Photographic Analysis

                                                   Photographic Analysis

One of the most frustrating things for me to deal with as a paranormal researcher is the number of sincere people in this field who do not have the faintest idea how to take and analyze photographs. Since an authentic photograph of an apparition is the holy grail of paranormal investigating, it is very important to learn how to take good photographs,  how to gain a thorough understanding of your camera, and how to analyze a photograph. Most investigators are very lazy when it comes to this issue. It's time to get down to serious business and learn the correct way to use your camera, how your camera works, and what a fake photograph looks like. 

Here is why I am so frustrated. I have posted things like this before, but I hoped that it was starting to abate. No. I was wrong, as I often am. This was posted on Facebook recently, which makes it public, so I am using it as an example. All of the names of the contributors, as well as the group that posted it on their site, have been removed.

A picture was posted. The claim is that possibly something paranormal was caught in the window; some sort of ghostly image. The person was asking for opinions. Here is the picture and here are the comments. I have not corrected anything. My remarks are in red:

ok so going through pics on my facebook and i notice something in the window behind my daughter.... We have NO PETS. WTH is this

 Looks like a frog .... 
a frog??! 
looks like the reflection of the gingerbread box. 
  after looking at it more carefully i do see if could be the reflection... i also see the chair now too. hhaaa thanks...

 Looks like a sea turtle...when you zoom in on it. Hmmm. Have you ever had pets in that home?
A sea turtle??!  and for a pet? what?
we have only live here 2 years and no pets
Yea, I think it is the reflection of whatever that is on the table. Cause I also see the lines of the tabletop in it. Lol
 This is correct. But, it gets ignored by many as the comments continue.
That's an interesting photo. At first glance, it seems like there are bugs illuminating behind the glass, which could potentially cause the smudge-y reflections on the glass you get if you zoom in closely. However, it is hard to tell exactly what is causing those lights, since there are four of them that seem to have different degrees of illumination and size. I was actually very skeptical upon first viewing this image, but I analyzed it more carefully in Jasc PaintShopPro 9, and not only does it seem un-Photo shopped, but I cannot say for certain if those are actually insects or reflections or something else. By the way, cute gingerbread house! 
Here is a perfect case of over analyzing. Of course it's not photo shopped, because it's nothing so there is nothing to fake.  This person gets themselves into a tangled knot of illogical over thinking.
 A girl with glasses? A bike?! Where? I don't see anything like that. How can you get that out of this picture? Amazing. Again, this is over analyzing, or simply an overly active imagination.
reflection of the beads? Great job on the ginger bread house 
 Correct again.
Ah, now that I look again, it could be reflecting the items on the table. That's the only sense I can make out of it.
 Finally..some common sense and someone who knows how to LOOK.

Looks like a reflection of the candies in the bag on the table.
Looks like a boy to me
A boy? now we have a boy to go with the girl with glasses, the frog, the cat and the candy.
Phantom dog... Possibly native American ? Protecting~
 Ok. This one really made my head spin. A Native American dog? Protecting...protecting what? Those tricky Native Americans. They are always getting themselves involved in the paranormal. All those pesky sacred Indian burial grounds, Indian curses, Shamans.  Now dogs. And in your kitchen while you are making cute gingerbread houses too.
It's a reflection. The candy on the table is being reflected in the window. It does look creepy but nothing to worry about
Thank you, Mr/Ms rational and logical. You restore my faith in people.
Terrie I belive you are right! it is in line with the back of the chair too.

 I agree that it is a reflection of the beads in the plastic bag on the table.

  it looks like a freaky looking cat to me
Pareidolia, matrixing, simulacrum. No cat!
  Part of it is the reflection of the back of the chair other is reflection of whats on the table

  Scared me for a second! But I see a reflection of a boy that must be sitting across from the girl
 it looks like a head of a cat ...
That pesky cat is back.
  It's the reflection of the bag of candy on the table
Yes, it is. Thank you.
This one really amazed me because I found it to obviously be a reflection of the bag on the table. All you have to do is look at the picture to see that.  

