How to explain a weird orb in photos?
April 1, 2009 5:31 AM   Subscribe

How can I explain this weird orb in my photos? A ghost, maybe.

I'm curious what causes this effect in the imagines I take with my DSLR... it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the lighting (they appear also in low-light, indoor settings), but I'm a real novice.

Thanks a lot!
posted by mateuslee to Media & Arts (25 answers total)
A few other examples
posted by mateuslee at 5:37 AM on April 1, 2009

The first things that come to mind are dirt on the sensor and light leaks.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:42 AM on April 1, 2009

Speck of dirt or dust on the glass, I'd wager.
posted by Elmore at 5:42 AM on April 1, 2009

I always thought they were reflections of dust. I might be wrong though.
posted by ydontusteponit at 5:42 AM on April 1, 2009

Visually, it looks a lot like lens flare to me. But you say it happens indoors where there are likely no very bright light sources.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:44 AM on April 1, 2009

It could be a flaw on the glass. I doubt it's on the sensor because of the change in size (unless you've upsized the photos). Do you have any other lenses, or know anyone with the same type of camera, to rule out whether it's to do with the lens or camera body?
posted by Elmore at 5:44 AM on April 1, 2009

Looks like lens flare, but the fact that it is orange in every picture makes me wonder. Lens flare can definitely happen inside; in fact I would say it is more common there because of all the light sources in most rooms, one or more of which is likely to be aligned with the lens.
posted by TedW at 5:55 AM on April 1, 2009

Unfocus your lens and point at a solid white wall, then examine the viewfinder for any weirdness while rotating the camera relative to the light source. Take a few photos (disable auto-focus) this way, then examine each carefully on the computer. Anything?
posted by odinsdream at 6:25 AM on April 1, 2009

I'm pretty sure there's an old askme about this (and possibly a post on the blue?). I'll poke around, but you might want to do some searches here.
posted by inigo2 at 6:41 AM on April 1, 2009

Strange. Certainly not simply dust on the sensor or the lens, at least compared to the instances I've seen in five years of DSLR ownership with three different cameras and four different lenses.

More info might help:

How often (every photo)?
Consistent size?
Consistent shape?
Consistent colour?
Consistent position in the photo?
posted by puffmoike at 6:48 AM on April 1, 2009

@PUFFMOIKE: Oh boy, my girlfriend (who is prone to all sorts of superstitions) will eat this up to my dismay.

The size, color, and position vary, but the shape is always as it is there: a roundish sphere like those in the pics.

I've gotten the orb when the sun is in front and behind me, and indoors, too...

What do you think?
posted by mateuslee at 6:55 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Something in the lens or camera body is introducing this defect. The best way to figure out what exactly is to be methodical in testing what causes it.

Try a different lens on your camera. Try your lens on a different camera.
Does the defect appear with pure white light only?
Does it appear with the lens covered?
posted by borkencode at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2009

It's identical to the lens flare I very occasionally get with my DSLR, including the orange colour. But I've only ever got them a couple of times shooting almost right into the sun; so I'm thinking, along with others, that there might be some extra factor like dust.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:27 AM on April 1, 2009

Your camera's sensor is, at its base, a square full of tiny little sensors that see a certain brightness of light. To get color, each pixel in the sensor has a little colored film in front of it, some red, some green, and some blue, put together in a pattern to get the best color photo quality. When light (photons) hit the lens, it makes a voltage, and the combined voltages, along with what color each pixel is detecting, is sent to a processor which makes a photo out of it.

The sensor doesn't see ghosts, it doesn't see any more then your eye can see, and if anything, it sees less, as your eyes are way more advanced than a silly sensor. If it's making something that you cannot see with your eyes, it is something happening between the front of the lens, and the memory card.
posted by Mach5 at 7:34 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

'hit the lens' == 'hit a pixel of the sensor'
posted by Mach5 at 7:35 AM on April 1, 2009

Looks like so-called "orb backscatter". There's a whole bunch of kooky people who think orbs are ghosts or spirits, but it's likely something in the lens or body in your case. To prove it's not a spirit, you could simply use two cameras as the same time to photograph something, although that wouldn't prove that the ghostly beasty wasn't inside your DSLR. I'd try a different lens first, as borkencode suggested. Also try different apertures and focal lengths if you have a zoom lens. If you don't have another lens, you could always make your own pinhole lens easily using the body cover that came with your camera. Then you can verify whether there's something wrong inside the camera body itself. Good luck with your science!
posted by RobotNinja at 7:51 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would occasionally get this effect when using a cheap filter. YMMV
posted by entropy at 7:56 AM on April 1, 2009

it doesn't see any more then your eye can see, and if anything, it sees less, as your eyes are way more advanced than a silly sensor.

