The recent question about "auras" and photography got me thinking. Do we have any praxis about how to handle questions like this? I'm not sure if the person that asked the question is a troll or not, but if he is maybe it would be better just to avoid commenting on the question and let the down voting do the job. (Don't feed the trolls)

If the person indeed is sincere it might be better to move the question to skeptics.SE (they will tear it apart anyway, but it might actually be on topic there).

Are there any praxis of how to handle the situation? I can only think of the "Be nice" model. I really tried to apply it on the question, but there are no obvious border between religion and pseudoscience. Therefore the principle in "be nice" about Bigotry of any kind is hard to not break while explaining that terms like "aura" is just nonsense and that there are no well defined question being asked.

  • 2
    If it's all about proper terms (e.g. people here doesn't like aura term and are being insulted by it), maybe using more scientific words such as corona discharge should solve the problem? – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 20:19
  • 1
    It definetly would. As long as we keep to the domain of reality and what is measurable and possible to answer, the question is valid (given that it complies with the rules of the site). If it belongs to physics, photography or some other part of SE is another question. If you want to go into pseudoscience and religion, there are both Skeptics.SE, and the various sites about religion here too. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 20:26
  • People around the world using aura imaging photography technique since 1992 and nobody has the problem with it as on YouTube you can find thousands of videos (aura imaging: >6000) proofing the actual results (and Google doesn't censor it) and it's becoming more and more popular, so why you're forcing to censor it? Sooner or later you'll have to deal with that kind of photography. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 20:29
  • 1
    @kenorb I have no problem with those imaging techniques as such and I'm definetly not for censoring it. I'm just opposing the claim that those images bear any link to parapsychological and pseudoscientific concepts such as "aura". As long as we keep that link out of the discussion or provide a good source that there in fact is a link I have no problem with it. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 21:24
  • Kenob, if you had started out asking about taking pictures of corona discharges from people instead of the pseudoscience term "auras", you would have received a much different reception. – JenSCDC Oct 16 '14 at 21:27
  • @AndyBlankertz: Aura term is used, because linked article on photographic site was using the same term and the camera it-self is called AuraCam. And many people are using terms such as: aura camera, aura imaging and so far I didn't see any problem with these terms. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:32
  • However, as you've seen those terms carry heavy baggage. – JenSCDC Oct 16 '14 at 21:33
  • 1
    "People around the world using aura imaging photography technique since 1992 and nobody has the problem with it as on YouTube" Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. – JenSCDC Oct 17 '14 at 0:23
  • 2
    Andy, last warning. You are still attacking the concept behind the question, a belief or an opinion. You need to stop trying to debunk auras here on PhotoSE. If that's what you want to do, go to Skeptics and debate the issue there. Here, as far as I'm concerned, this question was about photography, and there are answers to be given. It is NOT about whether you believe auras are scientifically invalid. Stop now with the oppression of opinions or beliefs. – jrista Oct 17 '14 at 2:54

I fully agree with John here that this question could have and still may serve as a great place for people doing google searches on the subject to come and get educated. There can be valid and useful responses, even to a question like this. I believe having reasoned discourse about such a topic is the highlight of an excellent community.

Sadly, the immediate response was to mock and deride the underlying beliefs that MAY have lead to such a question being asked. There was no consideration as to any of the potential behind simply answering such a question. What if the OP was looking for such a device to perform a simple scientific study of his own? Is that not a valuable endeavor, regardless of the outcome?

I've been a member of this community for a long time. Since the beginning. I have been saying ever since then that we need to ANSWER first, and debate the merits of a question later. Sometimes I think the SE community gets bogged down in the latter...debating the merits of a question. Early on in SE's history, it was an essential part of the process, to fully define the purpose of each community and set guidelines for what is absolutely on and off topic.

The amount of debate over questions that still goes on on many SE sites, instead of simply answering the questions posed, is honestly a little saddening to me. I can hardly ask a question on StackOverflow any more these days, as every time I do, the "SE Correctness" vultures descend and modify my questions, usually changing their meaning and obliterating my original question in the process, and immediately mire each one in pointless debate about how to properly write a question title or whether my question is really a question or not. I really don't want to see that mentality take over here on PhotoSE. Were not a primary technical community, were ultimately a creativity community, one that is very broad and has valid fringes.

We need to think about answers first, and merit second, unless the answer of whether a question belongs on this site has already been decided and the on/off topicness is clearly defined. Once answering, it's a simple matter to start a meta topic here and link to the original question if you really think the issue needs to be debated.

