There were many things to consider when I photographed this ghost in a graveyard, but most important for me was not getting arrested.
It was 5AM. I was standing in the middle of a cemetery wearing white gloves and doing something that looked like some kind of Pee Wee Herman dance. I was keeping my knees and feet together and doing an exotic swivel hips action that I hoped with the eight-second exposure would replicate the streamy look of ghost feet. There wasn’t much traffic but every time a car drove by I tried to pretend like I was the maintenance guy—in white gloves. I was standing in a graveyard in the dark, but my only source of fear was a passing police car.
I can’t take credit for this idea. Kodak put it on its website and I’ve seen several versions of it on the internet, but I do have a couple of observations I’d like to throw in the mix.
The basic idea is this. You’re going to use a really long exposure. Your ghost needs to move a bit so he or she turns into a eerie blurry spirit. I actually used ISO 100 to use the eight-second exposure I mentioned—there were some street lights nearby. My f-stop was f5.6. If you don’t have a tripod you going to need to find a place to set the camera down on something. Whatever you do the camera needs to be still. Not only does a tripod hold the camera still, it allows you to lock your camera down with the exact composition you want. That’s almost impossible without a tripod. Tripods are good things and this is a good time to use one. The camera was on manual everything—exposure and focus.
Clothing is all important. Ghosts need to wear light-colored clothing—it catches more light than dark clothing. The blur will be more dramatic with brighter clothes. I shot two versions of the picture to drive that point home. In the top version I even put white gloves on so you could see my hands. In the bottom version I wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and I’m almost invisible. Choosing the right clothes is key to the success of this picture. A female spirit in a light-colored Victorian dress and bonnet would be great. It’s tempting to wear a white sheet but with the blur you’re going to do that may be unnecessary.
The cemetery is definitely not mandatory. Your house itself may be haunted and there just may be a ghost in your attic. Use your imagination.
And, as always, with a photograph like this experimentation is required. The right shutter speed and amount of ghostly movement will all be determined when you’re actually shooting the picture. It took me several tries of holding my hand still to keep it sharp while moving the rest of my body to get a good blur. If your exposure happens to be eight seconds have your ghost hold still for six seconds and then slowly move—it doesn’t take much—for the last two. That will put a glowing blur around your friend. But there are many variables here—clothing color and background not the least among them—so you just need to play around. If you end up in jail at this end of this process, I’m prepared to swear in court I never wrote this.