Just because it's called ghosting doesn't make it paranormal

7th August 2016. Reading Time: 6 minutes Photography, General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 3013 page views. 3 comments.

Not all orbs are dust. Some are the results of a photography term called ghosting which is really a form of lens flare. Here is all you need to know about ghosting and how to spot it and why it appears in your photos. The most important thing to note is just because it is called ghosting by photographers, doesn't mean it is paranormal!

It is quite common for people to post a photo on social media of what they believe is an 'orb'.  To them this orb is proof that it is a spirit.  It is often accompanied by a feeling or experience they have.  While they may be feeling or experiencing something, this 'orb' is not proof of that.  While the general explanation is that orbs are simply light light reflecting off dust, some are the results of a photography term called ghosting which is really a form of lens flare.  

Over the years have studied and completed Certificate 4 in Applied Photography and really thrown myself into the craft of photography. A lot of this meant instead of just picking up a camera in auto mode and shooting whatever, I have learnt not only proper ways to compose a photograph, but also how a camera works and what sort of things can effect your photos and cause strange things to pop up. This has been such a beneficial tool when it comes to analysing photos for paranormal investigation. Unfortunately for a lot of people it means I am much more well equipped to debunk a photograph, but I feel that if I can explain certain things in really simple terms and help people gain a better understanding of photography without having to study like I did then why not. This then will help them to become better equiped as paranormal investigators in not only analysing photos but taking them as well. This is going to be purely focused on regular photography with digital SLR cameras and mobile phones which is what is used to take the majority of photographs that an investigator is presented with. Ghost apps and faked photos and photoshop aside this is concentrating on un-altertered photos. While this is focused more on DSLR and mobile phone photography, it is important to note that just because you have a camera that has been converted to IR or UV specifically for investigating, if it has a lens and a light source, then you can still get 'ghosting'.

Just when you think you have a great shot, you end up with this green dot. It is not paranormal, it is the light from the light source (in this case the lamp in the room) hitting the lens at an angle.

So lets start really slow and simple and tackle what prompted me to want to start this series of blog posts. Ghosting. Funnily enough ghosting has nothing to do with ghosts. It actually has to do with that pesky green dot that shows up in photos. Its even more than just a green dot it is sometimes a line of several transparent orbs that photographers refer to as ghosts and they are not speaking literally. Some people claim it is a spirit and even fairies also seems to be a popular one Ive heard as well. When you are looking at dust orbs, there is normally quite a few of them in the picture so they are easy to debunk and are different to what you are looking at here. Because only one or two of these guys appear in your photo, sometimes people get excited and lean toward the paranormal side because they are clearly not dust. Sorry guys it is not paranormal. Bummer I know. Have you noticed that whenever this green light or one or two transparent orbs pop up in your photos there is usually the sunshine beaming down or a bright light shining in a room? Do they have a connection? Absolutely yes they do. I find these orbs so very annoying. In a lot of the photography I do, I like to try to use light already in a room or outdoors as a filler as I am not a big fan of flash photography and I avoid it where possible. This means I always have a bright light source in my photos so these guys show up a lot. It’s the green ones that I have seen pop up on Facebook a lot lately with people claiming they have caught something. I suppose the transparent orbs are more obviously caused by the sunlight and there are usually several of them so when people see a single green orb in a photo they are surprised, confused and excited.

It’s not just green dots that are caused by this reflection. Transparent or slightly coloured orbs (there is usually more than one) are also caused by this form of lens reflection.

So why does the light cause this green dot or green orb to appear and ruin our photos? In a really simple nutshell, the light is hitting the lens at an angle and is bouncing between the elements in your lens causing a reflection. Yes it happens with mobile phone cameras as well. Even a simple digital camera can produce this as well – pretty much anything that is a lens will have this problem.

Image Source http://fstopspot.com/main/free-guides-for-photographers/controlling-and-managing-lens-flare-in-photograph/
This diagram very simply shows you how this can happen on both digital cameras and mobile phone cameras

You will notice that the orb (no matter what colour it is) is always in line with a light beam. This is always a key indicator and one of the first things you should look for when analysing photos. So how can we avoid picking these up? You can never completely eliminate the possibility that you will catch one of these pesky guys in your shot, but you can weigh the odds in your favour by adapting a few tricks when you are taking your photos. So if you are at a location snapping away, there are a few simple things you can do to avoid this happening.

If you have a DSLR camera, use a lens hood. The bigger the hood, the less of a chance there is for the light to bounce off your lens at an angle. If you don’t have a lens hood or you are using a phone or a digital camera, put your hand over the top to shield the light. Be aware of where the light source is coming in. If it is on your side, the more of a chance it has to bounce off the lens or again shield the lens with your hand in the direction that the light is coming in. If you are using a DSLR camera, a UV filter on your lens can also work against you in this instance and you might want to take it off. (This is why a lot of IR cameras don't pick up as many of these 'orbs' as the UV filter is removed.) The good thing is that ghosting is picked up by your viewfinder or your screen so you should be able to see it before you snap the photo.

There are some precautions you can take to try to avoid these ‘ghosts’ appearing in your photos. From a non paranormal perspective, they are extremely hard to edit out in post production

There you have it! It is actually a really easy concept to get your head around and it is easy to explain to people. For some just knowing it is lighting bouncing off the lens at an angle is enough while other people do need the more complicated diagrams and want to start talking about elements inside the lenses and I am tuning out just thinking about it as well. It is also worth noting that Ghosting is actually a term used in photography to cover a form of motion blur as well (something I will cover in another post) but this particular form of ghosting is a type of lens flare. Light is the number one thing to take into consideration in photography. It controls everything so we need to understand the effect it has on our photos. When we fully understand the effect that light has on photos, we can debunk 99% of genuine photographs that cross our path. That other 1% well that is why we are here isn't it?

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  • Jenny Alderton 5 years ago

    Great blog. My feelings exactly.

  • Donna McDowell 6 years ago

    Fantastic page!!! Love it!!!

  • Donna McDowell 6 years ago

    Fantastic page!!! Love it!!!