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originally posted by: Squidleepie
Hi. I am an actual photographer. I have nearly a decade of experience working in digital fine art as well as photojournalism. I have extensive photoshop, photomatix pro (advanced HDR program) and dark room film development experience.
Here is my explanation for your photo mystery. First of all there are several things you need to consider when analyzing any photograph's basic content. To keep it straightforward, I'll just give you my step by step analysis.
This image is very low resolution (obviously) so we see pixelation. The pixelation is exaggerated by the limited light conditions under which this photo was taken.
Under lowlight conditions with a small and unsophisticated camera like this one, there is simply not enough light to properly expose the image. Without enough light, some pixels will not get exposed when the shutter briefly opens.
This lack of exposure in some pixels is one of the downfalls of digital photography (an advantage for film). In order for digital cameras to avoid taking photos with speckles of black (non-exposed pixels), digital cameras have an algorithmic system for "filling" in these pixels with false color in order to soften the speckled effect.
Cameras input false color into unexposed pixels by averaging the color of the surrounding pixels. These algorithms are far from perfect, and in an unsophisticated camera like the one that took this photo, the false color can often be significantly off. This effect is almost certainly showing up in your photograph.
Notice how the color (hue and tone) of the curved line that makes up the shoulder almost exactly matches the color of the odd shapes that look like a face. This is not a coincidence. But it's more than just the false color effect.
If your friend was using a flash to take this selfie, reflections from glass, metal, polished wood, etc could easily produce these color changes on a blank white wall. With a much better camera with higher resolution these color variances would be more balanced and look more clearly like something natural and explainable.
And finally, beware the matrixing effect of our socialized brains. Our brains are designed to recognize patterns, specifically socially related patterns. Reading someone else's face is vital to being a normal, social human. Thus we often see faces in things. Our brains can't help it really, but like optical allusions, just because something "seems to be" does not mean that that something "is."
Long response I know, but hopefully that helps clarify things.
reply to: Joneselius