How to create ghostly photos

**This tutorial was posted on the ever-growing Clickin Moms photography forum; however, we think it’s so rad that we just had to share with you, too**

Here is a quick tutorial of how I achieve ghostly pictures.

This is a fun idea for Halloween and I would love to see your photos if you try this!

First you need a tripod. Next you need to figure out your settings. I shot these in manual, but shutter priority mode would work great also.

What I’m most concerned about with my settings is that I have a shutter speed of around 15 seconds. Because of that, you are going to want to try this with low ambient light.

With such a slow shutter speed, my aperture is usually quite narrow, typically f/8 or above . My ISO is often set very low also. I then take some test shots without my subject to make sure my exposure looks good.

For these shots, I do not expose to the right and I’m okay if I have a slightly darker exposure since I want my overall look to be dark. I will then have my subject stand where I want them in the frame, grab focus and then switch my focus to manual.

slow shutter ghostly image by Mickie DeVries

Now to the fun stuff!

Your subject is not in the frame when you push the shutter button, it’s just your background scene. Have your subject walk very slowly to their end position once you press the shutter and have them freeze as still as possible. The longer they stay in any one spot the more opaque they will become.

For here it is a bit of trial and error with how slow they walk into position and how opaque you want them to be. I look at my LCD screen a lot during shooting and it’s a good idea to have them try walking at different speeds to have a variety of looks to pick from when you get them back onto your computer.

You may see some ghosting from their walk into position but this usually adds to the ghostly feel, though quite often I see none.

For post processing, I have always converted mine to black and white because I think it ups the haunting factor. I quite often dodge the subject to bring them out a bit more and darken much of the rest of the photo.

Related: Before and after: A black and white Lightroom edit

making ghost pictures photography tutorial by Mickie DeVries

If you have any questions, let me know!

About the Author:

Mickie DeVries resides in West Michigan close to the beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is married to her husband Luke and has two children. Mickie’s work is centered around documenting her children, and she also teaches Unlocking the Magic of Photoshop through Click Photo School.


  1. Stephanie Oct 31 2013 at 11:29 am - Reply

    This is AWESOME!!!!

  2. Meredith R. Oct 31 2013 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    these are so fun! great blog post.

  3. Kayla Oct 31 2013 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I can’t wait to try this! May I ask for some clarification? Are you pushing the shutter twice? Once when the ‘image’ starts of just the background and once when the ‘ghostly subject’ is into position?

  4. Mickie Oct 31 2013 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Kayla, just press the shutter once 🙂 Then when they do enter the frame they will be see through since the camera already recorded the background behind them. Remember the longer they stay in one spot the more opaque they will become, but they will need to freeze in one spot at some point so they show up as more than a blur in the frame.

  5. Jennifer Nov 01 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this – this is just the kind of fun stuff I love to try! I didn’t get a chance to really set the scene but I just wanted to see if I could get it to work (total newbie here)…and it did! Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Ligia Nov 01 2013 at 11:03 am - Reply

    This is way beyond cool, thank you for sharing your steps, great tutorial.

  7. Bonnie Nov 03 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    Really cool!!

  8. Claire Oct 29 2014 at 1:12 am - Reply

    This is fantastic…can’t wait to try out these tips!

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