This is incorrect. The sensors found in digital cameras can record infrared light (which we can't see), take long exposure shots that make night look like day (which we can't do with our eyes), etc.
posted by wastelands at 8:21 AM on April 1, 2009

Definitely ghosts. You can conjure them in low light conditions by hitting your couch. Try it! Unbelievers think it is your flash reflecting on dust particles close to the lens.
posted by Psychnic at 8:23 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mach5, mateuslee was kidding about the ghost.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:49 AM on April 1, 2009

Judging from the light situations in these three pictures, it seems unlikely that sunlight or any strong light hit the front lens and thus made a reflection.
Apart from an untypical shape for lens reflections on these pics, the color would also be neutrally bright. Orange or red suggests a light leak of the box, or between lens and body (if the lens is detachable) or something. The regular shape, but varying placement suggests that someplace, a ray of light filters into the box, hits one gleaming round object inside, which makes a red splotch on the sensor that changes according to circumstances. Can't hurt to make a few test shots with different light, though.
Otherwise yes, ghosts.
posted by Namlit at 9:16 AM on April 1, 2009

Notice that you're getting a rotationally-mirrored scene. Bright objects are strong enough to see.

It's lens flare caused almost certainly by a filter. I bet you have a UV/"fingerprint" filter on your lens, yes? Try taking it off.

The glass elements in your lens are coated to stop reflections /between/ the glass elements. Some light is coming in (as it should), bouncing back out (fine), and your filter is bouncing it back in (bad).

You can avoid using it when there's a huge contrast in the scene, or you can buy an atrociously expensive coated filter. Sorry.
posted by cmiller at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2009

@ cmiller: Actually, not using any filters on the lens, but maybe this is still related.
posted by mateuslee at 10:53 AM on April 1, 2009

Sometimes insects flying right in front of the lens can cause weird light-orb effects. I don't know enough about photography in general to say that's precisely what's happening here, but it's something to consider.
posted by Nattie at 3:39 PM on April 1, 2009

Definitely a lens flare. The shape is determined by the shape of the aperture on your camera. You've got a circular aperture so it (and any out of focus lights in the background of your pictures) will be circular. There are some cameras that have polygonal apertures, and so the flares/out of focus lights will be polygonal. Color is caused by the coating on your lens (all the different elements) and filters. Sometimes you can see the color of the coating of the lens when you directly into the front of the lens and move the camera around a bit; you'll see multiple reflections in the lens elements (with a canon lens, I've got a bluish reflection, a greenish reflection, and an amber reflection immediately visible on the glass; each is a result of a different coating on the lens). I usually get one of those colors for flares in my picture. And lens flares can happen in all sorts of lighting conditions.

One possible way of trying to eliminate the orbs is to block light hitting the lens at an angle. When you notice the orb in a picture, take an identical picture (angles, fstop, etc., need to be just about the same in each frame) but hold your hand sort of in a cup around the front of the lens as if you were shielding your eyes from the sun. Make the cup block out light from the angle of the light source (if there's a lamp to the left near the ceiling, put your hand on the upper left of the lens). Make sure your hand reaches out as far as you can in front of the lens without actually obscuring any of the frame. Try a few different angles, and you'll probably be able to eliminate the orb. This is exactly what a lens hood is built for.

Also, looking at the pictures again, notice that you've also got a pink and green color a little ways away from the orb in a couple of the pictures. Near the top left of the picture of the person standing wearing jeans, and in the center of the picture near the vertical white bar in the picture where the orb is on the girl's ear. That's part of the flare and (just a guess) if you draw a line between the orb and the green/pink blob and continue the line, you'll point at the light source causing the problem. My guess, also, is that you'll see green, pink, and yellowish reflections in your lens when you look directly at the front glass and move the lens around as I described above.

Also, cheap lenses and cheap filters are more prone to this type of thing, from what I remember.
posted by msbrauer at 7:51 PM on April 1, 2009

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