Kirlian Photography: The Myth & Technique Debunked
Kirlian photography refers to a series of techniques that are both fascinating and controversial. Discovered by Semyon Kirlian in 1939, this type of photography is based on the phenomenon known as electrical coronal discharge. The resulting images present the subjects surrounded by colorful so-called “auras,” which led people to interpret the products of these techniques in a variety of ways.
Disclaimer: It is highly important to be aware that you are working with high-voltage currents which can be dangerous. Take all the safety precautions before turning on your device! Equally important, don’t get near the electrical plate when the power is on.
Myths surrounding Kirlian aura photography have been since proven wrong by scientists, but the techniques involved are still as fascinating today. The good news is you don’t need to believe in vital energy, chakras, and telepathy to have fun with this photography technique!
What is Kirlian Photography?
Kirlian Photography is quite a simple process which can be even achieved without using a camera. The principle is straightforward: if an object is placed on a photographic plate which is then connected to a source of high-voltage current, an image will appear on the photographic plate. The resulting image appears because of the electrical coronal discharge taking place between the subject and the metal plate.
Scientists conducted plenty of experiments using a variety of subjects, from inanimate to animate. Leaves, mushrooms, apples, coins, human fingerprints and hands, all served as subjects for Kirlian Photography. In every case, the object transferred to the photographic plate with colorful waves surrounding it. Science has since proved that the colorful shapes are the result of the moisture contained in the subject which transferred onto the plate under the influence of the current.
The fact that people are still interested in this type of photography long after its paranormal qualities have been debunked is proven by the availability of Kirlian devices online. There are plenty of companies who sell this equipment, as well as provide insight into how to build your own Kirlian photography device.
Debunking the Myth of Kirlian Photography
As the resulting Kirlian photography pictures of both animate and inanimate objects display a colorful “aura,” a variety of parapsychologists were quick to jump to conclusions. People claimed that Kirlian photography depicts auras, or chakras, and can show the life force of the subject. As you will see below, all these claims have been since debunked by scientific research, but still, Kirlian’s discovery attracts a strong following even today.
Even though both the living and non-living objects photographed displayed the colorful waves, that didn’t stop aura readers from claiming that Kirlian photography shows the energy levels of the human body. The New Age gurus and spiritualists of the 70’s were sure that what they saw on the metal plate is a representation of the human emotional state, energy level, and vital energy.
However, all these claims no longer stand, as science explains that the variations in color are produced by quantifiable factors. The glowing shapes appear due to the water content in the subject, which makes the air around the object become ionized when exposed to high-voltage current. If the surrounding air contains any moisture, the resulting picture will contain a colorful silhouette around the object, a phenomenon scientifically called corona plasma discharge.
Even if there is nothing supernatural, paranormal or psychic about the Kirlian photography, most photography enthusiasts will get a kick out of experimenting with this technique.
Kirlian Photography Camera
The Kirlian Photography device consists of a few components that you can buy separately and put together, or simply order online as a functioning camera. Kirlian photography enthusiasts still experiment with this technique, regardless of their beliefs related to chakras, auras, and vital energy.
Below, you will find a simple way to build your own Kirlian photography device, as well as a few online resources for ordering one that is already put together. Any photographer who is curious about how to do Kirlian photography can find all the information below.
DIY Kirlian Photography Camera Project
The easiest way to build a DIY Kirlian photography device is by using transparent electrodes. Using this method, the electric field around the subject will become visible to the naked eye, and also easy to photograph.
- Plasma photo plate
- High voltage insulators (plastic cups are ideal)
- A filling syringe for the electrode plate
- Electric conductive solution (salt and water solution)
- High voltage spark coil
- Power pulse modulator
- Sample (a leaf or coin)
- Piece of wire
After you have gathered all the necessary equipment and accessories, you are ready to start your project.
1. Get the Photo Plate Ready
Firstly, you have to fill the electrode or plasma photo plate with an electric conductive solution. Mix salt and tap water until the salt dissolves without making the water cloudy. Using the syringe, fill the plasma photo plate with your solution.
2. Place Your Subject on the Photo plate & Connect it to the Electrode Plate
Carefully wipe the electrode plate with a damp cloth, making sure to eliminate all moisture or dirt. This way your picture will appear clear, not affected by any external factors.
Then, attach your sample to the electrode plate using transparent tape. Choose a leaf or a coin, as they are easy to tape, and they will show interesting results after being photographed.
3. Ground Your Connection
After you have secured your sample, attach the piece of wire to the back of your leaf/coin using transparent tape. Then connect the other end of your wire to ground, which should be the same with the ground/earth connection of the power supply you use.
4. Place the Setup on Insulators
Turn your electrode plate over, with your subject sitting underneath. Carefully place the plate on insulators; plastic cups or glasses are ideal.
5. Connect the High-Voltage Coil
Either connect you high-voltage coil directly to the electrode or use another piece of wire for this purpose. Make sure everything is in place, as you will have to turn off the lights for the next steps.
6. Turn the Power on
Turn off the lights, and then turn on the power. It is important to keep the electric current flowing for just several seconds at the time. Otherwise, you will damage the quality of the transferred image. Typically the ideal time for exposure is between 10 and 30 seconds.
7. Take the Picture!
Use a camera that has a high-quality lens, or a high available ISO setting. This way you are sure to take good photographs in the dark. Experiment with the shutter time to discover the best settings for your pictures.
You can check out the RMCybernetics website for a more in-depth tutorial on how to build your own DIY Kirlian camera. Imagesco also offers a helpful guide to building you own simple Kirlian photography device along with more information about how to design the circuit.
Order Kirlian Photography Equipment
If you want to experiment with this technique, but don’t want all the hassle of building your own device, don’t worry. There are plenty available options for your too. As Kirlian photography still attracts fans and passionate photographers, the online market provides enough resources. Anyone who wants to learn this technique can find an ideal product online.
You can order a professional Kirlian photographic device which comes with film paper, as well as polaroid film. Fully equipped, these devices will help you take the best Kirlian photography without having to worry about connecting any wires.
If you are looking to buy parts and use your own camera, there are spare parts available on Ebay. Know that the search will be more time consuming. You can order the transparent electrodes on Ebay, but you will need to provide the rest of the equipment yourself.
Kirlian Photography App
As a proof of the appeal of Kirlian Photography, there is an app dedicated to this technique that you can download from the google store. However, the app only reveals Wifi fields using long exposure photography techniques, simply drawing inspiration from the Soviet scientist’s discoveries. The Wifi visualizations are nonetheless fascinating, turning an ordinary element into something magical. Plus, it’s a blast at parties!
Kirlian photography is still fascinating for scientists and photographers, even after the myth of auras was debunked. Even if the surrounding New Age theories were proven wrong, this technique was not abandoned. Aspiring photographers, as well as professionals, should get a kick out of experimenting with such a controversial technique that is still attractive today.