An acquaintance recently posted an image to FB from his recent trip to the JFK Historic Site asking for an explanation of a visible artifact he states was not visible to the naked eye but was visible through the EVF of his camera and in the final image.

Image 1

The artifact is a series of bright, nearly-vertical bars and a longer, almost horizontal bar superimposed over the lower part of the door frame and the radiator.

I found a very similar artifact in another image of the same room from a blogger which isn't as compressed:

Image 2

In both cases the artifact seems to be a vertically inverted image of the post and rail outside the saturated window. From looking at other images of the room available online I know there is spherical glass ornament topping the table lamp whose shape is visible at the left of the photo.

One response to the OP's question is as follows:

RK: It is lens flare. So, even on an iPhone, the camera lens is made up of multiple lenses. Each designed to focus the image and make sure it isn't distorted. Remember a lens bends light. Sometimes, based on angle and intensity of the incoming light, some stray light bounces back and forth while traveling through the various elements that make up what we think of as a camera lens (some of mine have 16 elements inside a single lens.) Even the best glass is capable of reflecting some light instead of passing it through the lens elements to the sensor. This is what you are seeing. The railing is overexposed, and some stray light is bouncing around a bit inside the lens.

My response:

DJ: I don't think it's lens flare or ghosting. Those usually form an image of starbursts, rings, or circles in a row across the image or in the shape of the aperture; or a veiling glare or haze. This is forming an image of the light outside minus objects in its path. It is more likely a direct reflection/projection off a mirror or the glass in a picture frame elsewhere in the room onto the opposite wall and the radiator. There are two other clues which seem to confirm this. First, the image has a gradiated appearance, it is less distinct in the relatively bright area on the door frame and brighter in the relatively darker areas behind and on the radiator. You would expect lens flare to be more evenly specular. Second, the image representing the light from below the horizontal rail changes angle on the different faces of the door frame. Unlike a projection, lens flare is an image created within the lens, the physical shape of the objects it superimposes do not change its shape.

OP: If that were the case, would I have been able to see said reflection in the room without the camera? There was no image I could see with the naked eye. I notice the image in my phone before I took the pic and did a double, triple and quadruple take before I took it so I'm sure.

DJ: It would have been visible at the moment the image was taken, but it may not have appeared nearly as bright and distinct because your eyes were accommodating for the bright light coming in the window. The projection could have easily been obscured by you or anyone around you changing position or moving through the path of the projected reflection. Also, it's been caught by other people... (see Image 2) Notice that, in the linked example, the projection is again distorted by the surface it falls on.

Anyone else want to chime in with an explanation?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If it is not visible with the naked eye but you can see it on your image, it probably either moiré, internal reflection in the lens or reflection from an other object. It isn't moiré and it doesn't seem that a planar mirror is around. My bet is on internal reflection \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 20:45
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You say it is not ghosting, then you go on to describe the effect by using a classic description of ghosting? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 1:55
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of is it normal to get significant lens flare with a 50mm f/1.8 Canon prime lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 2:23

2 Answers 2


What you are seeing in the photo is a specific type of lens flare known as ghosting. It is an inverted and reversed reflection of the brightest highlights of the scene. If you were to draw an x and y axis intersecting in the center of the photo, all of the artifacts in the photo have corresponding bright light sources at the same distance from center and at the same angle from vertical and horizontal on the opposite quadrant.

Digital sensors are much more reflective than film was, and additional care must be taken to reduce the effects of ghosting when designing lenses to be used for digital cameras. But even the best designs have their limits. Any scene with bright light sources will demonstrate some ghosting, but it is usually not noticeable if the rest of the scene is bright enough to hide it. When there is such a large difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a scene, though, then reflections that fall in areas that are dimmer will be much more noticeable. For more, please see Does high reflectiveness of digital sensor lead to poor lens performance?

The artifacts are visible in an EVF because the main sensor is being used to create the image seen in the EVF. This allows light to bounce off the front of the sensor stack, onto rear surfaces of lens elements, and back to the sensor. If one were to use a traditional DSLR, the artifacts would not be visible in the optical viewfinder when the mirror is down and blocking the light from the lens reaching the sensor (even if the shutter curtains were open).

For suggestions on how to deal with ghosting, please see this answer.

Here's an obvious example of ghosting that is easy to see due to the very bright lights and the very dark areas in the same scene.

enter image description here

Here's an external view of the house pictured in the question. One can see the railing on the second floor balcony that is reflected, upside down, in the images taken from inside the upstairs front bedroom.

enter image description here

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The fact that the symmetry of the "ghost" with respect to the center of the image corresponds to the window where the rail is (but unvisible as overexposed) confirms your explanation. \$\endgroup\$
    – anderstood
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ nps.gov's page about the house has a better picture of the house's railing, without the bunting. (Well, better only in the sense that the bunting isn't there. Your existing photo has better contrast). nps.gov/common/uploads/grid_builder/ner/crop16_9/… \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 1:58

I agree with @Michael Clark 's answer.

I used Google Earth to get a better angle, cropped, rotated 180°, and superimposed.

Google Earth - JFK Historic Site - 83 Beals St. Brookline, MA 02446

Here's the result:

JFK Historic Site - Question Superimposed

  • \$\begingroup\$ Except it wouldn't be upside down as seen through the window. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 2:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Didgeridrew, there was another comment here previously, explaining that the inverted image is floating over the radiator and that the image from the first photo was inverted and reversed - it was superimposed over the bright spot on the window to show what it looks like and block the glare. It's not meant to represent what one would see looking out the window, as suggested in the previous comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 1:27

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