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Lens FAQ #4: What is “ghosting” and “flaring”

We are often told to be careful of ghosting and flaring when shooting into sunlight, but what exactly are they? In this article, I will explain more about these phenomena. This will help you better understand your camera and lens when shooting such photos. (Reported by Shirou Hagihara)

A lens hood is essential for addressing ghosting and flaring

Flaring is a phenomenon that can occur when light reflects off the lens, or other elements such as the lens barrel and mirror box, making part or all of an image appear hazy or seem to lack in sharpness. Ghosting, on the other hand, is a type of flaring caused by a strong light source being reflected repeatedly, appearing as a clear artefact that can be found located symmetrically opposite to the light source.

Older lenses without an antireflective coating are more susceptible to ghosting and flaring. However, depending on the subject and shooting conditions, it is also difficult to completely eliminate these effects even with the latest coated lenses.

While attaching a lens hood is the very least a photographer should do to address these effects, it is also a good idea to actively cut out flare-inducing light using objects such as your hand, a hat, or a board-shaped object if necessary.

Also, note that even though ghosting and flaring are generally regarded as phenomena that have a negative impact on images, they can sometimes be deliberately incorporated into images as a means of artistic expression.

With flaring

There is rather strong sunlight entering the frame, causing flaring and resulting in an image that appears hazy. This cannot be eliminated even by narrowing the lens aperture.


Without flaring

The sunlight was cut out completely by shading the lens with my hand outside of the frame. This reduces flaring to the extent that it is only faintly visible in part of the top edge of the image. Therefore, the impact on the photographic expression is minimal.


With ghosting

The sun is to the upper right of the image. Ghosting appears in the lower left, and is located symmetrically opposite the light source. A characteristic of ghosting is the clear shape observed.


Without ghosting

I shaded the lens with my hat to prevent ghosting, and adjusted my position while checking the effect in the LCD screen. This enabled me to cut out the detrimental light, and achieve clear image quality.


(from left to right) EW-63C / ET-63

The EW-63C lens hood is compatible with the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM standard zoom lens, while the ET-63 lens hood is compatible with the EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. Note that each lens hood is shaped differently to match the characteristics of different lenses, allowing you to prevent ghosting and flaring from occurring when shooting.



Shirou Hagihara

Born in 1959 in Yamanashi. After graduating from Nihon University, Hagihara was involved in the launch of the photography magazine, “fukei shashin”, where he worked as an editor and a publisher. He later resigned and became a freelance photographer. Currently, Hagihara is engaged in photography and written works centring on natural landscapes. He is a member of the Society of Scientific Photography (SSP).


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