Lighting Techniques

Dust halos

Written by Gail Bjork

Learn more about ghost-looking white spots and orbs that appear in some flash photos.

dust spotsDon’t get spooked by white, ghost-looking round spots that can appear in photos when taking photos inside with a flash. They are not celestial orbs as some often wonder. They are caused by dust.

Dust particles floating in the air when taking flash photos with a digital camera may be captured in pictures. Often referred to as dust halos, the particles are randomly spaced throughout an image. There may be just a couple of spots, or the problem can be so bad that you hardly see the picture.

Compact cameras are particularly prone to dust halos because the flash is so close to the lens. The light from the flash catches the dust and bounces back into the lens.

Preventing dust spots

When dust is present, there is really not much that can be done to avoid the problem. If you use an external flash, the phenomenon can be minimized or prevented.

Sometimes zooming in a bit and using a wide aperture will help. But realize that the more you zoom in when using a built-in flash, the more red-eye can be expected when photographing people.

A similar phenomenon occurs taking outside flash photos when it rains or snows.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • It’s difficult to say without seeing a sample image. Perhaps there is dust on or inside the lens which only shows when using the flash. To continue this conversation, kindly post an inquiry in our forum.

  • I carry a small point & shoot camera with me all the time when I don’t carry my DSLR.  I used to carry a Dimage XT 3+ MB and have shot many an image.  I recently purchased the new Nikon S60 camera and have these “dust halos” in almost every  flash shot.  I checked the flash tube to lens distance and found that it closer than any other small camera I have used. Is this the real problem here?  The distance between the  flash and lens on the Dimage is at least twice the that of the S60 as are the old film cameras I used to carry at times.