Orbs - What are they really?

Are you the type of person to believe that you have captured a ghost orb?

Date: 27th May 2018

"I think I have captured a ghost trying to manifest. It appears as an orb on my photo... I've heard that orbs are real. I just never caught one on camera before. Is it really a ghost orb?"

The answer to this question is: “Quite possibly not”!

Why not spirit orbs?

There are those people who believe in the paranormal... and of course there are those that don't. But equally there are other people who claim themselves to be open-minded, but they may fall either on the side of believer or skeptic. The open-minded people are more likely to look for rational explanations to anything that 'appears' to be paranormal by trying to debunk what information they have until whatever is left must be credible... although they still do not claim it as paranormal... just unexplained.

So back to orbs...

What exactly are orbs?

Well they can be one of many things in reality, but most people claim they can be either dust, moisture, pollen... and those that believe will say they can also be spirits or other.

Before we get down to brass tacks it is a must to go back to basics on photography to enlighten us more into the possibilities of how and why orbs appear.

Now I'm not a professional or an expert when it comes to photography... but I am a rational person and can use my common sense when it comes to going through video footage or photographs of what some claim to be 'spirit' orbs.

Let me state right here before we carry on - 99% of all photos or video captures of orbs will have a rational explanation to them in as much as being dust, moisture, pollen and lens flares from light sources present in the room or outer environment at the time of the shot being taken.

Now what is the most common denominator in photography or video? Yes, that's right: lighting. Now the most common form of lighting in the environment is natural light and/or the sun. In darkness we use a flash unit or other form of illumination to enhance images.

This might sound a little harsh in the realms of photography, but all forms of lighting is the cause of that 99% of all claimed orb photos and video captures.

Why is that? Read on...

Old Style Photography

When one thinks of old-style photographs and photography we automatically think about the long exposure units that photographers hid under a blanket... or the old hand-held flash units they used to hold high in the air. These hand-held flash lamps were made from magnesium powder that when ignited cause a flash close to the level of daylight.

At first point of fact the flash lamps were held out at arms length to ensure no burning accidents were caused to the photographer... but in addition it was to ensure a better coverage of the light to the subject being photographed.

New Style Photography

In modern times all equipment got smaller. The invention of the compact camera allowed anyone to become an amateur photographer. The flash units in DSLR cameras were additional units that were either placed on top of the camera or via a flash brackets to the side of the camera.

Now in the use of mobile phones, cameras have started to go the way of the Dodo as mobiles have camera facilities and apps. This is easier on the person as they no longer have to take both a mobile and camera around with them. They can snap that picture anytime, anywhere...

Flash Issues

Now at this juncture it is wise to know those differences in both old and new photography technologies. In old photography the flash was at some distance from the lens... in new the flash is virtually right next to the lens (check out your mobile now).

The main problem with modern technologies is that the flash units on mobiles and even small compact cameras are close together to make sure all available space is used to perfection in such small units.

So remember that orb photos only really came into the public eye upon introduction of the digital photo age... around the same time cameras got smaller and on the upward trend of mobile phones with camera apps on them.

I really would love to take a professional photographer on a paranormal investigation and get them to use their arsenal of equipment, utilising both normal and infrared illumination, but using there flash umbrellas and flash guns, etc. I'd wager they would not pick up any orbs in their photos - purely down to the fact that theor flash umbrellas and flash guns are at a distance from the lens of the camera.

There is a reason for using flash guns and umbrellas away from the lens of the camera and that is to ensure full clear illumination coverage but also to stop orbs appearing in their photos. A professional photographer does not want any anomalies in their finished photos... unless they really do want them for effect only!

So why is there always an argument over dust?

Dust is usually the catch-all for any orb in a photo that comes from a person who feels there is something in the room (usually after watching a film or TV programme on the paranormal or ghosts, etc.) and they grab the first thing they have - usually their mobile - and snap away a few shots... then behold they have an orb in the photo.

Now this photo would some years ago have been sent to a paranormal investigator... but with facebook the main craze of modern times and with many groups on there of the paranormal kind, these people will upload the photo and ask members of said groups to comment.