When examining a photograph for paranormal images, the first thing you want to ask yourself is, are there any reflective surfaces? Well, yeah.  The window is a reflective, glass surface. Reflective surfaces will mirror or reflect whatever is around it. This reflection was clear and obviously a refection of what was right beside it on the table. You can even see the chair. Why didn't everyone get it?

Matrixing. We take images, especially ones that are gray-toned, and we see faces. Our mind's eye wants to organize everything shadowy into a face. Whatever the brain decides to organize it into, we then need to label and identify. So we "see" what is called a simulacrum..something similar to what we think we are seeing. Then we can't "not" see it. So, this time we have a cat's face. Once you "see" the cat's face you can't not see it. It's stuck there. Matrixing is also called Pareidolia. It is probably the biggest problem investigators have in analyzing photographs. If you become aware of this issue, you should be able to tell when you are matrixing. 
But what about the others, who saw frogs, dogs, Native American protectors, a girl with glasses, a boy? We all have different ways of seeing. Our brains work pretty much the same, but the information in each brain is different. We are all individuals, so we all see things differently. This is why eye witness accounts in a trial are so very unreliable. 
The rest of the things that were said here? Some people need to turn things into a narrative, an explanation that includes a story of some sort. Many of us are compulsive story tellers. Some of us just have wilder imaginations than others. 
Then there is the issue of influence. If someone says they see a cat's face, and we read that, then we tend to see the same thing. It unconsciously influences what we think we see. It's quite powerful and very common. If you become aware of this influence, you can set aside the influence and see objectively. Just realize that once the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, it's very hard to get it back in.

So, when analyzing a photograph, first, look for reflective surfaces. If you can speak to a person who was there when the photo was taken, or the actual photographer, they can explain to you what or who was actually in the room at the time, and where they were. We can immediately rule out reflections of actual cats, boys, girls with glasses, bikes, dogs, and Native Americans. 
Check the image to make sure you are not matrixing. 
Now, check the photograph itself. Is it clear? Blurry? Too dark? Enlarged to the point of pixelation? Enhanced by darkening or lightening? You can check for possible photo shopping by checking the size of  the image. Most photo shopped images are very large, but not all. 
If you cannot explain the image, find out what other evidence or experiences happened at the same time in the same location to other investigators. You may be able to back up what you caught with an EVP or an audible sound on a recording, etc. 

Here are some very common mistakes that researchers make when analyzing photographs:

1. Orbs. Digital cameras with flash will turn a speck of dust, a bug, a water droplet, into an orb. Try an experiment. Get an old fashioned 35 mm camera. Kick up some dust by fluffing up a pillow, or simply kicking the floor. Take a picture with your digital camera, and another picture with the 35 mm. The digital camera will show orbs. The 35 mm will not have any orbs. So this is a problem with digital cameras. Be aware of it and do not waste your time on orb shots.

2. Camera straps. Often the camera strap or some other object will be very close to the lens of the camera. When a picture is taken it will often look like a white shape, misty, blurry, and often very odd. Make sure nothing like that was in front of the camera. Test by taking a shot to see if it looks the same. You can also go online and put in a search to look at many examples of this sort of problem.  

3. Bugs. I was once with a team that got to set up video in a home for a whole week. While reviewing the video we saw an amazing white misty strand of something that looked like ectoplasm on the video. We tried to debunk it in every way we could think of but no luck. Wow. Had we caught something? No. I suggested that we rewind the video very slowly backward until we get to the place where the white anomaly shows up. Guess what? A spider drops down and it is the web! It was so close to the camera that it looked large and very odd. Sometimes a bug can land on your camera lens and because it is so close it can look paranormal, like an apparition or white mist.Of course, bugs can also show up as orbs.

4. Weather.  If you are shooting outside, be very aware of the weather conditions. If it is damp, misty, foggy, or cold all sorts of things can show up on your camera that are not paranormal. If it is cold be very careful not to breathe when taking the shot. Your breath can look like mist. 

