed, and movement of the model. In a recent photo that I took, one person sat still and a second person walked behind and smiled at the person sitting. The resulting image appears to be the ghost of one person smiling at a person in the land of the living. The process takes some work to get right, but the effect is a lot of fun and does not require Photoshop or other post processing (although some post processing is probably needed to clean up the image)."
There is also advice from two of our editors, Andrei and Constantin.
Andrei thinks that "long exposure, strobo flash, and most importantly, FOG! Seriously, a night out should be enough for someone with a DSLR that has manual exposure and a flash to figure these dets out. Get out at 8 and i'm sure by that by 10 you already have your own way. Remember, low speed, flash and model, you can even zoom while exposing and freeze a clear portrait when flashing." Constantin shows us an image from his portfolio and tells the story behind it: "Expose for longer with "freezing" flash during the exposure. The model/subject has to move or you have to move the camera during the exposure. Multiple flashes (strobo) is a plus. You can also use a long exposure and fit the model in the composition at some specific places, then use a flash to "freeze" the model."
From Lauriey we get a simple, yet effective advice "Using a tripod and a neutral density filter - I have the 3.0 (1000x). You can take longer exposures, even in daylight. Have someone move around in front of the camera during the long exposure... or even just 'paint with light'... use a flashlight and point it at the scene (need to be in the dark for this one) with a longer shutter speed."
Our current featured photographer Sandra Cunningham, has some well documented advice " Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I love doing spooky and fun Halloween imagery each year. A lot of my images are composites with several different layers that are combined for the final effect saved in JPG format. For ghosts I created some ghost brushes of people shapes, insert them as a layer in PS usually in luminosity, overlay or soft light(you can play a lot with the settings) and then I sometimes invert and play with the warp tool. Another way to make ghosts is to extract a person from an image then do a motion blur. I will usually put it in one of the blend modes such as luminosity,overlay etc...lower the opacity level and save it as a PNG or PSD file." She is also offering a link to her own blog where the techniques are even better detailed LINK
And I left the funny part at the end for two reasons. First, I wanted you to first read the most useful advice and have your mind in the game. The second reason is that the funny part is a bit long, but really worth reading as it will make you laugh. Not to mention it sparked a witty reply from another contributor.
I'd like to share my experience of how I photographed a ghost; perhaps what I learned will help others here at DT. I'm talking about a REAL ghost, not your brother-in-law covered with a white sheet. Brother-in-law may be scary for having to shave his back twice a week but it's a whole other animal when capturing the image of an actual Lost Soul wandering between our world and that of the dead.
I spent many nights in old houses and barns over many months staying up and greeting the dawn without nary a creak let alone a clanking chain. I began to realize the first order of business was to locate a venue that actually had ghosts. Ghosts usually come about from dying a horrific death; the shock of being cheated out of a long life causes them to remain in our world, they being in denial their death ever occurred.
It was then off to the local historical society to research different places where ghosts would most likely be lurking. I had dreams of discovering an old home for the criminally insane where a barely-qualified doctor gleefully experimented with electro-shock therapy, but no such luck.
What I did find was an old truck stop on a back road highway that was abandoned decades ago when the interstate was built, causing traffic and business to move elsewhere. In the back was a little motel. It turned out the diner was a bit lax following the health codes of the day and thus serving on occasion a tainted fish plate to hungry truck drivers. More than one met their demise from accidental food poisoning but the manager of the property, fearing publicity and not knowing the cause of the deaths, would bury the bodies in the flower bed.
After verifying the diner still existed, I packed up my equipment and headed out there on a lonely night, one with no moon and the sky being so black you couldn't even see the stars. The building was broken into long ago so there was no problem entering the establishment and I proceeded to prepare.
Precisely at midnight it began... Actually, there was nothing the normal senses could perceive but my hair began to stand on end; you could FEEL a presence. Then from somewhere came a low moan, softly at first, hardly audible, but it was there. Suddenly a great wind howled through building and the doors and windows all slammed shut. I was trapped!
Now you could hear screaming, shrieks, creaks, groans, all breaking above the din of the howling wind.
Then the ghost appeared.
He was at the serving counter and he sat down on a stool. He looked at me and said "I'll have the fish plate!"
Then he was gone. And all was silence.
The windows and doors were open, it was as if nothing had happened, but the wind had blown over my camera despite being on a tripod. I had the shutter set to trigger on any movement but it was smashed into pieces on the floor.
Six weeks later and after $525 worth of repairs, I had my camera back and resolved to continue with my quest. Once again I drove down the lonely road to the old diner, the night seeming to swallow anything that ventured onto that stretch of cursed highway.
Midnight came, and with my camera secured, the same scene played out again. The wind, the noise, the terror... but no ghost. Somewhere in the distance I could hear a voice screeching "Where's my fish plate dinner?!"
I returned the next night with a TV dinner that had some kind of fish stick in it but the voice uttered a stern disapproval.
I was stumped. I had a real ghost within my grasp but for whatever reason, I was unable to coax it out and in front of my camera. There had to be an answer so it seemed the best thing to do was to start over and see if anything was missed.
After spending weeks at the historical society, I finally discovered an electronic copy of the menu from the old diner. The fish plate special was described as a "Slab of fish fried in greasy butter served with mash potatoes and lard, a roll, and topped with a garnish. Seventy Five Cents."
Night after night I returned to the diner and every time the ghost complained about the food. I realized it was the meal itself; I had to figure out a way to duplicate the original dinner or else I would never obtain my photograph.
The revelation finally came when I had the meal cooked and piping hot, a cold glass of coke with ice, and napkin. The wind came, the building shook, and then I had a pair of headlights pointed at me. It was an 18 wheeler, the air horn blasting louder than an exploding atomic bomb, and you could see the ghost driving the rig straight at me! Flying all around the truck were other ghosts, all laughing and screaming and licking their chops at me. This monster of the highway roared into me and passed right through, the ghosts all cackling as I shook in fear.
Again, silence. It was probably a good three minutes before I could open my eyes and another five before I could collect myself and move. But, no picture. As the truck roared into me the voice shrieked out "WHERE'S THE GARNISH?"
I also noticed I had soiled my pants.
That's when it hit me: I had the meal right, but the food had to be dead. The fish, potatoes, and roll were dead from being cooked but it had been topped off with a small, cherry tomato. Fresh fruits and vegetables are still living even after they are picked. Ghosts can't eat live food, only food that is dead. The next night I was back, the meal prepared to perfection, and for a garnish I had a lone, isolated tomato.
Then I waited.
Midnight came and went. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Was it fifteen minutes now? Then KA-BLAM! Windows and doors opening and closing, banging away and moving as fast as fan blades, the wind came roaring through, crashing through the air, and the moaning, clanking, creaking, the sounds amplified in a terrible orchestra of horror.
Then as quickly as it happened, silence! And the ghost sat down at the counter in front of the meal! Then he looked at me, expectantly.
That was when I acted. I took my knife and stabbed the tomato, it shrieking as it died and I quickly cut out a slice and placed the garnish on top of the dinner! The ghost said "Thanks" and then was gone. But I heard the shutter click and I had my photograph.
The food was gone too and in its place were three quarters.
Finally, the hard work and effort paid off! I had an image of a bona fide ghost holding up a slice of a tomato. In order to enhance the image for stock, I photoshopped in a cell phone, laptop, and a blue sky with clouds. Brilliant!
I submitted the image to DT with dreams of quitting my day job. This was the kind of image the National Enquirer would surely purchase for some kind of story every week along with all the other possible uses. Fortune and glory awaited and all I needed was to wait for my image to come up for review!
So after this experience, I would like to offer tips on how to photograph a ghost:
(1) You need to locate an old venue. The creepier the better. You might try your sister's room if you can't get out far.
(2) A poor soul needs to have perished at the location. The more heinous the death, the better. Keep an eye on your neighbors when the property tax bills are mailed out.
(3) You need some kind of bait to attract the ghost. In my case it was a properly prepared fish plate dinner. You have to do your homework. Milk and cookies works for Santa, so who knows?
(4) Secure your camera equipment!
(5) Do not eat the fish plate special if it's ever on the menu.
(6) Always carry with you a fresh pair of pants.
Thanks, and I hope this information will help with your ghost photography endeavors. As for the photograph, you can bet I was more than peeved when the image was rejected. Apparently there is a stupid and insane rule requiring the dead to sign a model release. Who's the idiot who came up with that? I won't say anything more since you can't openly discuss rejections, but I will say that if a certain Reviewer receives a package in the mail containing fresh roadkill, I'm not the one who mailed it. Nope. I didn't do it. Had to be someone else...
And to finish this blog, here is what Hugo Maes did after reading all of this wonderful advice: "I had a closer look at the RAW file of a shot of one of my kiddie-models. During the shoot, there was a sudden cold strange wind in the studio we couldn't explain then. It even made the backdrop move and that is a very heavy Lastolite.
As we all (should) know, a RAW file has a larger depth than a JPG file, so I wondered what there was to see in the higher bits. Sure enough, the scene changed suddenly into an old cathedral ruin full of ghosts and astral bodies of people that suffered a violent death. Thanks all for the technical tips, and keep looking into the high bits of your RAW files! That's where the ghosts hide since they don't have enough energy to penetrate into the lower 8 bits of the material world. Happy Scary Halloween!"
I wanna thank all the photographers, illustrator and designers, as well as storytellers, who took part in the above blog. I hope this will help many users create wonderfully spooky imagery for many Halloweens to come.
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