Written by San Diego Team Member: Duke Richards
- HAVE BACKUPS! Especially batteries/storage cards. Also doesn’t hurt to have a backup camera if possible. Equipment can, and usually does fail at the worse times. Given the nature of the paranormal and how some “otherworldly influences” can drain the power from devices pretty quickly, having backup power sources is paramount. The more the better.
- For photography, I recommend getting the best camera you can afford, or at least, feel comfortable bringing to an investigation. Face it, when you go to an investigation, you never know what kind of entity you may encounter. It could be a docile, non-threatening “being”, it could be a very aggressively pissed off spirit or perhaps even an entity of the demonic persuasion. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty ticked off and upset if my higher end, $3000 camera suffered some sort of damage due to a malevolent being. So get a nice decent consumer/prosumer-level camera. You can get a decent one typically between $500-$750. Or check around online for deals, or even a local pawn shop or a camera / photography store. Many stand-alone camera shops will have used/second-hand cameras available for a decent price (TEST BEFORE YOU BUY!) Although the quality of camera phones has gotten better over the years, in my opinion they still fall behind when compared to a good “real” camera….plus there is also that whole concept of projecting the image of being a professional. A client will be a lot more impressed with a team pulling out Nikons, Canons, or Sonys, just to name a few, instead of a smart phone or tablet. Key word – IMAGE
- Once you get your brand new or used camera, play with it, get a feel for it, experiment and get comfortable with the feel of the camera as well as the settings. Check the intensity of the flash. If it is not up to par, depending on the sort of camera you have, you may want to consider investing in a speedlight/off camera flash unit. But check your camera first, you may be able to adjust the intensity through the camera settings, or you may have to increase the “Exposure Compensation” or the ISO, or F-stop (the smaller the number, the more “light” entering the lens/iris, the higher the number, the smaller amount of “light” entering the lens/iris. So a photo shot with an F-stop setting of F5 is typically brighter than a photo shot at a setting of F22….depending on other settings, of course…but I’m getting way ahead)
- Unless you really have serious aspirations or an interest in photography, one thing I have noticed based on the investigations I have been on is that most of the time, you can get by just using the “program” or “automatic” setting on the camera. Face it, this really isn’t an “artsy fartsy” type thing, so there really isn’t a need to get all fancy. However, one feature that does come in handy is the timer. That’s a feature where you enter how often the camera will automatically take pictures without you having to constantly press the shutter. One main caveat to this though, make sure that the photos that are being taken are in focus. Autofocus is NOT always the answer, and depending on the camera and how you have the settings fixed, the camera will not take a shot if it senses that the photo is not in focus. So if you use this feature, let it take a couple of auto shots on its own and then check them before walking away. You might have to switch the camera over to manual focus and set the focus. In cases like this, I normally zoom the camera lens all the way out and set the focus ring to the infinity setting (on many lenses it looks like a sideways “8”)
- PERSONAL PET PEEVE. Check the quality level and size of the image! How many times have you looked at a photo online posted by someone claiming that there is some sort of weird apparition or whatever and you’re literally squinting trying to make something out because the photo is slightly bigger than a thumbnail? Obviously, it is a lot easier to pick things out if you have a nice high-resolution photo to review. Common sense really. So before the investigation, or if you’re just out doing your own thing, shoot at the highest quality your camera (and storage space) will allow. For our purposes I’m not saying shoot at the TIFF or RAW level, but a NORM or FINE JPG level is definitely good and will suffice. Personally, for investigations, I typically shoot using the FINE JPG setting at the LARGE image size level, which is 4288 x 2848, but that is just my preference and that size is definitely big enough that will make picking out anomalies a little bit easier. It’s a lot easier to shrink a photo down and maintain acceptable quality than it is to take a small photo and try to enlarge it. That’s where you get problems with quality loss, pixelation, etc.
- I know this seems like a silly thing, but many people forget. Before a shoot, make sure the lens is clean. Lenses do get dirty and dust and other things such as fingerprints do end up on the lens sometimes. It happens. One good practice to have is to replace the lens cap as soon as you are done taking a shot (then again maybe I’m just a little anal about my gear).
- In closing, the camera, whether it is still or video, is one of the most important tools in evidence gathering. Without photographic or video evidence, then there is no ocular, concrete proof as to proving the existence of paranormal entities. These days, people want proof about things they do not understand, have not personally experienced, or are skeptical about. Capturing good quality visual evidence in the eye of the camera lens is a key way to opening the door to understanding that there is something beyond the physical world in which we now dwell.
Duke Richards is a senior member of the APS-San Diego team and owns his own photography business.