Finally, Under no circumstances should we ever stoop to the level of mocking or insulting other peoples beliefs. It doesn't matter what you personally believe, that is and will always be unacceptable.


Whether or not a question like this is on topic is ultimately a decision of the community as a whole, but in many ways it is, especially if there is a reasonable appearance of genuine curiosity. People may come to us with naive beliefs and understanding and it is entirely possible to educate some of them with sound and reasonable information, that shouldn't offend or insult us. If it does, we need to grow up.

Now, I appreciate that it is not always possible to do that (Google Fark.com's "Bevets" character for an example), but when a thread is going to devolve into a metaphysical debate unrelated to photography, then mods will step in and shut it down (as I did). Nevertheless, as you noted, it is expected even that discussion must be polite and considerate. Be firm, be polite, and don't continue to feed the debate. We will take care of it.

  • I respect your decision of removing the comments. It got unhealthy as I noted. Of course I'm all for helping people, especially people with naive beliefs and understanding, and a naive question with a great enlightening answer would be wonderful. If the question was down voted it is even encouraged to answer it anyway (Reversal badge). I however see a problem if the question is left in a closed or duplicate state with it's content still presenting pseudoscientific words (e.g "aura") as legit and relevant in the question they link to or as a closed unanswered question. That would not... – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 20:55
  • ...provide the people with naive beliefs and understandings with the sound and reasonble information we want to give them I fear. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 20:57
  • @Hugo - Sorry, but I don't see an issue with the use of the word "aura" here and I'm as skeptical around this type of thing as they come. That is the term he, and others, may search by and having it here is not an "insult" to the community. – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 21:02
  • @Hugo: If it's all about one word aura which people get insulted, it could be removed, but Aura Imaging term is used since invention of that technique (blame the inventor) and the same wording is used in linked article (blame the author). This is how people (maybe not scientists) call this photographic technique and few people simply can't change it. It's already used by too many professionals. Google: "aura camera": 40k, "aura imaging": 60k results. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:09
  • 1
    @JohnCavan I'm not among the people feeling insulted by having these words in our questions on the site. Of course if they are used by people and they find what they are looking for it's great. I just fear the scenario: people searching for "aura photography", ending up here, getting redirected to Kirlian Photography and coronal discharges and then leaving with the incorrect belief that when they do Kirlian Photography they photograph the pseudoscientific concept "aura". That would be the direct opposite of educating them. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 21:17
  • @Hugo - Feel free to weigh in on the other. That is, after all, the purpose of the linkage. – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 21:21
  • @JohnCavan Sorry John, I didn't get what you meant with your last comment. On the other? What linkage? – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 21:28
  • @Hugo - on the question considered to be the parent duplicate. – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 21:29
  • @JohnCavan Ah now I get what you meant. I most definetly will to the parent duplicate and post an answer, to prevent what I fear from happening. I think you get my stance in this and I just thought it was important to discuss here on Meta. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 21:35
  • Are external sites subject to any rules that prevent them from being debunked. I.e. is auraphoto.com fair game? – JenSCDC Oct 16 '14 at 21:51
  • 1
    Andy, debunking whether auras, spiritial or scientific or otherwise, exist or not, is not the topic at hand. That is immaterial here. This isn't a skeptics site, it's a photography site. It doesn't matter whether you believe auras exist or not, all that matters is whether it's about photography (yes, it is) and whether there are answers for the question posed (apparently, there are.) If the answer is "No, you cannot photograph auras with a DSLR", and that answer is well founded and can be written without mockery, then go write it. – jrista Oct 16 '14 at 21:56
  • @AndyBlankertz - This is not a chat site, it's Q&A. You can courteously provide correctional information in any reasonable answer to a question asked in reasonably good faith. I really don't care what your issue is with this subject, but I think it's best you drop it – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 21:56

The question is not about photography, it is simply off-topic. While people that claim that auras exist sometimes use cameras to make photos that appear to show auras, this doesn't really have anything to do with the core expertise of this site. The members of the community here are experts in the technical and artistic aspects of photography, not on the subject of "auras".

There are already questions about auras on Skeptics, so there is no need to migrate anything, it would be a duplicate anyway.

Closing is neither mean nor nice, the SE code of conduct doesn't protect the community from moderating problematic questions, even if that might offend a user.

