Getting Ghosts Out Of Your Photos

Have you ever had a ghost in your photo?

It looked like you had it in focus. You used a flash. Still, there seems to be an additional person in the picture?

Does it look like this?

Photo with ghost or ghostiing

It’s called ghosting.

It is nothing to call Ghostbusters Inc about. It’s just a double exposure. One exposure is made by the flash. The other is made from the ambient light.

Many modern cameras try to balance ambient light and flash to make a more natural looking photograph.

Sometimes, it is just too balanced and it does not turn out the way we want. If there is just enough light in the room to make an exposure but not enough to get a fast enough shutter speed, you will see pictures like the one above. I have made it a bit exaggerated so it is easy to see the problem here.

There is a sharp image.

In parts of the photo, there is also a blurry double of the image (the ghost). The ghost is blurry because of movement during the exposure. Sometimes this is subject movement. More often, it is camera movement. It can be hard to know exactly when it will strike. It often seems to happen during really important pictures.

There are two different ways to fix ghosting in photos and exorcise those ghosts from your photography.

  • Reduce the blur in the photo.
  • Reduce the exposure of the ghost till it disappears. Sometimes, this also reduces the blur too.

You can reduce the blur by using a wider lens.

Often the blur is because the shutter speed the camera balanced the ambient light with is too slow to hand hold. A wider lens (zoom out) will not blur as much as a telephoto lens (zoom in).

You can reduce the ghost blur by using a tripod.

Often, you are using the flash because a tripod is not convienient to use. The photograph below has the same shutter speed as the picture with the ghost in it. Notice that the ghost has disappeared.

Tripod photo - not ghost

You can reduce the ghost blur by using a shorter shutter speed.

Use the fastest shutter speed your flash will sych at. This will prevent the blur from camera movement during the exposure just like using a tripod. Using a faster shutter speed may also reduce the exposure of the ghost.

Reducing the exposure of the ghost will also work.

You can increase flash power and make the exposure using flash at higher shutter speeds and smaller aperatures. In the photo below, the exposure setting was raised and flash power was increased to compensate. The reduces the exposure from the ambient light. Notice that the wonderful warm incadencent lighting is gone from the image.

Flash photo - no ghosting


You can reduce the exposure of the ghost with a lower ISO setting.

This also reduces the ambient light in the photo.

Like I said, it can be hard to expect when ghosting will happen.

If you need to use flash, but there is a lot of light in the room, you may see ghosts. If you are zooming in or using a long lens with flash, that can increase the chance of ghosting. If you are using flash and high ISO settings for subjects that are not far away, ghosting can occur.

Checking your preview on your digital camera once in while in these situations can let you know if you need to change the way you are using your camera.

For some cameras, you will not be able to make any of the exposure changes. How to take sharp photosUse the wider part of your zoom and try to hold the camera as still as possible.

Don’t forget to have a good time and make the real memories the ones you remember no matter what the photos look like.


About James Thoenes

James has spent most of his life involved in photography. He is now dedicated to producing portraits that his clients will treasure for the rest of their lives.


  1. This is a interesting post, special around Halloween 😉

  2. Great information James, and an organized and well illustrated post. I’ll check back often to brush up on my skills!

  3. James Thoenes says:

    Susanne – Thank you. Key West must be a wonderful place to spend time making photographs.

    Lynda – I’ve been enjoying your PERIPHERAL VISION site and photography for a few weeks now. Thanks for visiting.