Presented by Troy Taylor, Author of the GHOST HUNTER'S GUIDEBOOK and President of the American Ghost Society

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For years, it has been accepted that there is no type of film or photography more reliable than infrared. Unfortunately, there is no other film or system more costly or as tricky to use either.

I want to warn you before trying infrared film that there is a lot of experimentation involved with becoming good at it, a lot of money that can be spent in collecting the necessary tools and a lot of time that will be used in working at it. If you are one of those ghost hunters who don't have the time and don't want to spend the money trying to perfect the infrared system, then I suggest you stop reading this now. Infrared photography will not be for you.

First of all, let's discuss what infrared films are and why they are better in trying to capture ghosts than ordinary 35 mm film, which in turn is better than anything else that you can buy. I should also point out that in using this type of film for ghost photography, only Black & White infrared film is recommended. Color Infrared film creates startling new colors for ordinary ones and becomes difficult to tell what is paranormal and what is not.

Infrared films are sensitized to light that we can see with the naked eye, as well as light that is of a different wavelength of radiation and is invisible to us. Infrared exposure will show up as a light area in a print and as a dark color on the negative. The film allows you to see, literally, what is beneath the surface, or what the human eye cannot see. Infrared does not detect heat, but rather sees and photographs radiation. It can actually “see” a level of radiation that is one spectrum below thermal radiation and this is radiation caused by electromagnetic fields. Because we believe that paranormal energy also lurks in this same "dead zone", infrared film becomes a very helpful tool in ghost hunting.

How to use Infrared Film

1. It has been suggested that if you are going to try infrared film, you should take along 2 different cameras on an investigation. One of them should be loaded with 400 (or higher) ASA film and one with infrared film. Your local camera shop should be able to order it for you, or you can order it directly from Kodak for about $12 per roll. Always ask for HIE 135 Black & White film. It comes in 36 exposure rolls.

Remember that you are going to have to experiment with this film. The first time that you use it may be a total bust! Make sure that you make notes for each exposure that you take about your camera settings so that you will know later what worked and what didn't. I suggest making your first trip out to a place where you don't expect activity, just so that you know how the film works best with your camera. There is always time for a solid investigation using infrared film later.

2. When the film arrives, it should have come in a box packed in dry ice to keep it cool. This is essential! Infrared film is sensitive to heat and must be kept refrigerated before it is used. If you buy the film (already in stock) at the camera shop, make sure that it was kept cool. If it wasn't, don't buy it there! You should store the film inside of your refrigerator and not take it out until about one hour before you are going to load it into your camera. This way, it warms to room temperature and you avoid any chance of fogging the film.

3. Also essential is the fact that this film must be loaded and unloaded in total darkness. Find a room or a closet with no outside light and stuff towels under the door or any other way that will make the room pitch dark. Then, you can safely load the film into your camera. Any light leaks at all can damage the film! To further protect against light leaks, put a piece of electrical tape over the small window in the back of the camera. This window can allow a small amount of light to get into your camera.

Also note that most automatic cameras cannot be used with infrared film. There in an infrared sensor inside most models to make sure that the film advances properly. This sensor will badly could your film.

4. When using the film, some researchers recommend different filters to use when working with infrared film, so experiment and see what works best for you. Deep red filter blocks (no. 25) will block out visible light if you want that. When shooting in the daylight, you will want to make sure that you have a filter, as UV rays and other spectrums of light can cloud or overexpose the film. Personally, I have never used a filter to shoot at night because all of the filters limit at least a portion of all light and since we don't know for sure how ghosts are captured on film anyway, it's best not to take chances.

Also, try not to use a flash because you can get some very weird light reflections from it. It's best to just open up your lens to the widest aperture and just try and experiment with it. If you do use a flash, be sure that it has the same type of filter over it that your lens does.

5. After the film is exposed, unload the film in your "dark room" and place it back into the container that it came in. Tape the canister shut and do not allow it to be opened by anyone until it is ready to be processed. Often, the staff at the camera shop will open canisters and dispose of them but do not allow them to do this, it will ruin the film! This is why it is important to take the precaution of taping it shut.

Good luck in using this type of film. As I mentioned before, it's not for everyone. I have had many people tell me that they don't want to try it because of the time and the cost of the film, but if you do try it, be willing to experiment. You never know what you might find!


Copyright 2004 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved. 

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