Larryl Hickernell

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Photography and Human Vision: Not the most Perfect Combination.

15So many people believe that photographs capture things that they swear weren’t there when they took the picture. In some cases, such as infrared, thermal or wide spectrum photography, that could be true. But if you’re using any type of digital camera, this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Most current digital cameras have 5-20 megapixels, which is often cited as falling far short of our own visual system. This is based on the fact that at 20/20 vision, the human eye is able to resolve the equivalent of a 52 megapixel camera (assuming a 60° angle of view).”1

That statement assumes our eye processes everything we see equally, but it doesn’t. “Only our central vision is 20/20, so we never actually resolve that much detail in a single glance. Away from the center, our visual ability decreases dramatically, such that by just 20° off-center our eyes resolve only one-tenth as much detail. At the periphery, we only detect large-scale contrast and minimal color: “2…/…/camera-eye_detail1c.jpg
Qualitative representation of visual detail using a single glance of the eyes.
To illustrate this, look at the diagram below. You can see that at the very center of our vision there is only an approximately 2 degree field where our vision is the sharpest. Outside of that area the image we see begins to blur to a point where we’re only able to detect changes in movement and brightness. This explains why many of us claim to see something out of the “corner of our eye.” Also, don’t forget that we all have blind spots in our vision and “floaters” which we could construe as a dark shadow in our field of vision. (Read more about floaters here:…/uplo16ads/2013/…/visualfield1.gif 3

Let’s also assume that our eyes are perfect organs to interpret our surroundings. I’d wager that there isn’t one of you that has not been fooled by some optical illusion. So what do we say about a photograph, which is already less accurate that our own vision, that we believe shows something out of the ordinary. This is one of the reasons we investigate so deeply into photographic “evidence” of the paranormal. The photographic image and the human eye are imperfect tools and as such, need to have supporting investigation done to confirm or debunk any claims of capturing paranormal events.

1 Cicala, Roger, “The Camera Versus the Human Eye,” November 17, 2012, PetaPixel,…/…/17/the-camera-versus-the-human-eye/
2 “Cameras vs. the Human Eye,” Cambridge in Color, 2015,…/cameras-vs-human-eye.htm
3 “Camera vs. the Human Eye,” David C, VSP Blog, June 28, 2013,