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What’s the Deal with Kirlian Photography? (Aura Photography)

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 6 min read
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Photography and science often come together to create outstanding visual experiments.
Sometimes the results are fascinating, while other times they’re haunting and even controversial.
Kirlian photography fits into the second category.

What Is Kirlian Photography?
In 1939, Semyon Kirlian and Valentina Kirlian found an unusual way to take photos.
They used a photographic plate and a high-voltage source. And they created eerie images surrounded by vibrant light.
Stunned by this new discovery, they came to the conclusion that the light was an aura. Because of this, Kirlian photography is also known as aura photography. It’s often associated with the paranormal.
Thirty years passed before Kirlian photography started to become famous. Its big break was a book, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. It highlighted Kirlian photography and indirectly made it official.
In essence, Kirlian photography seems to be a great way to experiment with a new genre. It includes silhouettes and appealing colors. And the belief that every living thing holds a unique energy.
But does it have the potential to help scientists and doctors understand their patients better? And is it really paranormal?

How Kirlian Photography Actually Works
From a scientific point of view, Kirlian photography is not that hard to define. When a photographic plate is connected to a large source of energy, it creates electric coronal discharges. You can also describe them as gas discharges.
The air is then electrically charged. It will surround an object with something that looks like an aura. So what you see in these photos is electricity reacting to a subject.
The subject’s living state doesn’t matter. Even an inanimate object, such as a coin, will produce similar results.
Scientists have yet to find a way to use this in medicine. Some doctors and healers claim that it helps them understand patients’ illnesses better. Right now, there aren’t enough claims to support this evidence

What Are Kirlian Cameras?
Kirlian cameras are also known as aura cameras. They are inspired by Semyon and Valentina’s discovery. Some of these cameras cost thousands of dollars and promise to capture a person’s essence.
Companies claim that these cameras will capture the right frequency of a person. And that they’ll provide accurate representations of their aura.
There are also some aura apps that promise to capture a person’s energy through your phone.
Some people assume they can use Kirlian cameras to see a person’s physical or mental state. According to many sources, this is false.
Many of these companies say their cameras capture the subject’s spiritual aura only.
In their own words, it’s impossible to actually photograph a real aura.

The Paranormal Side of Kirlian Photography
Semyon and Valentina Kirlian experimented with their new discovery. During one experiment, they took one photo of a whole leaf and another of the same leaf sliced in half.
The area that should have been empty was still visible in the photo.
They claimed that this was further proof that aura energy exists and can be captured. Even when part of a whole object is taken away.
Scientists have an explanation for this, too. The remaining aura is residue and water vapour still attached to the photographic plate.
If you photograph a leaf on one plate and half of the same leaf on another, you’ll get different results.
Other people have experimented with different photographic plates. They’ve found that the Kirlians’ assumptions were correct.
Parts of a whole remained in the aura, even when they were removed.
Of course, this has resulted in a lot of controversy. Some people believe that the electricity intensifies the aura of a living being. Others claim that it’s nothing but science at its finest.
Some people have compared auras between organic and commercially grown foods. The differences seem to imply that anything commercial looks worse than its organic alternative.
Again, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to confirm these speculations.
Regardless, the foods do have very different auras, as you can see in the images above.

DIY Kirlian Photography
With the right equipment, you can make your own Kirlian photography experiments. No Kirlian cameras needed.
There are various ways you can try this at home. One example involves a few pieces of glass, nylon spacers, copper wire, silicone, foam, and a high voltage source. If you live in a large city, these tools should be pretty accessible and affordable.
If you want to see more, check out the full tutorial to get a clear idea of what you should do.

How Kirlian Photography Can Improve Your Photos

Once you experiment with this, you can come to your own conclusions on auras and paranormal behaviour.
No matter what your final opinion is, you’ll have a collection of impressive photos. You can add these to your portfolio.
Kirlian photography has to be done in the dark. This is a great opportunity to improve your nighttime photography skills.
This project will also help you understand ISO and shutter speed better. You’ll have to adjust both settings constantly throughout your shoot.

Why Kirlian Photography Matters
Kirlian photography was originally discovered in a hospital.
Semyon Kirlian was an electrical engineer. During a treatment at the hospital, he noticed something.
When a patient got in contact with electrodes from a high-frequency electrical generator, an aura was created.
This led to the various photography experiments we’ve already mentioned.
This story is controversial. But it shows that photography opportunities exist in different places. No matter who you are, you might stumble upon a new project in your office. Or in any other place that isn’t related to photography.
Kirlian photography matters. It came from an unexpected place and rose to fame because of it. Whether you believe in auras or not, it shows the importance of being curious and innovative.


No matter how controversial, Kirlian photography is a unique genre with a fascinating history.
With the help of a few tools, you can take your own Kirlian photos. These will feature subjects of all kinds surrounded by ethereal auras.
This genre is a great place to start if you want to make new photography discoveries of your own. Or if you want to add a surreal collection of nighttime photos to your portfolio.