Almost everyone has a point and shoot camera nowadays, with cheap options available from some of the biggest makers in the camera industry, today we are going to address a common problem we see in the paranormal community with understanding how point and shoot camera's and DSLR cameras word in regards to night shooting, with and without flash.
Point and Shoot Vs. DLSR – what is the difference?
Point and shoot cameras, sometimes known as compact cameras, are different from DSLR cameras because they usually don’t contain a mirror inside the body of the camera that reflects the image from the lens into the viewfinder.
Modern compact cameras have done away with, for the most part, the small square viewfinders we used to have on our camera and replaced them with large LCD screens that give us the same view through the lens as what our image sensor is about record.
In the old days we would look through the view finder lens, line up out shot, and press the button, and the lens would open allowing the film to be exposed and thus taken the photo, the principle is still the same for compact cameras, but now everything is digital.
DSLR cameras work on the same principles, but usually have a mirror within the body of the camera that reflects the image from the primary lens into the viewfinder, giving us the exact image our lens sees instead of the image the small square viewfinder used to see, although, this is now changing with a range of DSLR cameras having both the viewfinder and an LCD option on the back.
DLSR are of course, the superior camera over compact point and shoot, with the ability to change lenses as needed, adjustments for better focus, filters and a range of other added benefits including the ability to shoot images in RAW formats.
Before we delve into shooting settings lets first talk about the way your camera takes photos and saves its files, which is very important in this field.
Firstly lets take a look at a megapixel.
A megapixel, by definition is “one million pixels”, when we look on a camera it may say something like “3.2 megapixels” as a selling point. This usually indicates that the camera is capable of taking a photo with that amount of pixels via its photo sensitive-electronics, which in a Sony (and now other brands utilising Sony Sensors) is known as CMOS sensors, or “complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor”, where-as other cameras may use a CCD or “charge-coupled device” to obtain its image.
What does that mean?
Photo source: www.trustedreviews.com
Basically the more megapixels a camera has the greater the detail the photo will posses once processed through the Bayer filter arrangement of the camera.
The Bayer filter arrangement is a sensor covered in patterned mosaic of colours, green, red and yellow, the camera interpolates these colours through the demosaicing process to create the end final image – so, if you have a lower megapixel range camera, you will may find a greater amount of fuzziness and blur in photos that are taken and saved that contain large areas of one colour, or are saved in processed smaller files like JPEG.
Which brings us to our next point – how you save your images for review. The majority of point and shoot cameras do not give you an option for saving your files, the standard is usually JPEG or the companies own set standard file system, which if you are taking photos of birthday parties or Uncle Bob's 4th marriage, are not a problem, but for us in the paranormal community, it can indeed be a problem.
JPEG, whilst being a great space saving device is also guilt of being compressive, by this I mean that you give up small amounts of quality and clarity for a smaller file size (I touched on a similar thing back in my article about WAV Vs. MP3 – http://www.eidolonparanormal.net/wavvsmp3.htm).
JPEG is simply not suitable if you are going to shoot in area with large blocks of one colour, eg. Gaols or Asylums where there will be large areas of walling all painted the same...why? - because JPEG during its compression will blur lines and cause unnatural colour-shifts because of its need to compress the data.
TIFF (tagged Image File Format) is another standard file format used for digital cameras, It has greater ability than JPEG because it does not compress in the same way and allows a greater amount of colour to be sampled in a photo, thus reducing sharpness loss and blur.
Its downfalls are that it can be compressed through lossless compression in Black & White photography, and it is also not a popular enough format that all types of photo software on a PC support it as a standard format, still its performance far outweighs that of the JPEG.
RAW files, a standard file saving format on digital DSLR, should really be the industry standard in the paranormal community (if we had an industry). In essences a RAW files is equivalent to the negative from the old 35mm days of photography.
The photos take up a large amount of space on the cameras memory card which is really its only downfall, for the good with a RAW file far outweighs the bad.
RAW files can essentially be seen as unprocessed photos (like the negative), they are raw data collected at the time the photo was taken, they contain more detail, have a wider range of colours, and unless you have filters or pre-set camera filters on your camera they show you exactly what is before you, with no compression. The photo can then be saved to another format afterwards if need be.
So why is this essential?
