How to Create and Photograph Your Own Hologram

Holograms have long been a source of wonderment and amusement for all ages around the globe. Coined in 1949 by scientist Dennis Gabor, the hologram is a three-dimensional image projection created by a photographic technique using diffracted coherent light beams.

Once seemingly only available for the likes of Jedi Knights, the use of 3D projections in our everyday lives is becoming a fast approaching reality. Joey Shanks, of Shanks FX, shows us how to create our very own holographic image (or at least the illusion of one) in the midst of the age of technology:

Although it doesn’t produce ‘real’ holographic results, the Pepper’s ghost technique creates the illusion of a hologram. A subject’s image is reflected onto a glass pane set at a 45 degree angle. Viewers do not see the subject, only the partial reflection of it on the glass, which allows it to appear as a ghost-like figure in another spot. The effect is comparable to seeing a reflection of something in a window on a bright day, and still being able to see into the space beyond the glass.

The optical illusion was developed by inventor Henry Dircks in the late nineteenth century but was later popularized in theatrical production by Sir John Pepper, for whom the illusion is named.

create a hologram

A bird’s eye view of the setup for a Pepper’s ghost illusion

By slightly tweaking the original setup of Pepper’s ghost, we can create astounding holographic-like images at home using a projector, a mirror, and a glass pane. Creating these 3D projections is actually surprisingly easy.

How to Create a Hologram

  1. Set up a projector from above so it faces the floor.
  2. Place a mirror on a 45 degree angle beneath the projector.*
  3. Place a glass screen or other reflective transparent surface a few feet away from the mirror.
  4. The projection image to be used should be set against a dark background. For best results, try a moving image in 3D animation.
  5. When powered up, your projected image will bounce off the mirror onto the glass screen and appear as a ghost-like image.

*For the classic Pepper’s Ghost illusion, place the mirror horizontal to the projector and place the glass at a 45 degree angle.


Pepper’s ghost diagram

Enhancing Your Hologram

It’s the added lighting techniques that really help bring a hologram to life. Shanks gives his first tip for improving the look of projections:

“Try to light a background to sell the effect even more. When it’s a dark background you’re just going to have no perspective, no scale.”

You can also add steam or mist to enhance the 3D effect of your projection. Adding a baseplate for your subject to dance, balance or roll on will help take your illusion to the next level.


Miniature robot hologram dancing on a base plate.

Photographing Your Hologram

Surely after creating such a cool hologram, you’ll want to snap a few pictures of it. Luckily, the techniques used to try and sell the look of the hologram will also help you to create stunning pictures of it. Lit backgrounds and steam help to create depth and perspective.

Using projection subjects which are lighter in color set on dark backgrounds help to create definition and contrast. Relative to how dark the area you are photographing is, try using a higher ISO and an open aperture with shorter exposures, e.g. 1/125 sec @ f/2.8. Set up on a tripod.

Here’s where your creativity as a photographer comes in; experiment with the lighting. Why not swap the white lights for colored ones, change the intensity or angles, or even change up the mist for smoke?


Try using a hologram as a backdrop.


Add a ghost to your images.

You may also use the Pepper’s ghost technique at its simplest. Reflect something from above or beside your camera onto a reflective clear sheet placed at a 45 degree angle in front of your camera lens. Small ghostly images will appear in your photographs without any photo manipulation.

That’s all there is to it. Have you tried making or photographing holograms yet?

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3 responses to “How to Create and Photograph Your Own Hologram”

  1. Mary Silberstein says:

    Okay, here’s one I am sure you get a lot….how do they create those talking images of deceased movie stars on TV ad?
    Would it be possible for a person to have a hologram created of a deceased loved one or is this technology in the future? I lost my 17 year old son 30 years ago. I have some video footage of him and pictures.Not we can bring back the dead but what a comfort to be able to have that strong memory of them realized.

    If creating a hologram of him could happen it would be a beautiful and wonderful thing

  2. mostafa hamdy says:

    what kind of projectors used

  3. Wanda Lee says:

    How can I create an active holograms? Ssy I want to make a real- life mirror image as a bookcover?

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