Mastering the Kirlian Photography Technique: A Short Guide

Mastering the Kirlian Photography Technique: A Short Guide

The Kirlian photography technique is still one of the most spectacular ways to shoot different subjects. This method is a bit of a mystery, especially for those who are beginners in the art of photography. Here's how it works.

In this article, we are going to reveal more about this mysterious method of taking pictures. You need to be very careful and not experiment with it unless you are experienced with high-voltage equipment. Do not attempt this otherwise.

What Is Kirlian Photography?

This photography technique was discovered by Semyon Kirlian in 1939. Since then, the method is still controversial, because it is believed that it shows the auras of different subjects. Despite the fact that it is seen as a supranatural phenomenon, this technique is simply based on electrical coronal discharge. For this photography method, you don’t even need to use a camera. The photographic plate made of metal is charged with a high-voltage source. Once the subject is placed on the plate, an image with an "aura" of the object will appear. 

Since it was very controversial, scientists tried out different experiments using this method. They used subjects like apples, leaves, and coins. It was observed that all of these objects had a colorful wave around them when high voltage was used. The level of water in a given object is actually what gives a different color when using this technique.

Image by Wikipedia user MrX, used under Creative Commons.

How to Use the Kirlian Technique

While it might seem like this is a hard technique to master, it is actually easy to shoot images using the Kirlian method. First of all, you need to have the equipment prepared. The process of this technique is simple. A sheet of film is put on top of a metal plate. This is known as the photographic or discharge plate. When you use a photographic plate, you don’t need a lens or camera. If you decide to use a transparent electrode instead of the discharge plate, you need to use a standard camera to shoot the subject. You can also purchase the necessary items and build the equipment yourself. When you build it by yourself, it is recommended to use transparent electrodes instead of the discharge plate. This way, you will be able to see the process and it will be easier to take photos and videos of it. 

Besides the electrodes, you will need a high voltage spark coil, wire, tape, and an electrically conductive solution. You also need to purchase plastic cups and use them as insulators. Decide which subject you want to try first and follow the rules below to build the equipment. Use electric conductive solution to make sure that the colorful aura is intense and that your pictures look amazing. Fill a syringe with water and salt and fill the electrode or the discharge plate with the mix. After this step, wipe the plate to eliminate all dirt and moisture. By doing this, you make sure that the photos are clear. 

A completed device (used with permission of Images Scientific Instruments).

In order to capture the subject, you need to use transparent tape. For the first experiment, you should choose an object that is easy to tape. A leaf is recommended for this technique. After that, you need to turn the electrode or the photo plate upside down so that the object is on the bottom of the plate. Attach insulators to the plate (plastic cups). The last step consists of connecting the high-voltage coil to the electrode. Check to see if everything is in place before you turn the lights off and the power of the high-voltage source on. Expose the subject to the power source for 10 to 30 seconds. Don’t power on for more than 30 seconds, because you risk damaging the subject and the photo. If you decided to use transparent electrodes, make sure to have your camera prepared before you turn the power on. After you take the pictures, turn the power off and turn on the lights. Repeat the process anytime you want to take photos like this. 

Once you get used to the equipment, you can move the subject or add another one. For instance, if you selected a leaf as your subject, you can add other leaves. Tape all of them together and connect them to the high-voltage source. One important part of this technique is to remember that high voltage is involved in the process. Make sure to turn off the power source and to wait before you touch the photo plate. If you purchased special equipment, make sure to read all instructions before using it. You can purchase a premade device here.

Don’t forget to use your creativity when trying out the Kirlian photography technique. While you need to be cautious with the power source, that doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with different subjects and see which one you like the most. Try out different leaves with different shapes and coins of different sizes. 

The Kirlian photography technique is a very interesting method to capture the coronal discharge of certain subjects. The auras of the subjects are going to surprise you every time. 

Lead image by Thomas Wedekind, used under Creative Commons.

Richard Gaspari's picture

Author bio: Richard Gaspari is a portrait photographer and owner of an online project called He writes guides and tutorials for beginners, as well as expert reviews on some of the most popular cameras on the market.

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