I see those lines, you see on the picture, on my iPhone 7 jumping random on my display while taking pictures. It was sunset right in the sea in Zakynthos. I would like to know what that is.

Strange lines on picture

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are those lines appear when you have direct view to the sun? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 3, 2021 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


It's called lens flare. Light from the sun that is just out of frame is striking the surface of your camera's lens or surrounding housing and bouncing around inside the lens. Some of that light is included in the part of the image circle that falls on the camera's sensor.

There are many different types of lens flare. In addition to the more well known cases of veiling (a general lose of contrast over a portion or even all of an image), ghosting (an inverted and flipped reflection of a bright highlight within the frame directly across the center of the image from the primary highlight), and specular (those 'circles' that show the shape of the lens' aperture diaphragm) there are other, less common types of flare.

This example, in a photo released by NASA, was taken by the Mars Perseverance Rover. NASA had to clarify to many people who thought they were seeing a photo of a rainbow in the very thin, very dry atmosphere of Mars that the "rainbow" was the effect of lens flare.

enter image description here

If one looks at the iPhone 7 Plus, the housing (rotated 90° for landscape orientation) around the lenses is shaped much like the lower flare in your photo.

enter image description here

The upper flare, above the horizon, is a separate flare that is a section of an arc oriented towards the sun as we would expect with the edge of a round lens. The upper flare is marked by a blue oval with a line drawn towards the sun to show that the arc is the "bow" we would expect for the line's "arrow" often seen with flare.

The lower flare is marked with a yellow oval (that covers part, but not all of it). It looks suspiciously like the shape of the edge of the cover glass over the entire lens assembly.

enter image description here

Reducing lens flare is the reason many lenses for interchangeable lens cameras use hoods. The hood prevents stray light from out of frame from falling on the front of the lens. Unfortunately, with a phone camera any kind of hood would require a protrusion out from the phone's surface.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You think he means those ones at the top? I thought he meant the giant one that seems to start at the horizon and the one above that. Probably also flares of a sort, but perhaps due to lens scratches rather than what one would normally see for such a lens. At least I've never seen a lens in decent condition with such a strange curved flare. Could also be something on the lens flaring. \$\endgroup\$
    – ttbek
    Oct 4, 2021 at 9:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J... Phone lenses are made a bit differently than larger interchangeable lenses, thus the characteristics of their flare is different. Flare produced by scratches is still flare, it's just a different type of flare from veiling or ghosting or other types of flare more typical of traditional lenses. But I'm not convinced this is caused by a surface scratch. It could also be due to the unconventional way some camera phones use 'periscope' type construction to stretch out a focal length longer than the thickness of the phone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Oct 5, 2021 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an addition to what I already said, I held the iPhone directly at the setting sun and the open sea and could observe this phenomenon on my display. The lines moved and formed, they were not static. I've never seen anything like this before or since. Anyway, thanks for the very detailed answer! \$\endgroup\$
    – Aklaus
    Oct 5, 2021 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe this helps: streamable.com/m3wv4h (There are no scratches on my lens, at least none visible for me) \$\endgroup\$
    – Aklaus
    Oct 6, 2021 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Aklaus The video tells the story - those are ghosts from the reflections on the water. \$\endgroup\$
    – J...
    Oct 6, 2021 at 11:46

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