Your camera lens is basically a piece of glass. As such, it is subject to picking up reflections on it’s surface of things in the environment in which you are photographing. This is especially prevalent when taking photos in low light conditions, when bright light sources, such as candles or lights, are present. It’s exactly the same as having reflections on your house windows, TV screen or any other reflective surface.
When objects reflect on your camera lens, the reflected images can actually appear in your photo when the angle and light conditions are right. I have seen reflections occur not just of light sources, but with people and other objects as well. This occurs with still photo cameras and video cameras alike. Any camera with a glass lens is subject to picking up reflections.
Camera lens reflections should not be confused with lens flare, although both can occur simultaneously. The difference is that Lens Flare occurs when a very bright light source, such as the sun, shines directly into your lens and washes out parts of your photograph, causing a “flare” effect. Lens reflections however are images reflected from the environment onto the surface of your camera’s lens.
HOW TO SPOT A LENS REFLECTION
To test if you have picked up a lens reflection, take several shots of the same scene and compare. If the anomaly in question does not change in shape, and stays consistently present, and moves only in relation to the movement of the camera, then you have a lens reflection.
I am including example photos of lens reflections. The 3 landscape oriented photos were taken with a Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR. The 3 portrait oriented photos were taken with an iPhone 5s. With the Canon photos, I used my tripod and swiveled the camera from photo to photo. I hand-held my cell phone for the iPhone photos.
Notice how in each photo the anomalies stay consistent in comparison with each other, and they move as a group as the camera was moved. Also notice how small in comparison the reflections are in the cell photos. One reason for this is because the lens on the cell phone is much smaller than the Canon’s lens. However, even though cells have very small lenses, they can pick up reflections just as well as regular cameras.