Hermione says in Goblet of Fire:

‘All those substitutes for magic Muggles use – electricity, and computers and radar, and all those things – they all go haywire around Hogwarts, there’s too much magic in the air.'

Goblet of Fire - pages 475-476 - Bloomsbury - chapter 28, The Madness of Mr Crouch

and in Chamber of Secrets Colin Creevey says this:

‘[A]nd a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures’ll move.’ Colin drew a great shuddering breath of excitement and said, ‘It’s brilliant here, isn’t it?'

Chamber of Secrets - page 75 - Bloomsbury - chapter 6, Gilderoy Lockhart

How is it that Colin Creevey's Muggle camera works properly at Hogwarts and on the Hogwarts grounds? Further, how is it that a magical potion could create moving pictures from Muggle film, which only takes one-framed (for lack of a better description) shots at a time?

I'm assuming Colin's camera is not digital, as this is 1991 (first expensive DSLRs appeared in 1991), plus Colin, obviously, references film.

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    Maybe since it was a non-digital camera, and therefore just moving parts, it wasn't affected by the magic.
    – Zoe
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 0:42
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    I've never seen a canon answer, but since he was young, and given the time frame, I assumed it was a simple SLR -- Not even batteries in some models; not much to go wrong. A prism, but that's just a special shaped piece of glass.. The most likely issue would be with development, and that's where a special potion comes in.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 0:56
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    As Keith and Zoe said, what's stopping a simple non-electric reflex from operating? Perhaps the potion simply guesses a motion, like a person making a cut-out animation. Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 12:01
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    " how is it that a magical potion could create moving pictures from Muggle film" - haven't you ever seen a movie where an FBI tech wiz zoome and pans way beyond a still camera image resolution? :) Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 13:42
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    I... never thought that really was a 100% Muggle camera. I always just assumed he'd been a photo nut for a while so when he went for his Diagon Alley shopping, he bought a magical camera too; specially since it looks way older than from the 90s in the movies.
    – Shisa
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 2:46

4 Answers 4


The Harry Potter wikia has an answer (it "runs off of the magical atmosphere"), but the reference is the entire second book.

Other than that, I think @Zoe is correct - all the examples given in Goblet of Fire require electricity, while old-fashioned cameras didn't use it for anything other than the flash. Nothing more than a spark is needed for the film and a flash for the bulb, so even if it goes haywire there's not much that can go wrong.

As for how they can move - he didn't say what they'd be doing when they moved. I think, although I'm not certain, that it was covered somewhere else on another HP question - wizarding photographs are developed in a special potion that makes them come to life, and Colin could have been referencing that. So they wouldn't necessarily be doing the exact same thing they were doing when the picture was taken, unless that was part of the magic (perhaps based on the caster's memory?).

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    Where in Chamber of Secrets is the "magical atmosphere" explanation? HP Wikia is terrible. Can you find me the quote? I've never heard of this "magical atmosphere" explanation before. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but I want a canon source. :) Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 2:18
  • @Slytherincess Yeah, it doesn't sound familiar to me either, hence including the rest of the answer
    – Izkata
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 2:21
  • Well, yes, I referenced the magical potion that would make the film develop into a moving picture. I wonder how this doesn't violate the International Wizarding Statute of Secrecy. :) Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 2:30
  • @Slytherincess If it's only shown to his family (who already knows he went to Hogwarts) or others in the wizarding world, how would it violate it?
    – Izkata
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 2:44
  • I don't know. Maybe it doesn't. At the end of the day it probably doesn't matter. Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 2:57

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets the camera was supposedly designed to use ambient magical energy in the air to function at Hogwarts.

  • Looking up the actual physical device, the Argus C3 is a completely mechanical camera and did not need or use any electricity at all, so it should not have been affected by any magical dysfunction caused by Hogwarts.

Argus C3

The Argus C3 was constructed primarily of Bakelite plastic and metal castings. The design featured an unusual but simple diaphragm shutter built into the camera body, so the camera could make use of interchangeable lenses without the need for a complex focal plane shutter. The rangefinder was separate from the viewfinder and was coupled to the lens through a series of gears located on the outside of the camera body. The profusion of knobs, gears, buttons, levers, and dials on the camera lent it a "scientific" look that was found in customer surveys to be one of the things buyers most liked about the camera. The C3 was principally designed by Dr. Gustave Fassin.

Magical cameras in the Wizarding world use a special film and potion to create the movable images seen in much of the magical photography used.

These fascinating characteristics of wizard photographs are made possible not by some wholly magical procedure, but by a mixture of Muggle technology and wizarding magic. The photographic lens captures the image in a camera using film – all Muggle inventions – then these films are developed using a special magical potion that imbues the photographs with the movement and “life” that Muggle stills could never achieve. > J.K. Rowling Official Website. “Why did Colin Creevey’s camera work etc?” F.A.Q. 2006. J.K. Rowling Official Website. 18 July 2007.

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    This should be the accepted answer.
    – keyofnight
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 8:02

JKR addressed that in FAQs on her site.

Why did Colin Creevey's camera work etc?

Wizards do not need electricity to make these things work; they function by magic, but in the case of such objects the wizards liked the Muggle invention enough to appropriate the idea without adding cumbersome plugs/batteries.

... I have an old notebook in which it says dev sol (potion) magic [indecipherable word] photos move. Adept as I am at interpreting my old scribbles, I can tell you that the original idea was that wizards would use a magical developing potion to make their photographs move.

SO... as Colin's batteries can't work in Hogwarts, clearly his camera is running off the magical atmosphere and he is then developing his photographs in the magical potion that causes the figures therein to move. All of which goes to show that Colin has a lot more initiative than I ever realised.

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    Oh, so that's where the HP wikia got the "magical atmosphere" explanation. Someone should probably fix their citation.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:37

Aside from the other answers that describe how a mechanical camera doesn't conflict with the statements around messing with electrical equipment, here's a possible theory on how the motion is captured:

The camera could be constructed, either mechanically or with magical assistance, to take 2 or more pictures over a series of time. The time could be on the order of seconds but enough to capture a range of motion. The magically assisted film development phase would then interpolate the differences between frames to create the appearance of seamless motion. It's pretty much the same concept as motion film, only the projector in this case is a magically enhanced two dimensional screen.

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