Photo source: http://bagaimana-photoshop.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/raw-file.html
It allows the reviewer of the photo to see what was taken at the time of the photo with no compression blur, no colour filtering, and no tampering of the photo, couple with the EXIF file data, one can see if the photo has been manipulated to include a ghostly image or other objects.
So the combination of high megapixels and a RAW file format allows to us, as investigators, to see clearly what is in the photo, without compressed lines, blurs or colour changes, combined with the metadata, or EXIF file, the camera type and conditions in was taken under, which is well and good, but there are other important things we need to discuss to give you a fuller “picture”.
The majority of paranormal investigations take place at night, or in darker than normal conditions, most people that use a point and shoot camera in these low light situation have their camera set on automatic, which lets the camera choose its lens and shooting settings based on the conditions its sensor concludes are appropriate for the conditions.
This is all well and good, generally, most cameras will sense the low light and turn on the flash, which is also great, but, what they also do is set the lens to remain open for a longer period of time, it does this so the camera can get more light to the sensor to allow a greater detail of the scene in front of it, if the sensor is smaller than 43.3mm squared you will get an undetailed photo, (camera with a 43.3mm squared chip or higher are set for low light shooting)
You may have noticed if you are shooting with point and shoot cameras in low light conditions that lighting in the scene has a “tail” or trail” to the photo (insert sample), this is because of the longer time the lens is open allowing more light in, and that your hands shake or your body moves (most people are unaware of simple movements their body makes continuously) or worse still you are walking as you take the photo.
Buy yourself a cheap tripod, attach your camera too it, press the button and in low light situations, even with a point and hoot camera, presto, no-more tails and trails.
For those with an SLR or DSLR camera, you are at a distinct advantage over those without, as you can change your ISO setting manually to let more light in (but remember the tripod is important).
What is ISO?
ISO in traditional photography was the indicator for how sensitive the film used was for light, the lower the number the lower sensitivity the film is and the finer the grain was in the photograph.
The same standard has brought into digital photography, so the higher ISO setting you use the better it will be in darker settings, the trade of is however that the picture will be grainier – there is of course a way around this that we learnt via going to visit an observatory in the nearby town of Stockport.
Star photographers spend their time shooting at the night sky, a pitch black background with tiny pin pricks of light they wish to get on camera, so obviously because of the dark setting they would up their ISO as high as they can, the trade off being the orange and red dot graininess (known as noise) that comes with it, to get around this and maintain clear night sky photos, they found that cooling the sensor in the camera reduced the background “noise”...most used inter-coolers that can drop their sensor to minus temperatures, those that couldn’t afford that made crudely designed coolers out of esky's where the camera sat immersed inside ice (we don't recommend you trying this yourself).
So to summarise all the of the above, and add in a few tips from our investigation experiences.
- Buy a tripod, and use it for all night photography.
- If you can afford one buy a DSLR camera
- If using a “point and shoot” camera, set it to night shot – use a tripod.
- If using a DSLR camera set your saves to RAW files
- Buy cameras with high Megapixel ratings – we recommend over 12 megapixels, anything less is insufficient
- Try to keep you camera cool
- keep your lens clean – a lens cleaning kit can be bought at most camera retailers.
- Set your DSLR ISO as High as you can to allow more light to the sensor
I am sure there are plenty of things I have missed in this article, and I may make adjusts as I remember them (or get reminded of them)...
If you start adopting these simple protocols for your night shooting, you will find a host of anomalies you once had will no longer appear, thus making any anomalies you catch there-after more likely to be something of paranormal nature
(please note I did not mention orbs in this article as they are covered in a different area of the website under http://www.eidolonparanormal.net/orbsinphotos.htm )
Written by Allen Tiller
Shooting tip links
© 2007 - 2014 Allen Tiller
All content on “Eidolon Paranormal & The Haunts of Adelaide” sites, blog and corresponding media pages (eg Facebook, twitter etc) is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any means or process without the written permission of the author. © 2012, 2013, 2014
All photos remain the property of their respective copyright owners and are displayed here for the purpose of education, research and review under the copyright act "fair usage" clause.
Some photo's used here on this site are sourced from The Sate Library of South Australia, and The National Library of Australia and http://www.gawler.nowandthen.net.au - all photos are out of copyright and have no usage restrictions implied.