Thursday, March 26, 2015

EXIF is good, EXIF is our friend!

This blog was posted on, a blog Anna wrote for while a team member for Angels of Light Paranormal Society.

So already this article's title is going to do one of two things:
Make you nod in agreement -or- shake your head in confusion.
If you're shaking your head and don't know much about EXIF, don't feel bad, many people don't! 

So what is "EXIF"? 

EXIF is the acronym for "Exchangeable Image File Format". EXIF specifies the format information for sound, images, and ancillary tags used by digital cameras. It also is used for scanners, and other systems that use images or sounds from digital cameras. The formats we are specifically talking about here, is the formats of photos. This information includes the make and model of a camera (including camera phones), exposure lengths, file types, dates taken, dates modified, whether or not a flash was used, and an assortment of other information. 

This information is very important in the paranormal field to determine a slough of possibilities for photographic phenomena. EXIF data is especially important when analyzing photos sent to you by others. In order to determine the authenticity of a photo, it must be analyzed in raw form. This means no cropping, no contrast adjustments, or renaming of the photo in question. 

Here is an example of an unaltered photo:

As you can see the photo above, has complete EXIF data. You can tell that this photo was taken by a Samsung Galaxy S3 (SCH-R530M). Also by looking at the data you can see that a Flash was used. You can see the software that was used to create the photo, which was R530MVQAMF2, the original Samsung Galaxy S3 Software. File size is 2.4 MB, also note the Resolution is 72. 

You can see by this data that this photo is completely unaltered.

Using this article here, you can see a complete explanation of what each format line means: EXIF DATA EXPLAINED

This photo on the other hand, you can see a major difference- and we're not just talking about that spooky face!
This photo has been saved from Facebook via mobile. It then was put through the Android Application, "GhostCam". It's been emailed back to the computer and put through the EXIF Data Website. As you can see there is a huge lack of EXIF data. This is because the information for the camera used is void. It has been put through a 3rd party program. This is an indication that the photo has been modified in some way. You can now see that the photo's file size is 47 KB and the resolution has dropped to 1. Software to create this photo is Picasa, which is a 3rd party image organizer and editor created by Lifescape and used on Android.

What Phenomena can be explained using EXIF Data?

Many different types of suspected paranormal photographic can be explained using EXIF Data. 

Orbs: Was flash used? EXIF data can show the flash used.
Photo was taken in 2011 at a Ranch in the Sutter Buttes using flash photography

Squiggly glows lines: What was the shutter speed? EXIF data can tell you if long exposure or short exposure was used. Many settings that are used for night photography uses slower shutter speeds, causing trails of light.

Photo taken 2012 Valentine construction Company using Night Scenery, Long Exposure, Slow Shutter Speeds. The purple lines are coming from the Infrared cameras being used. The photo taker has lowered the camera before the shutter has completed its action.

"Apparitions" or ghostly images that seem like blurry transparent people: Same as before, check the exposure. Was long or short exposure used?

This photo was taken at the Silver Dollar in 2012, using Night Scenery, long exposure (slow shutter speeds), no flash. One of our investigators was moving out of frame when the photo was taken.
There are other factors that will play into how photos will turn out, especially at night. This includes the camera's ISO. ISO is your camera's sensitivity to light. Aperture is also important, which is the hole that light travels into your camera. Bottom line: MANY factors play into photos and how the camera itself effects the way photos are recorded. BUT YOU GET THE POINT! :)

This does not include ambient room lighting, environmental conditions, and the user themselves. These are only a few examples of how EXIF can help to factor in the authenticity of photos, and whether or not they are paranormal. 

If a photo is found to be altered using the EXIF data, it should be thrown out. There is no way anyone can diagnose any photo as being authentically paranormal without proper EXIF data. This goes both ways for people sending in photos in to paranormal teams for analysis, or even for teams who may think they have caught paranormal evidence. The original photo should be available with EXIF data in tact. 

The other factor is the photo taker themselves, take into consideration the environmental factors mentioned above. And HONESTY! Always be honest!

There are many FREE EXIF data viewers you can download and some websites that you can view EXIF data online, such as:

Hopefully this little article helps people understand the importance of these data files. Debunking isn't always a bad thing, in fact, its essential in the Paranormal Community! Through education we better our chances of producing legitimate photos, making stronger investigators, and in turn strengthening this community! :)

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