Capture Spirits with In-Camera Image Merge

Started Oct 12, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Jeff Semprebon
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Capture Spirits with In-Camera Image Merge
Oct 12, 2011

Ghost stories at my daughter’s first slumber party motivated me to learn how to use my E-P1's in-camera image merge. I skulked off to take a few photos of a doll on a piece of black velvet, then returned to take a couple of pictures of the girls.

While sitting in full sight of them apparently reviewing the images (while actually using the image merge feature in playback mode to superimpose the “ghost” image and suitably reduce its opaqueness), I pretended to notice something strange. My daughter took the bait and asked, and I showed them the resulting composite image, with the ghostly figure appearing in the photo that I had just taken a short while previously. Everyone knows that images can be manipulated on a computer, but they found the image in the camera itself quite convincing.

Some considerations:

At least for the E-P1, the images need to be captured in RAW format.

The “ghost” should be taken on a black background that will not show up on the composite image.

If the sight of the “haunting” can be predicted, the ghost figure can be placed accordingly, preferably in a darker area of scene, perhaps looking in a window. It also adds drama if the ghost is off to one side, looking and/or reaching into the center of the scene. I took several shots with different sizes and positions for the figure to see which would look best when merged (I would like to say that I planned the hand reaching for the empty brownie plate, but that was sheer luck).

The ghost figure should be age appropriate. This rather tame doll resulted in a composite that was found sufficiently scary for 8- and 9-year olds. A half-decomposed, bloody, or skeletal figure would likely have been too much for this particular audience.

I think it helps to merely notice something strange when reviewing the images, and let the viewers jump to their conclusion of what the composite shows. Telling them “Look, a ghost!” may be more likely to raise suspicions.

If there is a likelihood of anyone reviewing the stored images, it may be worth taking the time to delete the individual images used for the composite to hide the evidence before “discovering” the haunted picture. Conversely, in this case, eventually showing the girls the component images and explaining the trick kept them from pestering me all night worrying about falling asleep in a haunted house.

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