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.

kirlian photography device cross section
Graphic by Wikipedia User MrX

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 of hand
Image source: Wikimedia

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
  • Tape

After you have gathered all the necessary equipment and accessories, you are ready to start your project.

kirlian photography leaf
Image source: Pinterest

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 of a coin

Recommended read: If you are interested in other surreal photography techniques, you should also check out our article on light painting photography and time lapse photography

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.

14 thoughts on “Kirlian Photography: The Myth & Technique Debunked”

  1. For the majority that won’t read this at least look up “PHANTOM LEAF, kirlian photography “ … now for my long rant about our deceit and eventually our demise..
    It’s amazing to me that the mass disinformation, blatantly hiding facts and evidence that back up facts, and the corrupt bigotry in everything that really matters in our (human) life (this physical body/skin that we/you are in at this moment) like something as beautiful and simple as this type of photography.. this whole web page says “pushes and misleads” the kirlian photography has been debunked… OF WHAT fact writer ??? You claim “kirlian photography can possibly show auras/chakras IS debunked, it is proven” and “just look at evidence below” .. What evidence? Writing/text on this page and the other “debunkers” pages that claims they done numerous conclusive tests showing the same result of and I quote (copy,paste) “ 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.”.. But for some reason you nor they ever speak of the “UCLA SCIENTIFIC STUDY/TESTS/EVIDENCE” of the phenomenon known as “PHANTOM LEAF” .. I literally just looked up on this subject today but am so pissed that this dumbing down of the people is never ending from little pages such as this , the mainstream media always showing/pushing nonsense/lies & hiding the real knowledge that is discovered every day, our tax paid liars from nasa to fbi/cia/etc, our schools so called “history/proven science books that are proven wrong every day, and now YouTube is apparently putting a “Wikipedia fact” page (which “Wikipedia fact” is more ridiculous than any of the conspiracy theory I believe in, Wikipedia even states it is not to be considered absolute fact or truth &can be edited by just about anyone) on any so called “conspiracy theory “ video.. apparently if you are on to something they try to push false facts to try to make video seem to be a crazy childish cartoonish thought.. (I guess they can’t find and delete every truth video out there anymore) Anyway way off subject but damn people don’t report or claim a fact unless you have felt,seen, researched from every aspect, and still say it’s what you believe to be true.. we have been lied to for centuries and even some of our honest discoveries of “history “ was planted to deceive.. but if everyone and I mean everyone would just say ok I think I am knowledgeable but what if I have been taught by many generations of people that were taught wrong.. please just take half the time you are on Facebook and put it towards researching the facts and evidence of things you believe are meaningful in your life, and dig deep even if it hurts.. your religion, your country, government, space, other ancient beliefs culture ways of life, Antarctica, and even just water (for instance water has a memory, and we in USA that use tap water have more fluoride in our water than the nazi’s used to brainwash and make ppl more susceptible to do as they are told)
    Please just look around and walk in the woods or look to the stars and think is this way of life what we know it should be..

    • Hi Marc,

      Thank you for your input! According to our research, Kirlian photography shows auras because of the subject’s water content which, as you know, is conductive. However, we’re very interested in concrete facts that support the theory of aura photography. If you have any, please don’t hesitate to let us know and we’ll make the necessary adjustments to this article.

      Looking forward to your reply!

    • You’re right on the money with you’re remarks. It would appear that some people don’t require the need to become dumber.
      There are none so blind as those who will not see. A great example is “The Great Randi”, and the other so-called Skeptics, usually people who don’t seem to understand that being able to fake something does not negate the reality of whatever that ‘something’ might be.

      Willful Ignorance, (Stupidity), is built into a lot of people these days as verifiable EVIDENCE is readily available to anyone who will make the effort to find it.

      If anyone tries to make the claim that, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” is a load of crap that is used to justify their own lack of evidence.