5. Camera shake.  Have you ever seen those photos of a steam or line of light? Your camera can do that. If you have it set on a fairly slow speed, then pan the camera, it will record a line of light. My suggestion is to experiment with your camera, trying to create things like this, just to be aware of how it happens, how your camera works, and how to recognize things like this.

6. Double exposure or film problems. This happens only with 35 mm cameras that use film. The last shot on the film role often will do odd things, the color will be off, or the image cut or blurred. A malfunctioning camera can accidently over expose a shot or double expose a shot. Also, if set on  slow speed, and someone walked into the frame, they can look see-through or transparent. Any movement during a slow speed exposure will create this phantom effect. It can also be done with a digital camera.

7. Aps.  Yes, there is an Ap for this. You can download ghostly apparition pictures and use them in  your photographs, or double expose them or overlay them on top of your photos to turn them into paranormal photos. Watch out for this. You would not believe how many silly people try to pass these off as real. Do a search and it will give you all of the Aps and what they can do and what they look like so you can beware.

7. Deliberate faker-y.  Over the years many famous ghost photographs that were once thought to be authentic have now been debunked. I was so disappointed to see the one below. It was my favorite ghost photo. The Hampton Court Ghost. Apparently, when  you look closely at an enlarged version, the guy is wearing sneakers. I don't think they wore sneakers back then.
  • Hampton Court Ghost Photograph
    This remarkable image first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times (12-21-03) and was apparently captured with a closed-circuit security camera at Hampton Court Palace in London, England. The palace was built in 1525 on the River Thames 10 miles west of central London and was one the the places that King Henry VIII lived. Jane Seymour, his third wife, died there giving birth to a son, and her ghost is said to walk through one of the cobbled courtyards carrying a candle. No one seems to know what this ghostly figure represents but according to security, it sure looks like a ghost.
    This photograph has also been proven very recently to be a hoax as the alleged ghost is said to be wearing sneakers. It was a convincing hoax until recently.  
     However, the photograph below has not been debunked. It is still a mystery and the photograph has been authenticated.  It's one of the most famous of the apparition photos. Every serious investigator should be aware of what these photos look like. This one was used recently by a group as a double exposure over the interior of a restaurant and either the group or the client attempted to pass it off as a real photo from their investigation. All they had to do was know about this photograph to see it had been faked.

    Girl on the gravestone

    This photograph appeared in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the National Examiner. It was taken during an investigation in Bachelor's Grove Cemetery on August 10, 1991 with a group of GRS members. The picture is an enlarged black and white infrared shot taken of an area where many of the group noticed something unusual with some of the equipment they used. It shows a young woman sitting on a tombstone with parts of her lower and upper body being somewhat semi-transparent. The dress she is wearing is also out-of-date. It was taken by member, Jude Huff-Felz.

    Bachelor's Grove Cemetery

    So get familiar with your camera, experiment to see if you can create orbs, camera shake, etc. And look with educated eyes at your photos when analyzing them. Be aware of matrixing, reflective surfaces, influence, and all of the other possibilities, before you declare it paranormal or unexplained. 

    I am adding an addendum to this article, as a response to many of the photographs that have recently been posted on paranormal sites in face book.  For some reason, many people post photos of blurry, out of focus, very dark, or highly lightened or zoomed in photos, then asks for comments from viewers. Then, predictably, people see things in the bad photo and post their opinions. I won't even look at photos that bad, and I certainly won't offer an opinion. Please learn to see photos and learn to determine whether they are worthy of your study. If you are an investigator, learn to take better pictures. If you post photos, please make sure they are of good enough quality to be studied.

    Another problem is people accusing others of posting fakes, or not listening to the person who was actually there when the photo was taken. If you aren't going to take their word for it, then peacefully bow out of the discussion. Don't accuse people of lying or faking. It's nasty and unprofessional.
    Please read this article from the beginning, again, if you aren't sure where to begin. I love taking photos and I love reviewing them. It's a passion. Happy investigating, everyone! And, if you'd like to send me a photo for my opinion, I'd be happy to help.


Popular Posts