Colorize electromagnetic fields with aura photography.

Explore the history of aura photography, and learn how to create and decipher the dreamy, wispy colors of aura portraits yourself.

Various aura photos next to each other

Image by Jaime Hopper

Channel your clairvoyant side.

An aura is the distinctive atmosphere or energy that surrounds or is created by a person, place, or thing. Aura photography is a way to translate those auras into the physical world. With special equipment, you can record and display the electromagnetic energy that comes off a person’s body, and transform those readings into a colorful portrait.

 

The resulting images are the beautiful and eye-catching photos you may have seen on Instagram. They often look like a simple headshot of a person with a bright halo of color surrounding them in front of a dark background. But there’s more to aura photography than meets the eye.

 

The origin of aura photography.

“Aura photography was born out of Kirlian photography, named after Soviet inventor Semyon Kirlian. And Kirlian photography is essentially when you electrify an object and photograph the electrical discharge,” explains aura photographer Charlie Watts of Aura Weaver. By charging an object with electricity while it sits on a photographic plate, you can create a colorful and distinctive image of the discharge as it branches off an object.

 

Aura photography became popular in the 1970s, when interest surged in crystal healing, energy healing, and new age subculture. During this time, scientist Guy Coggins adapted the techniques developed in Kirlian photography to craft his own camera system. This camera, the AuraCam 3000, used an algorithm developed by Coggins and his team of clairvoyants to transform electrical input into the bright colors of aura photos. Coggins has since created the AuraCam 6000, the model often used by aura photographers today.

 

More recently, the art of aura imaging regained prominence when Christina Lonsdale opened Radiant Human, a traveling aura photography laboratory featured by Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop. Meanwhile, in Chinatown in New York City, Magic Jewelry has also risen to prominence on the aura photography scene. 

Aura photo of a person

Image by Charlie Watts

How it works.

The setup.

Aura photography requires some special equipment, including an aura camera, two hand plates, a dark background, and a dark space to shoot in. The equipment itself can cost upwards of $16,000, so stepping into the aura imaging world takes commitment. Some artists work in permanent studios, but many aura photographers build mobile setups and travel around to host pop-up events at festivals, parties, and street fairs.

 

“For the actual session, I like to do a brief meditation with people beforehand, because I’ve found the more relaxed you are, the more colorful your aura will be,” explains Watts. The subject then places their hands on the hand sensors, which record electrical discharge. “When you touch the hand plates, it reads a bunch of information. They call it reading your meridian,” notes Watts. This biofeedback is then fed into the camera.

 

Your aura is based on how you feel in the moment, so if you get another aura image taken a year later, or even 15 minutes later, it will look different.

 

The aura camera.

The camera itself has no control over the f-stop or shutter speed. This means the setting has to be quite dark. “With my personal setup, I have a miniature yurt that I travel with, and inside we use a black background and a really bright ring light,” Watts says.

 

All the information collected with the hand plates is fed into the aura camera. “Inside the actual camera is a bank of light sensors that, depending on the amount of electrical output you’re producing, triggers your own unique algorithm of colors,” says Watts. The aura camera itself is shaped like a box. Inside is a traditional Polaroid camera, which captures the portrait and prints it. 

Aura camera equipment

Image by Charlie Watts

How to decipher an aura image.

Once the image processes, the aura photographer will do a reading of it and explain what it means. The colors, their location in the image, and the shapes that appear all hold deeper meaning. While all aura portraits are beautiful, what makes them special is how personalized they are to each individual.

 

Understand the aura colors.

Take a look at these general color meanings. Depending on which aura photographer you ask, they may interpret the colors differently.

 

  • Red: Passionate, self-aware, strong, willful, vital, and courageous

  • Pink: Loving, caring, self-aware, generous, and cheerful

  • Magenta: Heart-centered, motivated, grounded, and inspiring; a blend of pink and red auras

  • Orange: Ambitious, spontaneous, creative, confident, adventurous, and social

  • Yellow: Optimistic, joyful, confident, enthusiastic, generous, and whimsical

  • Green: Loving, compassionate, peace-oriented, nurturing, and connected to nature and people

  • Blue: Expressive, empathic, supportive, intuitive, loyal, trusting, and sensitive

  • Purple: Intuitive, playful, visionary, nonjudgmental, unconventional, and inspired

  • White: Inspiring, wise, energized, positive, and protective
Aura photo of a person
Aura photo of a person

Images by Charlie Watts

The position of the color matters as well. “If the colors show up on the left side of the image, it’s an outward energy. If it’s on the right, it’s their interior energy. Colors above the head reflect their present energy,” Watts says. “If I see white streaks, I call them angel lines. I consider angel lines direct messages from the planet. And usually these lines tend to be white, which is associated with clarity. So I tell people to look for moments of clarity, because that is showing up in their photo.” 


The interpretation of aura photos is up to the individual photographer and the subject of the portrait. Whether you believe in the aura reading or not, you can appreciate the beautiful and ethereal images. 

 

Channel your inner aura.

You don’t have to invest in traditional aura imaging equipment to create images inspired by auras and energy fields. Explore the realm of surreal photography and create dreamlike portraiture with tools in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Or use editing techniques to create abstract photos that focus on color and form and evoke the mystical qualities of aura photos.

 

Get inspired by these artists who’ve created art that mimics the mystic feel and idea of aura photography:

 

 

With its bright hues and new age roots, aura photography can be a source of artistic inspiration for all. So whether you try your hand at traditional aura imaging or just use the portraits and color meanings as inspiration for your own creative project, let your spirit guide you.

Contributor

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