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These images were taken with an old cheap mobile phone. Could someone please explain what's happening? enter image description here

enter image description here

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The first example is called lens flare. It is due to the bright light of the just-out-of-frame sun bouncing around on the optical surfaces of your camera's lens elements. Many camera phones have flat 'protector' plates in front of the actual camera lens, and the reflections off the back of the flat surface can exacerbate lens flare issues. So can the smudges on the front of the lens or protector plate.

The second example is called blooming. It is due to the amount of light energy from the sun overwhelming the capacity of your camera's sensor. There's also more flare as well.

In both cases the artifacts are easily explainable and caused by things that happened internally inside your camera. They are not supernatural apparitions or other mysterious signs.

  • can you explain why the center of the blooming is black here? – ths Jul 6 '18 at 8:44
  • Probably in the way the processing chip in the phone handled the overvoltage. – Michael C Jul 6 '18 at 13:46
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The sun shines into your camera, and the result is quite typical. Similar effects happen with every camera (although high-end cameras might be able to handle it a bit better)

The first shot, the sun is just outside the frame, and its reflections in the lens elements lead to the effects you see.
The second shot, the sun is right in the frame. The sun is simply so much brighter than anything else that it overwhelms the sensor, and the result is what you see.

To avoid either problem, keep the sun behind you when taking pictures, or at least 60 degrees off your frame.

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