Disclaimer: I'm a moderator on Skeptics

  • 2
    Maybe. The community should decide if it is off topic or not, though I appreciate your input. My issue with the thread was the abuse to the op when it was said and done. Down vote and vote to close, okay, but insults and mocking comments to the op were not necessary. – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 20:07
  • @JohnCavan Comments on such questions can get rather ugly very quickly, we have to use the "purge all comments" tool rather frequently on Skeptics given the controversial nature of many questions. – user31646 Oct 16 '14 at 20:09
  • That's what I did, it was getting ugly and then, even after that, some want to wade in. I've since locked the post and I'll probably delete it soon, but sheesh some people need to chill. – John Cavan Oct 16 '14 at 20:12
  • @JohnCavan I completely agree with you that mocking has no place at photo.SE (or any of the sites in the network) and that's why I started this discussion on Meta. My comments on the question of concern where not definetely not intended to hurt anyone. I just want to help others in the field of photography. The problem arises when this conflicts with the belief of others. – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 20:15
  • @MadScientist: It's about the photography, because the question simply is asking if it's possible to capture aura (corona discharge) by using standard camera (+ some filters) similarly as you can achieve it using AuraCam. The aura word is used, because the same wording is used on photographer's site in the linked article and the camera it-self is called AuraCam, so changing the wording into more scientific only could cause further confusion. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:16
  • @MadScientist: Simple concept of the original question can be understood in this way: I've my digital camera and I want to know if it's possible to take the pictures similarly as AuraCam does as I read in the linked article on photographic site or seen on many videos on YouTube. So in my opinion it's the right question on the right SE site and for sure it's not the question for physicists or scientists (on Skeptics). – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:22
  • 2
    @kenorb You self-answered that question, so you knew the answer when you posted your question. While that is perfectly accetable on SE sites, it should only be done for subject that are of general interest for the community. As evidenced by the question score, you misjudged that pretty severely. – user31646 Oct 16 '14 at 21:39
  • @MadScientist: I didn't know the answer before asking the question. I've asked the question related to the article and when I've received criticism, then I've started to investigate the topic my-self assuming it was misunderstood. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:45
  • @MadScientist: I think the subject is in general interest and this can be proven only by leaving the question open for community for further rating, not by judging for short period of time. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 21:48
  • 3
    @MadScientist: I would offer that the rating of the question can, obviously, be heavily influenced by peoples reactions to a single word. That is clearly evident by Andy's (continued) reaction. That can invalidate a rating, as I think the community over-harshly judged the question without fully considering it. Personally, I regardless of what I personally believe, I think the question IS about photography, and DOES have answers. It doesn't matter whether those answers are scientific (and backed up by science), or about real equipment, etc. There are still answers, and it's photography. – jrista Oct 16 '14 at 22:00
  • @MadScientist: I think the reason why the question was down-voted, because few people get insulted by the word aura in the title without realising that this word is used in the linked article and it's in the name of photographic technique called aura imaging. After I realized that, I've improved quality of my question by removing that word from the title. So general interest shouldn't be judged on number of downvotes received before the change. – kenorb Oct 16 '14 at 22:20
  • 1
    @jrista I think you brought up an interesting point here. The question definetly is about photography and could surely be answered (I began composing an answer to it before it got locked). I also think it got over-harshly recieved - again that's why I started this discussion. However there has to be some restrictions to this. If I were to (and let me stress that I'm not trying to mock anyone, it's just an example) ask where I can photograph unicorns, the question would definetly be in the realm of photography but to be fair it has no place here. Where should that line be drawn? – Hugo Oct 16 '14 at 22:21
  • 1
    Well, if you think about it, there are still answers to a question about where to photograph unicorns. There are unicorn stuffed animals, unicorn figurines, people strap horns onto horses at renaissance fairs and sometimes role playing events. Hey, maybe that's not the answer the person was originally looking for...but, it's still a question about photography, and there are still answers. ;) To me, it boils down to answering first. Just answer. Then see what happens. The question may still get closed and maybe eventually deleted. We may still bring up a topic about it here. – jrista Oct 17 '14 at 2:50
  • 2
    In the end, so long as a question is about photography, before we debate whether it should even be asked, just try answering it first. I think the end results might surprise you. Were a community about the creative art of photography...we should have more open minds, and be less strict and critical than the communities that are dedicated to hard sciences, or specifically technical endeavors where there are very hard lines. In photography, the lines are very fuzzy. – jrista Oct 17 '14 at 2:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .