The Future of Paranormal Photography: What is the 'Sutera Process'?
Naturally once paranormal investigating took me by storm and I joined the Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations- TSPI the incorporation of my love of photography soon followed and I set sail into uncharted waters into the world of paranormal photography. This led me to develop a paranormal photographing technique called The Sutera Process. Photography in general has been a passion of mine since the mid-nineties stemming back to my High School Days taking photography classes with manual SLR cameras. Those were the days when you had to roll your own film and process it yourself in a dark room with an enlarger and chemicals. Subsequently when the digital age of cameras came to fruition and editing software began to dominate the industry my passion for photography went with it. Starting with point and shoot digital cameras and now never leaving home without my DSLR equipped with a handful of lenses and tools.
The 'Sutera Process' Explained
When you are in the paranormal investigation business clients sometimes present us with different pieces of evidence they have collected to support their claims of paranormal activity. When images are among these pieces they are often just a snapshot that they found to be abnormal. I kept finding myself always wishing I could have more photos to view or wanting additional details as to what played out during that scene captured in that moment in time. This eventually led me to the path of refining how I took my images during TSPI's investigations. Since we are in the era of incorporating logic and a scientific approach of sorts to our present paranormal investigating it was important to me to see ghost photography push in that direction as well. The result...the 'Sutera Process' !
Movement can create blur which may distort the images you take. Using a tripod or a sturdy table will eliminate motion caused by body movement which may be mistaken for evidence.
What Lighting to Use
orbs Do Not Use Your Flash! A light from a flash may bounce off a plethora of reflective surfaces and create the illusion of an anomaly. These illusions could be caused by anything from glass to bugs to droplets of moisture.... these can cause those orbs everyone talks about as well as other eye trickery! Even in the moment with such a bright light from a flash we are most likely not going to observe such reflections with our naked eye as it goes off.
Stationary light or natural light like from a full moon should be utilized instead. This gives the investigator ample time to observe any shadows or reflections in the scene that can be debunked as pareidolia right away.
In any scientific experiment there has to be an element of control. We are not in a lab so we can't do that 100% but we can try to control our variables. We have some say as to what happens as we shoot and can make sure we do not let those variables change. Take notice of any light pollution in the room. Are there cars driving by or investigators with flashlights changing the lighting in the scene? Have anyone present stand completely still so that their shadows do not create false positives. Now you have a more controlled setting to work with.
Just before you are ready to take your paranormal photographs adjust your camera to the right setting. For me since I am working with professional equipment my settings change depending on where I am. Don't fret though these techniques can be done quite easily with a point and shoot digital camera. Put your camera on the automatic setting with the flash off and your camera will set your f-stop and shutter speeds for you according to the amount of light in your shot.
Taking your shots
A video consists of many frames strung together to create a moving image so use that idea in the field on your ghost hunts! Take a succession of five or six photographs so that when it comes time for evidence review you can compare several images instead of only one. What appears in one of the photos may appear in a different spot in another shot showing movement or could simply disappear in the next.
Post Investigation Analysis
Although I am strictly an Adobe Photoshop girl myself the software is pricey and can appear very convoluted to most. So here are a few FREE simple online editors to assist you in analyzing your paranormal photography at home as a start.
Try increasing the exposure, invert the picture or try a filter. Then zoom and crop out parts of interest for export. You may find these techniques provide more detail in turn giving you more solid evidence to study.
This picture was taken at the Denison Homestead in Mystic, Connecticut during one of TSPI's investigations using the 'Sutera Process'. The image was shot using the natural light shining through the windows. The exposure was then increased in an editor to emphasize the detail of the apparition. The cropped image is a color corrected closeup of the figure.
Associate Director & Paranormal Photographer
Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations