Sam: Check this out. (shows video)
Dean: Well, maybe it’s just a camera flare.Dean: Right.
Sam: That’s not like any camera flare I’ve ever seen. You know, a lot of cultures believe that a photograph can catch a glimpse of the soul.
They have used cameras while hunting to identify monsters. Like mirrors, photos and videos can capture aspects of the supernatural not otherwise visible. Some ghosts, they discover, can only be seen through a camera lens. Shapeshifters show a retinal flare on film, making their eyes glow eerily. More powerful creatures disrupt the signal, creating bars of static that make them all but impossible to identify.
Even if there is no monster-caused disruption in an image, it can have value. A decades-old picture of someone who looks human but has not aged since the photo was taken is a sign of something odd. A glimpse of a hunter in the background of a photo suggests that something has happened in the vicinity before. If the makings of a crossroads demon's summoning ritual are found, the image of the person that performed the ritual is inside.
On several occasions, the Winchesters have hacked into traffic cameras or checked out security footage for vital clues. This can include retinal flares to identify shapeshifters, but can also be something as innocuous as getting a vehicle's license plate number as a way to track down the driver. On two separate occasions Dean has used traffic cameras to find the license plate of a vehicle to see who has taken Sam after he has been kidnapped by humans. On another occasion, traffic cameras were used to locate a possessed Sam by finding footage of the stolen Impala. This has also been used to track down a wayward hunter and a vampire who kept her human vehicle after she was turned.
Other times it is Sam and Dean themselves who have been caught on camera. Both have had their mugshots taken, and are officially fugitives. This makes it awkward when they are unexpectedly caught on camera, or find themselves accidentally starring in a reality TV show. On one occasion, the bad guys used this to their advantage by getting doppelgangers of Sam and Dean on camera committing murders to get the authorities chasing after them again.
For personal photos, see Photo Album.
Sam and Dean investigate the case of missing hiker Tommy Collins in rural Colorado. Just prior to his disappearance, he sent his sister a video of himself at his camp. Sam discovers a humanoid shadow in three frames of the video, moving too fast to be human.
Zach Warren, the brother of Sam’s friend Becky, has been accused of killing his girlfriend. He claims that he was nowhere near her home at the time, but security camera footage seems to show him entering it just prior to the murder. Sam and Dean watch a copy of the tape, and notice a distinct retinal flare when “Zach” looks directly into the camera. Sam thinks it could be a sign that a creature is involved.
They later discover that it was a shapeshifter.
After Sam disappears, Dean notices a nearby traffic camera that he realizes may have caught the abduction. Dean is able to convince Deputy Kathleen Hudak to check the traffic cameras for clues and she finds a picture of the truck that took Sam. By searching the area between one traffic camera with the truck on it and the next where the truck didn't appear, the two manage to locate the Bender farm.
Children are being attacked by a shtriga, a witch that can appear human, and has an extended lifespan. Sam discovers a picture from the 1890s in a newspaper article on a mysterious illness affecting children. In the picture he sees the familiar face of Dr. Hydeker, a local physician, his appearance unchanged in over a century; Sam realizes he must be the shtriga.
They set a trap for him with a boy name Michael for bait, and watch through a CCTV camera as the shtriga approaches.
Sam and Dean are caught investigating the murders of Tony and Karen Giles. To give Sam time to escape and investigate, Dean agrees to give an on camera “confession” to the police. He then explains on camera that a vengeful spirit is responsible, angering the corrupt officer questioning him.
Sam and Dean discover a crossroads, and find a crossroads demon summoning charm buried in the center. Inside is the image of the summoner, George Darrow. Inside Lloyd's Bar next to the crossroads, they discover a picture of recent hellhound victims, and recognize that they are dealing with demon deals.
Banks are being robbed, but the suspected bank employees insist they are innocent. Sam and Dean talk to Ronald Resnick, a friend of one of the suspects. Ronald believes the robberies are the work of a Mandroid, and shows the brothers a security camera tape he copied which shows clear shapeshifter retinal flare. Sam and Dean go to the bank they suspect will be robbed next. Posing as security technicians, they watch the CCTV security cameras waiting for the flash of the shapeshifter’s eyes.
See, I made copies of all the security tapes. I knew once the cops got them they'd be buried. Here. (he fast-forwards) Now watch. Watch. Watch him, watch, watch! See, look! There it is! (he pauses the tape) You see? He's got the laser eyes. Cops said it was some kind of reflected light. Some kind of "camera flare". Okay? Ain't no damn camera flare.
Sam goes missing for a week, and when he returns, he has no memory of what he has done. Dean helps him retrace his steps, and they discover the house of hunter Steve Wandell, who is dead inside. He had security cameras in his home. The brothers watch the tapes, and see Sam attack and kill Steve. Dean eventually realizes that Sam was and is possessed.
Sam and Dean investigate a film set where deaths are being caused by some supernatural force. While watching dailies of the production, Sam sees a woman on film who was not there on the set. He realizes that the camera has picked up the ghost of a dead actress. This spirit, along with two others, is being controlled by a vengeful writer killing those who have destroyed his original script. He attacks an executive with the invisible ghosts. Sam uses the camera on his phone to see the ghosts, directing Dean’s shotgun blasts of salt to hold them off.
The film executive decides to put Sam’s camera technique in the movie.
There's a scene in the movie where people say that the camera caught a ghost on film. Apparently, in the background of one of the scenes, there was this boy that nobody remembers from set. Spirit photography.
Sam and Dean have their mugshots taken.
After one woman kills another in a shoe store over a pair of high heels; Sam, Dean and Bobby get a copy of the security footage so that they can see what happened. The camera shows Walter Rosen speaking to the woman who committed the crime just before she attack the second woman. The discover that Walter has been missing since the night the Devil's Gate in Wyoming opened, and suppose that he must be possessed.
Sam has touched the lucky rabbit's foot, and his life is temporarily charmed. Dean and he go to Biggerson's Restaurant for a meal. Balloons and confetti rain down on them as they are told they have won free food for a year. A picture is taken of the lucky winners and posted on the restaurant website. Unfortunately, when Sam's luck turns bad, Kubrick and Creedy spot the photo online, and use it to find and capture Sam.
Sam and Dean are investigating the Morton House and find themselves starring in the pilot of the Ghostfacers, the show envisioned by Harry Spengler and Ed Zeddmore. They even make the opening credits. The Ghostfacer cameras record the exploration of the house, the tragic death of Corbett the intern at the hands of a disturbed spirit, and Dean's sage advice on the use of salt. Ed confronts the death echo of Corbett to make him realize he is a ghost after seeing Sam attempt the same thing on another spirit. Corbett realizes what is happening and defeats the evil spirit. The Ghostfacers then show Sam and Dean their assembled footage. Sam and Dean compliment the work as memorializing Corbett while shamelessly taking advantage of his death, then leave an electromagnet next to the computer that stores the footage, wiping it from the hard drive.
Dean Smith and Sam Wesson believe there is a ghost at their company. They look online for advice, and discover guide videos on the Hell Hound's Lair website, run by two guys who seem to have learned everything from "The Winchesters," but hate them.
Adam Milligan contacts Sam and Dean, claiming to be the son of John Winchester. His mother is missing, and he needs help. The brothers are skeptical, but meet him and begin to look into the situation. They discover that in 1990 there were similar disappearances, and in the background of a newspaper photograph from the era, they see their father.
Two friends, Cal and Jim, meet in Cal's garage, to see his new car - what he believes to be Little Bastard, the car James Dean was killed in. Cal is in the driver's seat when Jim goes off to find a video camera to record Cal starting the car. Camera rolling, he returns to find Cal dead in the car. Dean watches the tape. In a frame of the video, he sees a reflection of what looks like James Dean. He and Sam later discover that the reflection was that of the shapeshifting pagan god Leshii.
Pestilence is using a retirement home as a headquarters and is experimenting on the patients. Sam and Dean sneak into the security office. They watch the monitors, hoping to identify the Horseman. They see a figure on one of the monitor that distorts the camera feed wherever his skin is exposed; bars of light cover his face and hands. Rightly guessing him to be Pestilence, they pursue him.
Crowley proves the sealing of his deal with Bobby with an iPhone picture of them kissing.
Sam finds a baby after its mother is murdered, and gets Dean to help him take care of it. They go to a supermarket to buy supplies, but when the baby starts crying in the checkout, they are at a loss to make it stop. An older woman behind them offers to help, but Dean sees her eyes flash on the nearby security monitor, and realizes she is a shapeshifter.
People are being cursed to hear the truth from everyone around them, and the brothers suspect that the goddess Veritas is responsible. They think she may be masquerading as a local TV reporter named Ashley Frank. RoboSam spends an entire night watching footage of her reports. He spots her odd reaction to dogs, and sees her eyes glow strangely on camera, signs that point to her supernatural nature.
Sam, Dean, and Bobby investigate a series of odd killings that may be Eve related. They find and interview a man who murdered his family after giving a ride to a strange girl who approached him at a gas station. The hunters, posing as the FBI, get the station's security footage. They see a girl in white whose face distorts horribly on camera.
Sam, Dean, Bobby, Ellen, and Jo are trying discover why people all across the country are suddenly dying in bizarre accidents. The only things the victims have in common is that their ancestors came to America on a ship called the Titanic. None of them are familiar with the ship. Sam researches it, and discovers that on its maiden voyage the ship nearly struck an iceberg, but was saved by the first mate, I.P. Freely. They find a picture of the officer, and realize that it is actually Balthazar who has gone back in time to stop the ship from sinking.
Sam, Dean, Bobby, and Castiel go to Eve's reported location armed with the phoenix ashes that may kill her. They find the town beset by monsters, both dead and alive. Sam, Bobby, and Castiel are arrested at a murder scene by the local police, and taken to the police station. Sam catches a glimpse of a security monitor, and sees retinal flare in their captors eyes. He raises the alarm that they are dealing with Jefferson Starships, and with Dean's help they escape.
Later, Sam and Dean enter a diner where Eve is hiding. Sam uses his phone camera to look at the diner's customers. Every one of them shows retinal flare, and the brothers realize they are the only humans in the place.
Bobby is investigating the death of H.P. Lovecraft in the 1930s and his efforts to open a door to Purgatory. A witness to the ritual, an old man named Westborough, tells Bobby the ritual succeeded, and that something came into the world and possessed his mother. He shows Bobby a picture of her, and Bobby recognizes his ex-girlfriend, Eleanor Visyak.
Sam and Dean follow the acts of Castiel through the internet. They find footage of his attack on a senator's office, and see him turn to the camera and smile just before he massacres everyone present.
In an attempt to find Sam and Dean, the leviathans send Leviathan!Sam and Leviathan!Dean on a very public killing spree so that law enforcement will track them down. They murder bank employees and customers in full view of security cameras. Later, they order a diner to film them with his cellphone while they slaughter others in the restaurant. After killing the phone's owner, they lean into the phone's view to make sure they are visible.
Sam, Dean, and Bobby discover that the brothers are once again wanted men from television coverage.
Dean finds footage of a ghost giving fake psychic Camille Thibodeaux a vision of her upcoming death. Camille's friend Melanie Golden recognizes the ghost from photos in the local history museum. Sam and Dean go to the museum and find an image of Kate Fox, the ghost from the video, and her sister, Margaret Fox, both of whom are buried in the local cemetery.
Sam and Dean are trying to discover what is killing off members of a family that owns a brewery. In the brewery office, they review security cam footage, hoping to catch a glimpse of their monster. They see nothing on the first viewing, but since they are tracking a shojo, decide they should get drunk and watch it again. Once drunk, they see the creature as it is released from a bottle and then follows its first victim.
