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Digital Photography in Research
Digital Photography in Research PDF Print E-mail
Written by Scott   
Monday, 02 February 2009 13:03

Many people do not fully understand the pros and cons of digital photography or the best way to leverage this technology for the greater understanding of the paranormal field. Some drawbacks to digital vs. firm are that you do not produce traditional negatives which have always been a good way to back up evidence and according to the website some of the early digital cameras had problems in low light conditions that caused some of the pixels to not fill in completely creating false orbs. Another website which I will list at the bottom of this article gives a very detailed explanation of some problems digital cameras can have such as hot pixels or stuck pixels, the end result being that a false orb can be created especially in low light or long exposure conditions. These problems seem to be minimal on newer generations of digital cameras but long story short an orb in a digital photograph should be examined very carefully. However even with these cons digital photography has some great benefits such as instant viewing and reduced cost over time for the investigator. Digital photos are also easier to analyze on the computer and give you greater control over your camera.

Another benefit that digital photography has that film does not is EXIF Data. EXIF stands for “Exchangeable image file format” and it is a type of metadata. Metadata is data about data; an example of this is a library card catalog that contains information about other information that is stored in the library. EXIF data can be found in JPG or Tiff files taken on a digital camera. EXIF is useful because it is extra information that is embedded in the digital photograph that tells you more about the photo, and can be used later to help prove or debunk a photo. EXIF will tell you if flash was used when the picture was taken. This can be helpful to know if you have bright orbs or light glares. If you set the time correctly on the camera before your investigation EXIF will tell you what time the photo was taken. If you have a blur in you photo EXIF can help you to determine what camera settings were used. Maybe the exposure was set too long. EXIF can help you recreated the settings that were used on a camera to try and recreate or debunk a photo. EXIF will tell you what make and model of camera was used. This can be used to look up more information on that camera and see if there are any problems with that camera that could cause what you are seeing. Maybe that camera has problems with artifacts in certain conditions. Most people have probably seen some EXIF data and wondered where it came from.

Many photo viewers will show some EXIF data on the picture thumbnail when you hover over it. If you want to examine all of the EXIF data chances are you will need to download a program or plug-in for it. I like to use a free program called Irfanview located at Irfanview is freeware for non commercial use and when you download it and the free plug-ins for it you can easily view all EXIF data. Most modern image editing programs support EXIF to some degree you should be aware though that if you use an older program that does not support EXIF you can accidentally strip the EXIF data out of the photo’s you work with. When you are setting up a new digital camera for an investigation it would be a good idea to play with the settings and take some pictures in the same conditions you will be investigating in. Then examine your pictures and use the EXIF data to determine which settings worked the best.

There are other benefits to digital photography some of which not everyone will have access to. If you have a more expensive professional level digital camera you may be able to shoot in RAW format or RAW + JPG or RAW + Tiff. JPG’s are very convenient because they are small and easy to open in almost any image editing program. But they have a lot of compression and when you are analyzing pictures for unexplained anomalies you want to have the best possible photo to back up your evidence. Tiffs are also nice and may be uncompressed for better quality. There are many versions of the Tiff format but generally they are better than JPG. RAW however is a little different; basically when you snap a picture on a digital camera it dumps the data directly from the Image sensor into a RAW format file. This RAW file is then processed by the camera and a JPG or Tiff is usually created then the RAW file is purged. Most consumer digital cameras do not allow you to keep the RAW File. If you can create a RAW file there are some benefits that can be realized. RAW Files will contain maximum image Quality. Instead of letting the camera process the RAW file you will be able to process it on your computer and therefore have finer control of how it comes out. Unfortunately RAW Files are much larger and you will want to have a big memory card. Fortunately they are getting very cheap.

For investigations I would recommend you use RAW + JPG if available because you can review the JPG file for anomalies and if you find something you will have a corresponding RAW file that you can use to examine further. Raw is sometimes known as a “Digital Negative” because its function is similar to a photographic negative. RAW is not actually a standard format rather just a term to describe the raw unprocessed data that the file contains. Because of this there are many variations on the RAW format so most images processing programs cannot work with a RAW File. You will probably need a special program to work with the RAW file on your camera.

If you own a consumer level Canon camera there may be an inexpensive way for you to shoot in RAW as well as other benefits. There is a program that exists called CHDK the Canon hacker’s development kit. This is software that has been independently developed to extend the capabilities of many Canon cameras. It does not cost any money and it does not permanently alter your camera. It can be installed on an SD Card and once loaded will allow you to shoot in RAW as well as giving you access to setting that are usually only on professional cameras.

In summary if you choose Digital Photography for you paranormal investigation and use it to its fullest potential there can be many benefits. EXIF data can help you find out when the pictures were taken, and it can help you prove or debunk a photo. RAW files can help you bye giving you more information to work with and help back up your evidence. CHDK can extend the capabilities of your Canon camera letting you take RAW photo’s without spending a lot of money.

For more information on EXIF please go here or here.

For more information on Hot or Stuck pixels please go here.

For more information on RAW please go here or here.

For more information on CHDK please go here.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 November 2009 13:49 )
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