The following are a few photos from more than six years’ tests, trying to fake convincing “ghost photos.” I tried to recreate circumstances I’d blamed for photos with orbs, apparent vortices, and so on.
All of these pictures were taken in low-light conditions. I always used the flash on my camera to try to highlight the deceptive object or issue. I wanted to create false anomalies.
The first group of photos are things that could look paranormal if you didn’t know what was in the picture. Half of the photos show a single piece of hair or a few strands of it. That could happen if a photographer has long hair (as I do) and doesn’t pin it back.
The other photos in this first group show camera straps. I used to think pictures of camera straps always showed both ends of the strap exiting the frame of the photo. Not true. Now I know the weird, textured shape can even seem suspended in front of the photographer.
Also, my camera strap is almost black. The reason it looks white is because the camera’s flash is very bright, and it highlights the camera strap.
About 90% of the “vortex” pictures I’ve seen were probably camera straps, or something like them. If you use a camera strap (recommended, especially in dark settings), be sure to loop it around your wrist or — if it’s a very long strap — over your arm or shoulder.
(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, the following thumbnail illustrations show the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)
The second group of photos shows how difficult it is to create convincing, fake “ghost orbs.”
The first few pictures are flash photos taken on a densely foggy morning. Even the one with the white lines (a spiderweb) doesn’t show convincing-looking orbs.
Next, you can see some smoke photos. Unless your camera is sensitive to smoke, you’d need to be surrounded by smokers for smoke to be a significant issue. Regular cigarette smoke barely showed up. When we tested clove cigarettes (a different density of smoke), that was slightly more convincing.
Incense looked anomalous in my photos. However, unless your team is using a sage smudge, or the client burns lots of incense at home, I’m not certain we need to be concerned about smoke.
I could not get chimney smoke to show up in photos. Unless weather conditions are “just so,” hot air — and woodsmoke — rise into the atmosphere. Smoke is not likely to descend and remain thick enough to be an issue. However, smoke from a nearby campfire could be an issue.
The remaining photos show some random samples of test photos, trying to create lens flares and fake orbs. Insects, house lights, and even sparkly, reflective jewelry didn’t produce anything noteworthy.
After years of study, using film and digital cameras, I finally had to admit that I’d been mistaken about false, ghostly anomalies.
- Orbs are much harder to fake than I’d expected. Moisture, reflective surfaces, and even house lights rarely create convincing orbs. Most lens flares are too obvious to confuse with unexplained orbs, and lens flares are far more difficult to create in typical ghost hunting circumstances.
- Camera straps can cause “vortex” images, even if one or two ends of the strap seem to vanish in the photo. Keep your camera strap wound around your wrist or arm.
- Hair can cause weird looking lines and swirls, some of them dotted with an orb at the end. Wear a scarf if you’re taking ghost photos.
- Cigarette smoke is very difficult to capture in a photo. We tried traditional cigarettes (it’s nearly invisible) and clove cigarettes (before the ban). Cloves gave better results, but still aren’t much to worry about.
- Smoke from the right incense can appear ghostly. However, unless you’re using sage smudges at a site, I don’t think that’s an issue. Cone incense and incense on charcoal dispersed too quickly to photograph. Stick incense produced the best results, but it had to be waved right in front of the lens, even on a very still night.
- Fog causes faint, repeating orbs. In hundreds of foggy photos, I saw nothing I’d confuse with a ghostly orb.
- Jewelry, house lights, and spider webs don’t seem to create confusing images in photos.
Don’t take my word for it. That’s important. Run tests with your own cameras. Know how they respond to these kinds of issues. No two cameras have the same sensitivities.