Sam and Dean are able to find Charlie Bradbury in part because Frank Devereaux's hard drive hacked into her webcam to show them who was attempting to break into it. Later, Sam and Dean use a program set up by Charlie to mess with the Richard Roman Enterprises security camera system so that Charlie's efforts won't be detected while using the security cameras themselves to follow her progress.
Sam and Dean attempt to use SucroCorp's security cameras to spy on Dick Roman only to learn that he has had multiple Leviathans take on his form to confuse them. They later attempt to use the security cameras to spot any tells they could use to identify the real Dick, without any success.
While investigating a case, an officer shows Sam and Dean security footage of their suspects. After recognizing Krissy Chambers, Dean uses his FBI alias to force the officer to erase the footage to protect Krissy who is less than appreciative for the help. Later, Victor Rogers shows Krissy, Aiden, and Josephine Barnes a picture of the vampire that supposedly killed Krissy's father. However, the Winchesters become suspicious that the picture is doctored due to discrepancies in the photo, something that they are ultimately proven right about.
While investigating several demon-related deaths and disappearances on a military bus, the Winchesters are shown security footage which reveals that Abaddon is responsible. They are particularly shocked as the footage shows Abaddon in the body of Josie Sands, which they had believed to have been destroyed.
In order to find Gadreel, who is currently possessing Sam, Crowley visits one of his minion demons Cecily at a business that's in fact a front for an NSA listening post. Cecily helps to track down Gadreel by finding traffic camera footage of the Impala, which Gadreel is driving, running a red light in Erie, Pennsylvania.
After Garth flees the hospital, Dean gets security camera footage of the parking lot outside showing the vehicle Garth escaped in. Due to being separated from Sam at the moment, Dean attempts to lie about not getting anything, but he is seen through by Sam. Using the car's license plate, visible in the security footage, they are able to track down Garth.
While searching for the First Blade, the Winchesters view security footage of two guards shooting each other and then the camera. They correctly surmise that the guards were possessed by demons who murdered their meatsuits before fleeing.
When Freddie Costa shows up at Ennis Roth's home looking for information about what killed his girlfriend, when he begins asking Ennis questions he had already asked him, Ennis becomes suspicious and tests him by mentioning his dead father will be home soon, and they should catch up, when Freddie takes bait and agrees to stay. Ennis remembering what Sam told him about monsters real faces can be seen through a camera, Ennis pretends to get a text, and uses his camera phone and sees retinal flares coming from the eyes of Freddie, revealing himself as a shapeshifter.
Investigating the death of a man named Drew Neely whom he suspects to have been a demon, Sam is shown security footage of Drew attacking Dean with an angel blade and then getting killed by Dean with the First Blade. To Sam's shock, he learns that Dean is now a demon from his black eyes which are visible in the security footage. Unsure if Dean's actions are self-defense or murder, the detective in charge of the case sends a still shot from the security camera footage out over the wires.
Later, Cole Trenton receives a fax containing a copy of the still shot from a friend of his with the word "yup" written on the picture. This starts his hunt for Dean for revenge as Cole believes that Dean murdered his father.
While locked in a small room, Sam sees Olivia on a nearby security monitor threatening Bunny LaCroix's family at gunpoint. After seeing the retinal flare that identifies Olivia as the shapeshifter that they are searching for, Dean comments that "we got played by the maid."
While investigating the murder of a girl who had her eyes cut out, Sam and Dean check out security camera footage and realize that they are dealing with a member of the Styne Family after seeing the family's distinctive tattoo on the back of the killer's hand.
Later, in order to decode Nadya's Codex and through it the Book of the Damned, Charlie Bradbury takes several pictures of the codex and the Book of the Damned with her camera phone that she then uploads to her Surface Tablet.
In his efforts to get revenge upon Eldon Styne and his family, Dean gets a picture of Eldon's vehicle from the Blackbird Motel's surveillance cameras and sends it to Rudy who is able to use the vehicle's license plate to point Dean to Shreveport, Louisiana.
Using the nanny-cam footage given to them by Dan Harper, Sam and Dean believe they are dealing with a shapeshifter, due to seeing an eye flare in the footage of Dan Harper's doppelganger killing Staci Altman.
In an effort to find the demon responsible for a series of murders, Sam checks a motel's security cameras and discovers footage of Gunner Lawless abducting Shawn Harley. By following Gunner's van on traffic cameras, the Winchesters are able to determine where he took Shawn.
After Sam is kidnapped by Lady Toni Bevell, Dean hacks into Lebanon's traffic cameras and manages to locate the vehicle used to carry Sam away from the Bunker, giving Dean, Mary, and Castiel a lead to begin their search with.
Investigating the murders of two angels, Castiel is shown security footage of their deaths and realizes that the culprit is the Prince of Hell Dagon from her yellow eyes which are visible in the footage.
Eileen Leahy explains to Sam and Dean that in an effort to track down Kelly Kline, she searched through all of the traffic camera footage near the burned-down warehouse and ran the license plates of every car that passed in the vicinity. Eileen found that one car was registered to missing person Dermott Culp, who turned out to be a demon working for the Prince of Hell Dagon. By tracking down Dermott, Eileen was able to get Kelly's phone number from him.
When confronted by Sam, Jody Mills, and Walt, Dr. Hess attempts to convince Sam that the American hunters and the British Men of Letters still need each other by showing him surveillance pictures of Lucifer outside of the Needham Asylum. However, Sam refuses and shoots the computer connecting Doctor Hess to London before she is killed by Jody.
Sam shows Dean and Mary the pictures of Lucifer provided to him by Dr. Hess. Sam admits that he recognizes Lucifer's old vessel in the pictures and suggests that Crowley had something to do with its restoration.
In an effort to find the person the shapeshifter Buddy is impersonating, Sam uses Mia Vallens's security camera to search for a patient with a retinal flare. Sam eventually manages to find Buddy, but when Sam checks out the house of the man he was impersonating, Buddy is gone.
Trying to find a clue to the ghoul they are hunting, Jack Kline hacks into the Dodge City, Kansas, traffic cameras and manages to locate the ghoul's stolen truck from the day before. From the picture Jack pulls up, Dean identifies the ghoul as using the form of famous outlaw Dave Mather.
When Dean and Castiel return from killing Gog and Magog, Sam shows them a security camera feed of the Bunker's dungeon where Donatello Redfield, having been corrupted by the power of the Demon Tablet in his soulless state, is being held prisoner and mumbling incoherently.
Sam, Mary, and Bobby use a morgue's security camera to get a view of the license plate on Lydia Crawford's car and use it to identify and find her. This is made is easier by the fact that Lydia never ditched her car after getting turned into a vampire.
Sam starts having his hunters wear body cams on hunts, which upload directly to a server. The cams are implemented with the reasoning watching each other hunt is the best way for the hunters to learn, as well as on the chance something goes wrong, they have a place to start. After Maggie misses a check-in with Sam, he and Dean check the server for Maggie's body cam footage and find her getting attacked by what appeared to be a ghoul in Claremore, Oklahoma.
The originator of spirit photography is usually said to be William H. Mumler, a photographer working in Boston in the mid-nineteenth century. He is believed by most to have been a fraud, who created a double exposure on his film, the result of which gave the illusion of a spirit next to the primary subject. On of his most famous images showed the 'ghost' of Abraham Lincoln over the shoulder of his widow, Mary Todd Lincoln. Mumler was tried but acquitted in 1869. Prior to Mumler's work, a photographer named Campbell took a picture of an empty chair that, once developed, showed a boy sitting in the chair. Campbell produced no other spirit photographs.
Photography and videography continues to be used by modern investigators attempting to capture proof of the supernatural. They are popular tools used on television series like Ghost Hunters. Cameras can capture infrared and ultraviolet light, spectrums not visible to the unaided eye, so they are thought to be a good tool for recording the presence of an energy being. Some organizations offer significant rewards for an authentic ghost image, as much as $500,000 U.S.