Photographing a "Ghost"

Photographing a “Ghost” Using Off Camera Flash

It seems I photographed a ghost! Well, not quite, but keep reading to see how I shot this.

Producing an image of a “ghost” is not difficult. In this case, we made it using a combination of long exposure, second curtain sync and playing with the time of the model in the frame.


In previous posts you saw how I worked with Jessica in order to demonstrate a few flash techniques. In a shoot we did back in February, we ran a few experiments with long exposure, flash and movement. Most of those experiments didn’t quite turn out the way I intended, but there was one that did.


My intention for this shot was to show a semi-transparent Jessica in the frame, while the rest of the image was reasonably well exposed. We did it in one shot as you can see in the video.

Ok, that was a bit fast. Let me explain what happened and all the circumstances around the shot:

Step by Step

First, we were shooting right after sunset. This allowed me to set parameters in the camera (ISO 100, f/7.1) to use a bit of a long exposure (4 seconds). These parameters produced a slightly under-exposed frame.

Jessica's ghost - Behind the Scenes
Jessica’s ghost – Behind the Scenes

Then, I asked Ricardo to hold a small flashlight, marking the place for the model to pose.

I set the a Godox TT685 inside my 90 cm octabox on camera left, with a power of 1/32 so it lit the model just a bit. I controlled this flash with a Godox XPro transmitter, and set it to fire using second-curtain sync. This ensured the flash fired at the end of the exposure.

The model started out of frame, so I pressed the shutter button, counted two seconds and asked her to step in the frame and strike a pose.


Jessica's ghost - SOOC
Jessica’s ghost – SOOC

Back home I got the image in Lightroom and did some adjustments. Specifically, increased the exposure by 0.7 stops, increased the Contrast just a bit, turned down the Highlights and brought up the Shadows. Oh! I also brought the temperature down.

Jessica's ghost - Edited
Jessica’s ghost – Edited

And there you have it. This is how you can mix long exposure, second-curtain sync and asking your model to step in the frame in the middle of the exposure, so you can create an image of a “ghost”.

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