Chapter 03: Visual Documentation

Visual Documentation

Ghost hunters should make reasonable attempts to capture ghosts or other paranormal anomalies visually. Visual evidence allows for examination of anomalous patterns and documents events that could be valuable. Cameras have the ability to pick up spectrums of light that the human eye cannot register. The human eye is a remarkable biological invention but it has some shortcomings that ultimately limit that exploration. The eye is flawed in that it can only see a narrow range of light. The eye has limited size and thus limited light-gathering power. The human eye cannot see thermal radiation, infrared, gamma or x-rays. The human eye cannot always see what a camera and other equipment can photograph.

A ghost hunter should own a reliable camera. There does not seem to be a special camera that works superior to the rest on ghost hunts. Because the best camera is a personal preference, it is recommended that ghost hunters experiment with different cameras when possible. A good camera will have adjustable settings, a bright flash, zoom modes, low light or night-vision options and the ability to take rapid photographs when necessary. If 35mm cameras are used for still photography, always make sure to buy plenty of high quality rolls of film. The worst mistake a ghost hunter can make is running out of film. A camera is one piece of equipment that ghost hunters should have with them at all times. It only takes a few seconds to miss a paranormal event. The camera must be turned on – with the lens caps removed – and ready to be used in a moment’s notice.

Helpful Tips:


  • Team members should not take photographs at the same time. Too many photographers can lead to confusion and cause false anomalies by accidentally photographing the flash from another camera. It is a good idea that the photographer position rotate between team members so that different cameras are used and different prospectives are photographed.


  • Record the date and time of photographs and videos but do not print those time stamps onto the images. The time stamp might accidentally print directly overtop of a visual anomaly and obscure examination.


  • It is important to take numerous photographs and to videotape as much as possible. A common mistake is waiting until something irregular occurs before taking a photograph. Photographs should be taken on a consistent basis from the beginning until the end of a ghost hunt.


  • Be aware that the flash of a camera and lights can reflect off shiny surfaces. This reflection can cause different types of false anomalies. To avoid this problem, do not take photographs in the direction of windows, mirrors, glass, metal or polished objects.


  • Make sure to keep long hair pulled back and remove long camera straps so that the hair/camera straps do not accidentally appear in the photographs or reflect light, causing misinterpretations.


  • Using a tripod can stabilize and elevate a camera. A tripod helps keep a camera fixed on one spot without a ghost hunter having to operate the camera manually. An unattended camera means that ghost hunters are free to operate additional equipment.


  • If the weather is cold, make sure that the photographer understands that they have to hold their breath while taking a photograph so that “winter breath” does not interfere with the photographs.


  • Make backup copies of visual documentation. Place photographs, negatives and digital hard drives in fireproof lockboxes.


  • If unattended cameras are used, know who can gain access to the cameras. This prevents the expensive cameras from being stolen and helps prevent fraud. A fraud can sneak in undetected and interfere with the camera or cause a hoaxed incident to be recorded.


  • Be aware that photographs taken during extreme weather conditions such as fog, snow, rain and wind may contain natural abnormal anomalies.


  • Never give anyone outside of your ghost-hunting group the original copies to reduce the chances of these items being lost or damaged.


  • Use a light meter and know what light conditions are best for the camera. Know how far the camera’s flash will illuminate. The flash of an average camera will light up a distance of fifteen feet. Objects beyond the flash radius will not photograph.


  • Save and archive every photograph and video. Do not throw away or delete anything even if there are no obvious signs of paranormal activity. Ghost hunters often go back and examine old photographs and video files for a variety of reasons.


Final Statements on Visual Evidence:

Critics have serious issues with spirit photography and for good reasons. Frauds have abused the public by creating one fake ghost photograph after another. Thousands of paranormal photographs have been taken in the past one hundred years but only a small number of photos have stood the test of time.

There was a time when only knowledgeable hoaxers with specialized resources could produce high-quality fakes, but that is no longer true. Today anyone with a home computer can produce excellent forgeries. Even a seasoned ghost hunter can be fooled by a forgery and any paranormal event can be faked. Powerful home computers loaded with affordable editing software provide frauds with the prefect environment to manipulate digital files and create hoaxed events. When there is no way to determine what evidence is a fake and what sources are legitimate, everything must be considered suspect. Frauds seriously damage the credibility of the ghost-hunting field.

Ghost hunters must strive for visual evidence despite the fact that hoaxes are inevitable and critics will never believe in a paranormal photographs. Visual evidence provides ghost hunters with a unique perspective into the paranormal that cannot be collected with eyewitness testimony or other methods of investigation.

NEXT Chapter 03: Evidence