        • Hello,

          I make no representation that the effect is anything other than a scientific phenomenon, I did, however, observe two images of a leaf, one intact and the second taken after the leaf had been torn apart. The torn portion, although absent in the second image, still presented a fainter image that corresponded with the shape of the leaf prior to being torn apart. While this may yet be a function of moisture, It would suggest that there is some sort of memory associated with the torn leaf. I could believe that it might represent a vestige of the overall bonding that can be seen with molecules that are otherwise, settled into a configuration. I would be surprised to find that adsorption could play a roll, but I do not think that merely discounting the “aura” aspect, fully explains the entirety of the effect.

          David S. Pierce

          • Do you know anyone that can photograph something other than small in the studio objects? Capture the huge upside down waterfall of aura burning all the time at my residence in arizona. Im sure if i could capture a decent image of it…and along with the medical history of the people who reside here i could have a fighting chance to live….and give any investigators something real to research. Please

          • Maybe I missed in on this page, but It’s my understanding that replacing the glass (that the film is pressed against) after the leaf picture is taken – after the leaf is ripped in two, the aura doesn’t follow the full leaf image.

            That’s likely after a few trial and error tests to narrow down where the image is coming from (assuming not the leaf), a simpler, easier, broad method would be to use a completely new and never used duplicate setup of all equipment for the photography after splitting and half removing the leaf to see if that would show the full image…

            There are (imho) much more compelling photographic evidence, such as the two slit single photon light map effect on the destination surface, which shows images of patterns of intersecting waves and wakes as if it was performed with flowing and interacting water waves that intersect, even though light waves don’t interact with other light waves, and with each photon sent to the target flat surface on it’s own, it shouldn’t be influenced by particles from a separate time, and far less display in a method which when combined shows patterns specific to overlapping waves followed by overlapping wakes even though it has no physical substance…

    • Investigation before condemnation is very important. I also agree that we have been lied to about a great many thing not the least of which is The Earth is Flat and we live under a dome.
      Since God created everything and we are all a part of his grand design I believe we should embrace all Truth as we find it. Great observations! Peace to you!

    • Omg there are still real people living somewhere on the planet.
      You should know that the reason i looked this up is because i want to photograph the huge flaming purplish and blue aura jetting out of my home in arizona. Its so powerful it “smoked the plastic cover around my daughters trampoline into a no burn smelled charcoal thing. I could see it happening from the park up the street. I thought my backyard was on fire…litteraly and thought it was done by someone i know on purpose.upon closer inspection noticed the burned areas were burned clean….no smell of fire….at all. No typical dirty byproducts left behind. All i can say is makes you wonder about the burning bush. Its not a regular flame…its being completely broken down by something other than fire. This huge aura has been burnjng over the house now constant for many years since. Obviously you can imagine the condition of the property and the beings inside just trying to live. Always weak and sick and this affects the child in the home as much as the seniors. I need to capture it because im the only one that knows its there. The other people that know are probably looking at it from a safe distance…..i invite anyone to come to lake havasu city arizona to capture it with the naked eye…isee it better in the daytime .at night there are so many anomallies shooting light everywhere …its tough to analyze anything. Plus the area leaves you physically exhausted and feeling like you lost a few billion brain connections….no joke. Dont take my word for it. I dare you to challenge my claim and debunk this one
      2354 north palo verde blvd
      Lake havasu city az……. come witness real shit. You wont even be able to spell conspiracy correctly after being here.

  2. I appreciate your article. But it doesn’t explain the photographs I’ve seen which show the energy fields of missing limbs.

  3. Well, the one that gets me is the picture of the quarter. How much moisture can a quarter have? I would have expected the quarter to have no aura at all. And then the hand – now we know a hand has a lot of moisture, both in it and on it, yet its aura is almost nonexistent. Somehow I think the first poster may have been right, the moisture explanation is too bogus to have been honestly offered.

  4. This so called Debunking is crap. You can’t do a experiment or two and have any definitive knowledge of a subject. It the 70 a study said that fat was bad for you, and start the low fat movement. Today we know that is crap. Some study said the cholesterol was the case of heart attacks, today we know it is inflammation. All these Debunking experiment show is that the aura is brighter when humidity is high. That should be obvious. The study don’t address how you can cut the top of a leaf off but there is still a phantom part of the leaf left, or other phantom. There is a group of extremist out there that because the materialist paradigm is ding feel threaded and go around debunking any the that threatens the materialist paradigm.


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