What is Ghosting in Photography and How to Remove it in Real Estate Photos

Ghosting in the world of photography pertains to a type of flare that only happens when a strong source of light continuously reflects off the surface of the lens. This flare ends up making the images look hazy with a mix of unbalanced contrast, and also causes multiple orbs of different shapes and colors to appear.

The orbs we are referring to are where the term “ghost” comes from. They can be numerous or minimal, depending on just how many elements are in in your lens.

While this is generally a happenstance that professional real estate photographers take extra precaution to avoid, some artists purposely add it in for creative effect.

What Is A Lens Flare

Lenses are full of glass, which are all designed to bend your image’s light source. By bending the light source, it projects an image onto the camera sensor, and this is how your images are captured.

In the process of bending light, the light tends to bounce everywhere. Since glass is reflective, the bounce can sometimes cause a different outcome. For instance, when light rays that come from a very bright source reach the front optic element of your camera lens, the light can end up reflecting off of different lens elements at the same time.

When this happens, a steak of unwanted light appears across your image, and can directly affect the overall quality of your photograph. It can also created unwanted objects that appear in varying sizes, shapes, and numbers. Lastly, it can also drastically reduce the image contrast and apply a haze in multiple colors.

This is a lens flare.

How Does A Lens Flare Differ From Ghosting?

Because of how unpredictable light and its impact on reflective lenses can be, there are many kinds of lens flares. Ghosting is one kind of lens flare, and generally happens when light moves around too much.

As mentioned above, ghosting appears as orbs in varying shapes, sizes, colors, and colors. Depending on the amount of elements in your lens, they can be minimal or run across the entire image.

Below, we discuss all the factors that impact lens flares, what you can do to prevent ghosting in your images, and also how to fix it in post production if you find your image having some orbs.

5 Factors That Impact Lens Flares

It is important to first know and fully understand the different factors that go into getting lens flares. By being more aware of the elements that contribute to ghosting, the more you are able to prevent them from happening – or even purposely add them in if that floats your boat!

There are 5 main factors that impact lens flares and ghosting, namely:

The elements within your chosen camera lens

Every camera lens has multiple lenses inside of it. These are there to correct the spherical aberrations and other optical issues that usually go into photographing real estate.

The many different lens elements are what determine just how the light sources get repeatedly reflected. They also determine whether or not the reflected light has an actual orb created.

The coatings on your chosen camera lens

The elements found within a lens not only vary in number and shape, but also in the different coatings they possess. There are various types of lens coatings that range in quality. The one manufactured into your lens also impact the lens flare and ghosting of your images.

The focal length on your chosen camera lens

The longer the focal length of your camera lens ranges, the more it can create flare. Given this information, it is safe to assume that a telephoto lens generally creates more flare compared to wide-angle lenses. If you have a lens with a wide focal range, test each of the lengths out to determine where the ghosting starts to appear.

The aperture on your chosen camera lens

By changing the aperture on your lens, you can either prevent or cause ghosting. It all depends on how well you can find a balance between the settings and environment. Moreover, the ghosts will be shaped differently depending on the shape of the lens aperture. This means that they may appear different when you use different lenses.

The light source of your photo shoot

How your light source is positioned in your shot is vital to the prevention or addition of ghost flares. The position determines how it hits the surface of your lens, and this by far is the most important factor that impacts visible ghosting.

How To Prevent Ghosting In Your Images?

Knowing the 5 main factors that impact how visible or present ghosting will be in your images helps in preventing them in the future. If you are looking for more specific tips and tricks on how to keep ghost flares at bay, try practicing these 4 ways to prevent ghosting.

Use camera lenses with made of high quality

Camera lenses on the market today greatly vary in price point, advantages, features, coating, and overall quality. The coating, in particular, greatly impacts the overall quality, so it is best to invest wisely.

Camera lens manufacturers have a lot of coating technologies that they incorporate into designing the latest lenses. Canon, for example, uses their Subwavelength Structure Coating (SWC) and Air Sphere Coating (ASC), which are both excellent choices in trying to prevent flare issues.

Nikon also has their own version called Nano Crystal Coat, which has proven to drastically reduce ghost and flares.

By ensuring that the lens you invest in are pro-grade or at least have impressive anti-reflective coating on them, you can greatly reduce chances of ghosting and flare in your images.

Use lens hoods

A lens hood is an external accessory that you can easily attach on the front end of your camera lens. It has been manufactured specifically to protect the front elements of your lens from the light rays shining through the sides. They come in varying shapes and sizes as well to fit every preference and need.

Eliminating any unnecessary filters

All of the optical elements increase lens flares because of how the light reflects off them; Meaning to say that having fewer elements can help reduce flare. To help with this, remove any unnecessary filters that are not needed for the specific shot, such as the UV filter perhaps.

Switch up your position

As much as possible, avoid pointing your camera directly into a strong and bright light source when shooting. Simply changing your angle of view during photo shoots can greatly help prevent lens flares.

However, there will be some instances wherein you may not be able to avoid it. In this case, try and block off the bright light using another object, which hopefully can result in a nice glow within your shot.

How Do I Fix Ghosting In Photoshop?

Should you find that your images from the recent photo shoot have ghosts and flares in them, there is no need to crop or delete the image. You can remove these in Adobe Photoshop utilizing one of two ways. One of these methods may work better than the other depending on the lens flare you re dealing with at the moment. Experiment on which works best, and which on you are also more comfortable with.

Using The Content Aware Method

The content aware method is best utilized when ghosting happens on solid colors or even on patterns. This may not be the best tool when ghosting appears on multiple differing objects.

Step 1: Select the area around the ghost itself.

Step 2: Select “Edit” under the drop-down menu and then select “Fill. “

Step 3: Choose content aware.

Step 4: Deselect the area.

That’s all there is to it! Once you have deselected the area, you should be able to find that the AI technology within the program effectively remedied your image’s ghost and flare issue.

Using The Clone Stamp Method

The clone stamp method gives you much more control over the pixels you need to manipulate in order to remove ghosting and flares. This basically copies the pixels from your selected area, and pastes it over the pixels with ghost and flare.

Step 1: Select the clone stamp tool

Step 2: Adjust your brush (or stamp) according to the size and hardness that you prefer.

Step 3: While holding down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) button, choose and click your source point.

Step 4: Once you have copied your source point, paste it on top of the areas with ghost and flare.

Important To Note

More often than not, there is a veiling flare when ghosting is present, which can drastically reduce the overall contrast of your image. Once you have removed the visible orbs from the photo, add a Brightness and Contrast Adjustment Layer and the increase the contrast of your entire image to balance it out.

You’re All Set!

Both lens flares and ghosting can be fairly common in real estate photography and even in videos. They happen most especially when you are taking shots of the exteriors.

If you are shooting on a very bright and sunny day, we highly suggest being more mindful of how you position your camera away from the direct light source. Practicing this can really help your images look better and garner more leads with your attention to detail.

At the end of the day, if the task is too difficult, feel free to outsource to professional photo editors.

That’s all there is to it!