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Digitally manipulated photo
Digitally manipulated photo

Note that ALL other photographs in this Anomalous Photo section have NOT been digitally processed (apart from compression).

The photo above shows a wood taken from a hill above (not haunted as far as I know!). However, all is not as it seems! The 'foreground', consisting of rocks and a tree stump, came from two completely different photographs. At this tiny size the manipulation may not be noticed by a casual observer. However, it is a deliberately crude montage designed to illustrate what to look out for if you suspect digital manipulation.

The 'foreground' looks nicely sharp. However, further back, half way into the background it looks sharp again. Since one photo can only have one place where sharpness is at its best, this implies two photos stuck together.

Also, the tree stump looks sharper and brighter than the the rest of the 'foreground', even though it is supposed to be at the same distance from the camera.

Tellingly, the 'foregound' looks to have been photographed horizontally. But the trees behind appear to have been snapped diagonally from above. Also, the edges of the 'foreground' look strangely sharp, like a picture cut from a magazine.

Anomalous photo pages...
Orb FAQ - start here for orbs
What are anomalous photos?
Orbs and light trails
Vortexes and mists
Reflections, simulacra, shadows
Manipulation and more orbs
Taking anomalous photos
Odd shaped and coloured orbs
Orbs behind objects and zone
Take great orb photos
Orbs that aren't dust
Orbs: alternative explanations
Orbs with tails
Ghosts and extras in photos
Flare and weird glowing shapes
A weird photo and mirages

EXIF information

Digital cameras record all sorts of useful data about each exposure in the actual picture file itself. This can be seen on with EXIF readers (or, on Windows XP, in the properties tab). The information includes when the picture was taken and (if applicable) last modified! Note, however, that there is software to modify EXIF information.


How to tell manipulated photos

With the advent of digital photography and photo processing by computer, it became very easy to manipulate images. What is more, as we no longer have a film negatives to go back to, it can be hard to tell if a paranormal photograph is exactly as it was taken or if it has been enhanced, processed or manipulated.

One clue is if it is 'too good to be true'. Most reports of paranormal phenomena have, down the years, consistently been ambiguous and open to interpretation. If this wasn't so, many of the important questions like 'what are ghosts' would have been settled long ago. Sadly, when we get apparently fantastic evidence, like a perfect, unambiguous picture of a ghost or a UFO, showing extraordinary detail, it generally turns out to be fake. So, if you are faced with a picture that is unambiguous - it is either an alien spacecraft or a fake - you should err on the side of caution. Otherwise, you may find yourself looking silly when someone later admits to having faked it. This principle tends to be true for all reports of paranormal phenomena, not just anomalous photographs.

What to look for

Here are a few things to look for if you suspect a paranormal photo has been digitally manipulated.

  • Objects which are supposedly at the same distance from the camera should look equally sharp
  • All shadows should go in the same direction and be in correct proportion to the height of the object
  • Every object should look as though it was photographed from the same angle
  • Objects next to each other should be lit in the same way and have similar colour saturation
  • Objects should appear in correct proportion ie. not too big or too small compared to other objects supposedly at the same distance from the camera
  • Objects should 'interact properly' with others around them ie. hidden behind foreground objects if they overlap and obscuring objects behind them
  • The edges of objects should look 'natural', not oddly sharp ('clipped')
  • If the file has EXIF information, it should show no modifications since the photo was taken

The absence of EXIF data does not necessarily imply digital manipulation. If files have been compressed (to send over email), their EXIF data may have been removed by the photo processing software (particularly older versions).

Other things to look out for (which depend on the ways software manipulates images):

  • look at highly zoomed version to see if there are different size pixels (should all be the same in untouched photo) in suspect areas
  • increase brightness and contrast hugely - inserted objects may show up surrounded by a dark 'edge'
  • look for completely 'empty' areas ('holes') which may indicate that small objects have been deleted
  • look for multiple identical details which may indicate cut and pasted insertions
  • try changing colour levels to see if objects dissappear or appear

Try these ...


Orbs are very close

Orb against in-focus background
Orb against in-focus background

If you look at the 'orb' in the picture above, it appears fairly sharp with well-defined edges and uniform white colouration.

Orb against out of focus background Orb against out of focus background

In the next picture, an 'orb' appears in front of the same background. This time the background is too close to be in focus*. However, the orb still appears sharply defined and uniformly coloured. This is despite the fact that it must be far too close to be in focus. That is because it is, in fact, a circle of confusion which represents a single point light-source hopelessly out of focus.

The 'orb' must be out of focus because everything in the field of view, even the subject itself, is too close to the camera lens to be in focus. This shows that such orbs are not 'out there and in focus' but instead are extremely close to the lens and very much out of focus.

* This is known to be the case here because both pictures were taken deliberately (like most photos here) to demonstrate the point

© Maurice Townsend 2007