Ghostly Photo Effect (Halloween Photo)




Introduction: Ghostly Photo Effect (Halloween Photo)

About: Hi, my name is Ulrich Retief. I am currently a final year medical student at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Although I am very busy with my studies and extracurricular activities, I love ta...

In this instructable I will show you a very simple way to get a ghostly effect in a photo. These photos are perfect for learning to know how the camera works and it can serve as an eerie memory of your favourite Halloween costumes.

For the method I will show you, you will only need your camera. No post-production editing will be necessary.

This instructable will be described in layman's terms as far as possible to make it more inclusive for amateur photographers.

Step 1: What You Need

  1. A DSLR camera (or any camera that allows you to control the shutter speed, aperture etc. manually, even some cellphones like the LG G4 can be used for this). The camera must preferably have a flash.
  2. A tripod is highly recommended to prevent any blurriness in your photo. There are ways to get around this, like placing your phone upright against an object (a book for example) or placing your camera on a bag of rice/beans.
  3. Logic - Cameras differ in the way they are set-up, I used a canon 700D, so if your camera does not look exactly the same, do not freak out. Just look for a setting that seems to be the same thing and try. If you fail, try again with a different setting.
  4. A remote can come in handy to further reduce blurriness, but it is not a necessity at all.

Step 2: Camera Settings

As mentioned earlier, your camera has to be on manual.

The settings I used are the following

  1. Shutter speed/Exposure time: 13s
  2. ISO: 100
  3. F-stop/Aperture: f/16
  4. Flash: on

The long exposure time allows you to manipulate what is seen in the image. The ISO is low and the aperture is small to prevent overexposure.

The settings will be different almost every time you take a picture like this. These are only the settings I used, you will have to adapt it until you are pleased with the end product.

If your photo is overexposed (too bright), trying making the aperture smaller or shortening the exposure time (do not shorten the exposure time too much, because it will influence the clarity of your ghost figure).

If your photo is underexposed (too dark), trying making the aperture bigger or extending the exposure time. If you extend the exposure time, your model will have to remain still for a longer time.

Step 3: Taking the Photo

Have your model pose in place and compose your picture. Focus on the background since it will influence your picture heavily.

When you are pleased with the picture you have, have your model stand outside of the shot.

Press the trigger to take an initial photo of the background with the flash, the shutter will however remain open for another 12 seconds. Have your model come back into the picture and stand frozen for the remainder of the exposure time.

If your photo is not under- or overexposed, you should see a very clear background with a transparent subject (a ghostly figure)

Step 4: How It Works

When a picture is taken, all the objects in the picture emits a certain amount of light. the camera captures this light.

Using this method, you minimise the amount of light your camera captures. The flash reflects from the background causing it to be clear on the photo because of the large amount of light. The subject however is only visible because of the long exposure time. If somebody simply walks through the photo, there might only be a darkened area in the photo or even nothing at all.

This is the most basic explanation I can think of. If I made a mistake or if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me (English is my second language).

Stay tuned for more intructables about how you can use a similar method for other artistic photos.

Be the First to Share


    • Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge

      Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge
    • Audio Challenge 2020

      Audio Challenge 2020
    • Maps Challenge

      Maps Challenge

    6 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Or -- reverse the process: Have the model posed at the start of the (13 second) long exposure, no flash used on camera.

    Then exit quickly in second "10", and fire a hand-held separate flash, manually, at the end :)

    I figure it's easier to de-pose and run away, than to rush in and pose :)


    Reply 4 years ago

    You make a very valid point, and i agree that it will be much easier, but most people do not own handheld flashes to fire at the end.


    Reply 4 years ago

    many quality dslr and even some point and shoot can be set to flash at the end of the exposure. Check your manual.

    The flash isn't needed at all though. this effect will work with only the long exposure. Turn the shutter up to max option, often 30 sec, and adjust aperture to compensate for exposure time and sit a few more seconds in the frame.

    Bonus...A hand held flash light pointed at your face will produce often Erie effects. Or use the flashlight to light paint the background.

    Double bonus. Turn your head from side to side or angle it from shoulder to shoulder while keeping your body still and it will blur your face to create a very ghostly effect.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Well, one answer to that: Thrift shop!

    A spare hot-shoe flash is a good tool to have, especially given the silly little LED flashes installed on a lot of things. No power to them :)


    Reply 4 years ago

    It would be just as easy to take 2 picture and photoshop someone in.


    Reply 4 years ago

    And you would learn nothing about how your camera works,
    (the point of this instructable). You would miss finding out about how
    "Photoshop it" is done in-camera. It's a cool technique.

    Not everything is solved, or learned, by throwing Photoshop at it :)