Unfortunately what they get is more confusing than ever as these groups tend to have thousands of members... and with vast numbers one will get back vast numbers of 'explanations'.

My advice? Don't ever upload photographs to facebook groups! It's just as bad as someone feeling ill and looking up Google for what it might be. One can quickly become a hypochondriac!

Same goes for the paranormal world... Unfortunately there are far too many 'armchair experts' and so-called 'ghost hunters' that will give you false hopes and/or false information that may or may not place the fear factor into you.

Don't let them do that to you!

Now like I said earlier... I am not an expert in either photography or the paranormal... but I am wise to common sense and also know enough not to fall into the trap of believing everything you see or hear on the internet.

So what are orbs then?

Using common sense... trusting your own eyes... and trusting in your own instincts really is the best option.

There is no proof whatsoever on the existence of ghosts or spirits. Therefore there is no reason to believe that loved ones or other people that have passed on are trying to manifest themselves back into the real realm.

There is however factual reasons for the appearance of orbs in photography:

Dust and Moisture

These are the most common cause or orbs in photos. Remember that dust particles are really really REALLY small and as such are everywhere at any time and more frequently free-floating in all environments possible... even in so-called clean rooms! In fact it is really unsettling to think that every time you breath in you are inhaling dust particles.

Modern cameras inclusive of mobiles are of the auto-focusing types. Most modern mobile camera apps also allow you to tap the screen and select what you actually want in focus to allow other in view-point objects to be out of focus - it's what the modern people like doing with their phones when taking selfies and other shots.

Now if not manually focusing something the camera will auto-focus... and when you take the shot and the flash fires, if any dust particles are in the viewing/flash area - the part in front of the lens that will capture both the image and the flash beam - it will be illuminated and be captured on the photo. The closer the particle to the lens... and being out of focus at the time... will cause it to become blurry and enlarge it to become what most people call an orb!

This is why some photos capture differing sizes of orbs... depending upon how far away the particles are from the lens view-point...

Moisture is another good capture that are claimed to be orbs. Remember moisture is made up of water on a minute level. Ever taken a photo outside when it's raining? If not then do so... and if you're lucky you will capture what appears to be an elongated rod-shaped orb. This is all down to the movement of the rain and the speed of the shutter on the camera... and also on exposure times too.

Lens Flares

Lens flares... or what is termed 'ghosting' is where a light source is of a brightness that it actually hits the lens of the camera and flares across the point-of-view on the image (try using a compact camera or your mobile to take a photo when the sun is in the viewpoint... see how many flares orbs you can see).

If a clear day you might find a flare orb... on a humid day you might find the flare is more effective and so causes multi-coloured flaring orbs to appear... it in a dusty environment the flaring will give you some extraordinary images.

In fact if you take a picture of the sun slivering light through trees you will have some amazing photos! Even my 12-year old daughter takes some amazing photos on her iPhone 7 Plus... and she loves making those lens flare type images.

Insects and Bugs

Yes... you can get insects and other bugs wanting in on the action... especially if like most paranormal investigators you are outside on your investigations. In fact insects can be illuminated extremely good in the beam of an infrared lighting source... and even more so in an ultraviolet light source.

One thing to learn about insects and bugs is that they will move in erratic ways as they fly around. The most obvious movement is of a zig-zag motion in the air. Even flies that fly in a streamlined way will veer off at peculiar angles.


Please do not fall into the trap of believing every photo you capture or see is of a paranormal nature. It isn't and must never be concluded as such.

Don't just 'see'... you must 'observe' as much detail as you can. Take in the environment, the lighting, etc. That way you will be able to clarify what was captured.

The main problem we have in this field is that most people will edit their photos prior to sending on to a paranormal investigator. This is because they try to explain it on their own before obtaining some help...

So when you put together lens flare, reflection, dust, moisture... and a case of pareidolia... then there are some out there that will see paranormal thing in photographs and video... but remember that these facts will also cause photographic evidence of the paranormal to be most unreliable!

But again I'll give you that 99% figure of being able to debunk all claims of paranormal photos... but that still leaves that 1% that can't be debunked!