What Are ORBS? Real or Self-Delusion?

Are ORBS Real Spirits or can They be Explained?

There are a number of effects that can be caused by cameras and naturally we need to first consider if there is a natural explanation for the strange effects shown on your photo that could explain ORBS in pictures. If we cannot rule out a natural cause for the ghostly effects and ordinary orb pictures then maybe there is a paranormal cause. People regularly capture orbs in haunted houses and others say they can identify the face of a loved one. What’s interesting is that faces usually appear in photos of birthdays or weddings.

ORBS - orb photographs with Craig & Jane


One of the most common effects we see on ‘ghost pictures’ is an orb. Many people believe that these are spirit lights and indeed I have seen these with the naked eye around people’s auras.

These, of course, must not be confused with optical effects such as retinal fatigue, which of course would not show up on a photograph.

Ghost Photos and Orbs



You would expect that because a camera uses no film that the image would be perfect and without any flaws at all. In a digital camera ,you do not get light seepage that could cause glare effects. Where images are captured electronically, it’s harder to explain away orbs, weird streaks of light and transparent faces.

However digital cameras can also cause other strange effects- and particularly because of the way the lens on a digital camera focuses in a different way to that of a 35 mm film camera.

A film camera has a series of lenses to focus the light onto the film. A digital camera does the same but instead focuses the light onto a semiconductor device that records the image electronically which is then processed by the cameras chip into digital data. The sensor in a digital camera  (called a CCD or CMOS) is a collection of light-sensitive diodes called photo-sites. These are sensitive to light and the brighter the light that hits a single diode the bigger the charge sent to the cameras computer chip. If a photo-site receives a glare from a dust particle close to the lens then it can create an orb effect.


Digital cameras also focus in a different way to a 35 mm camera. If dust passes close to the lens it will try to bring it into focus. Therefore dust, pollen, and moisture in the air can all appear to be orbs. This is less likely to happen with a 35 mm camera due to the distance between the lens and the surface of the sensor being much larger, thus more time is allowed for the image to be produced.

Airborne particles near to the camera lens can thus show up as an orb in the resulting photo but not be seen by the photographer at the time the picture is taken. In particular, with the position of the flash unit on most modern cameras so close to the lens, airborne debris appears to ‘light up’ on the resulting image. These effects occur mainly on digital cameras and phone cameras but can also easily happen on film cameras as well.

It’s easy to test this. Go into a darkened room with a digital camera, shake the curtains, and take a few pictures. Take two if three pictures from different positions and with and without flash. Download the images into your PC and see what comes up. Instant orbs!


You may ask:

  • Was the photograph taken when dust was in the air?
  • Were there any reflective surfaces that could have caused a glare to the camera?  Nearby reflective surfaces could have “bounced” flash from the camera back onto the lens causing strange light effects?
  • Were there any other light sources nearby such as a torch, Christmas lights, a cigarette lighter or candle? Stray light coming to the camera can also cause strange effects?
  • Was the camera lens clean? Objects close to the lens such as a camera strap or even a mark or scratch to the lens can cause all sorts of unusual effect.
  • Were there any draughts or pockets of warm air present that could cause a shimmering? When you look at a road on a hot summer’s day the rising hot air can sometimes cause a shimmering. A similar effect can happen in your home – for example, if a photo is taken in a hot kitchen or near a radiator.


An orb caused by a dust particle may refract light and split it into a colour just as a prism will split white light into a rainbow. The orb may also reflect colours from the surroundings.


The brain will try to make sense out of any random shape. Scientists have observed that a new born baby will respond to two dots placed on a piece of paper that its brain interprets as a face. At first, the child’s brain recognises it’s mothers face simply as two dots and it is only over time that it learns to recognise its mothers real face. In the same way, our own brains make faces out of simple shapes. If you look at cumulus cloud, an inkblot or glowing coals you are likely to see ghost faces in the patterns and textures.



There are a few anomalies that are harder to explain. These include the following:

  • A trail suggests the orb is in motion and it less likely to be caused by a dust particle.
  • Most orbs caused by dust etc. are circular. Oval orbs are harder to explain.
  • Dust orbs appear as flat but three-dimensional spherical orbs require further explanation.
  • If you can see it with the naked eye and then capture it on camera it is likely to be caused by real phenomena. They you have to rule out other possible causes- such as fireflies or ball lightening etc.
  • If you can see it with the naked eye but it does not come out on camera then it is likely to be an optical effect caused by retinal fatigue or cellular debris in the eye.
  • If two or more people can see it at the same but the light does not come out on camera there is a likelihood that these are real spirit lights.


There is a great deal of nonsense spoken about this on the Internet, in magazines, on cable TV and in books. Spiritualists prefer to call real orbs ‘spirit lights’ and have known about this phenomenon for a long time. The general consensus is that orbs are concentrations of the energy from the aura – called prana or chi in the East. The teacher Yogannanda called prana, lifetrons.

When a medium becomes aware of a person’s aura sometimes these specks of spirit light become visible to the medium’s clairvoyant senses (see also our clairvoyant test) and are seen by him through his normal senses. They may manifest as bright spots or as fields of tiny specks of light. In physical séances, energy will manifest in a way that is visible for everyone to see with this physical eyes and is accompanied by a feeling of great love and awe.

