The process behind analyzing alleged paranormal photos:
Some of you may be wondering what is entailed in analyzing a photo that's supposedly paranormal in nature.
There's no set black and white method to determine if what you're looking at is a real image of a ghost, but there is a set of processes and thought patterns that one needs to follow, which will assist in eliminating fake/doctored pictures.
When receiving photos from people, we look at them from a logical point of view first:
Some examples: Lighting, rain, ambient conditions (dust), reflective surfaces (windows/mirrors etc), weather conditions, smoke, clothing, all elements in the scene, shapes and immediately identifiable "noise"
We then look at an images EXIF/Metadata to determine media type, and the settings of the device used to take the photo. These can be extremely helpful in disproving certain anomalies, and analyzing the shutter speeds/scene settings/focal ranges, flash firing etc.
Insects and dust:
The majority of our "orb" analysis pictures are caused by dust or insects.
Taking into consideration that when analyzing pictures, one has to take into consideration that we would not always have physical access to the device that too the photo to examine lens quality/marks or scratches, not being able to have documented and analyzed the site in question to rule out obvious causes and the inability to recreate the photo at the exact time. It is therefore extremely difficult to determine without a shadow of doubt that the entity photographed was not caused by something in the immediate surroundings, or as a result of movement by a subject being photographed.
Faulty processing, or doctored images:
You can double-check an image with an ESA analysis to highlight obvious image doctoring.
Angle and instance in which the photos were taken are also extremely important to take into consideration. Stray light from a light source/flash/street light/sun etc can cause artifacts that may be misconstrued as entities.
Although film cameras are rarely used these days, one has to take into consideration the markings of age on film photos, or double-exposures also.
The type of camera used: Different cameras capture differently. Digital cameras and their flashes are extremely prone to "orb" captures, IR camera's are also extremely sensitive to dust/insect reflections. Thermal cameras are prone to reflective heat sources, and residual heat patterns, i.e. if someone had just touched a wall, the pattern of a hand would be visible for some time thereafter. One has to be mindful of what you are experiencing and seeing through your feedback screen.
Many of the photos submitted to us also involve extreme motion, which paves the way to an effect known as Pareidolia.
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Your brain is hardwired to attempt to make sense of patterns and this can cause a person to believe that there is something there when in fact, there isn't.
It is extremely common to see something that resembles a face in rocks, dirt, walls, curtains, fire, etc.
Digital Matrixing is closely related to Pareidolia. If a photo is taken in low-light conditions for example, with a low-resolution camera, the resultant image begins to get pixelated, and "mixes" into it's surroundings. This can lead to many "faces" or supposed full-bodied apparitions becoming apparent.
It is helpful to receive the highest quality photo of the submission, and to open it in a high-powered image editing program. This allows you to tweak the brightness, contrast, apply filters and clean up noise as necessary to get a better look at the photo in question. From there, you can apply logic once more, look at the surroundings, potential causes of what you're seeing and gauge from there.
There are also a number of online resources that will analyse your photos for free, again, these look for obvious signs of doctoring as a start.
Sometimes, external influences such as Camera Straps, breath on a cold night, smoke etc play a role in incorrect claims.
"Ghost Apps" on cellphones:
These days there are apps for virtually everything. There are apps that allow you to add elements to photos, and even ghosts! One needs to be mindful of obvious photoshopping/app prank pics, and take all into consideration when looking at these kinds of pics, such as placement in front of objects, or behind, clarity vs. original clarity of the photo, rough edges, different colour formats etc.