First and foremost, when attempting to identify gaffed media, remember that you typically cannot prove definitively that it is a hoax without all of the information. That being said, The first step one should take is getting familiar with the main offenders. These are the most commonly presented forms of paranormal evidence.
I've been over these before in my post about spirit photography and most people wouldn't give any credence to them anyway, so I think I can skip these.
Almost as common as orbs, mists are created by smoke (cigarette/ tobacco, candles, fireplaces, incense...) and water vapor from various sources including your breath. Like orbs, this "mist" is usually located close to the camera lens, in front of the focal point, and illuminated by the camera's flash, making it visible. This accounts for the claims that people didn't notice it at the time of the picture.
I'm not sure why they have been dubbed vortices, but that's seems to be the most common name for them. These are images of an object (typically a camera strap or hair) that is very close to the lens. This is usually accidental, but there are those that take advantage of this effect, as seen below
|This photo appears to feature an action figure held in front of the camera|
This effect is created when you use slow shutter speeds or low-light settings on a camera. Keeping the shutter open longer for a photograph allows more light in. In this instance a subject moved in and out of the frame, creating a ghostly, human shaped blur.
All of these effects are created "in- camera", as-in without the aid of photo manipulating software and are usually captured accidentally.
When you encounter a photograph that doesn't fit these descriptions, but seems dubious none-the-less, try and take a step back and think about the situation in which it was taken. For example, take the Louisiana Swamp Monster.
I've covered why I believe this is fake in some detail before, but the first thing that stands out doesn't require viewing the EXIF data, comparing time stamps, or using Photoshop.
The creature is posing for this picture.If this were an honest trail-cam picture, why would this creature be snarling and looking directly into the camera?
Considering the situation of a photograph or video is a useful method of detecting trickery. If you come across a picture of a ghost, imagine the photo without it. What's in the background? Is this a picture that someone would take if they were unaware of the ghost's presence? Is the photo framed to fit the ghost?
The same is true of UFO hoaxes.
When viewing UFO videos, notice whether the camera follows the UFO or if it floats off screen. This is a good sign that the object is CGI. In the following video, observe that the camera is nearly static (save for the wobbling of unsteady hands). When the cameraman zooms in, the object is not the center of the shot, but a bit above it.
The object the proceeds to drift out of frame. Why, did the observer get bored?
Next post: Recreating paranormal photos and ghost hunter bluffs.