The spirit energy normally appears as lights but in advanced groups may manifest as a smoky luminous mist like substance called ectoplasm. This aspect of spirit energy can ‘solidify’ into hands, heads and in some cases the full human form of the spirit communicator. Orbs and spirit lights an early manifestation of this incredible energy.

Other Camera Effects

  • LONG EXPOSURE: If a camera is held still while using a slow shutter speed or long exposure moving objects will look transparent. A person caught on camera in this way will of course look like a ghostly figure.
  • REFLECTIONS IN THE DISTANCE: Sometimes a flash used outside will illuminate a distant bright object and make it appear that it is close.
  • DUST ON A NEGATIVE: Dust on a negative can result in a speckled effect of white light on the photo. Unlike orbs produced by digital cameras they do not appear to glow.
  • REFLECTIONS OF FLASH: A shiny or reflective surface can cause many light effects that are captured by the camera.
  • OBJECTS IN FRONT OF THE LENS: An object or camera strap obstructing the lens causes a dark area on the print. This will appear as white when using a flash indoors or under low light conditions. It has a fuzzy outline and is never in sharp focus. Camera straps in particular will appear as white ‘vortexes’ of white light, sometimes with serrated edges.
  • LAST PICTURE ON ROLL: The first and last picture on a roll of film can sometimes have a  red, yellow or orange glow on one of the edges. This is caused by light seepage when loading or unloading the film.
  • LENS FLARE: Taking photographs into the sun or bright lights can cause a flare and sometimes an image of the camera’s diaphragm, which appears as a hexagonal-shaped glow on the image.

More Photos or Get the Book

Phantoms on Film

Amazing Real Ghost Pictures!


42 comments… add one
  • Kimberly Butler May 19, 2019, 3:57 am

    I have a picture of an orb and I wish I knew someone who could tell me about it. I’m not sure how to insert it but it is a very interesting picture but scary at the same time.

  • one Nov 1, 2018, 12:03 am

    There is an entity in the added-on portion of my house; the family room. It has appeared as a dark shadow, mimicking my cat and ran across my path to get my attention, stopping at the door leading to the rest of my house. It was asking for permission to enter. I reached for the doorknob but instead found my hand on the dimmer of the light switch. As I turned the lights up I watched the shadow slowly fade to nothing.

    The entity has also been photographed using a first-generation digital camera! I saw nothing, just had a feeling that something was there. The camera picked up a luminescent white orb. Sort of an elongated oval shape. When I downloaded the picture to my laptop and zoomed in on it I could see magical markings all around the edges of it. Symbols like a star, arrows, carats, other things I can’t describe, and a drawing of a person waving.

  • Bill Aug 27, 2018, 7:37 pm

    Can I submit a picture? I have a photo of an orb shooting. It was taken by my daughter in my presence. It also coincided with other orb activity and supernatural phenomenon that lasted a week. Right after our cherished dog passed suddenly and two days after that my father in law passed. After all the passings everything went quiet again.

  • Tracy lee-Frost Feb 7, 2017, 3:01 pm

    Hi, my husband took a video of myself and a friend one evening so we could hear our own voices (he thought this would be funny!) when we watched it back we saw these spheres, could I send it to you to have a look at?

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Mar 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

      Sorry the editor for my page about this only accepts images. See the contact page of this site if you want to send images to my news columns.

  • R Jan 13, 2017, 5:27 pm

    I found your site and wanted to share something I caught on Video. A few years ago, I thought I’d finally find out if I snored or not lol, so I set up my digital camera on table and went to sleep on the futon in lounge. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw the next morning. On playing the footage back, I noticed an Orb fly down from one window in lounge, past one chair and alongside my Futon where I was asleep and then it turned sharply and flew up past my head and up towards the ceiling.

  • Yvonne Dec 18, 2016, 11:12 am

    I was looking back at some photos recently taken with my phone while I was out of state attending a family funeral. I notice in one photo that was taken the day after the service at the home of the decease, a very wierd light. What’s so wierd about it to me is the area it’s in and how it stands out, also that it is completely transparent, but also appears to have an image of something in side of the light.
    As I stare at it and enhance the size of the photo, I get butterflies at what I think the image is. The only thing I’m 100% sure about is that this is not normal. I can’t shake it so I went on-line trying to get answers and my search bought me to you. I would like to submit the photo for you review and feedback. The photo has several family members including myself in it, so I don’t know if I should leave them in it or crop out all heads. Please advise.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Jan 4, 2017, 1:26 pm

      You can send ghost picture for analysis to my Newspaper column in the UK. Only a few are selected though and ORBs are usually rejected by the editor. There’s a link to the submit page on the contact page of this site. If you go to the chat area of this site we also have a forum where you cam upload ghost pictures and orbs for comment.

  • Jean Simmonds Nov 5, 2016, 11:20 am

    When you have seen an orb as large as I have with the naked eye you know this is real. My eyes are perfect. I see them almost every day I see white ones, and orange streaks . Two weeks ago I was looking through the bedroom window, there was no traffic outside. All of a sudden there was a bright light on my chest. I followed the light it was a very ,very ,large blue & white orb it was so beautiful. The orb moved along the room, went along my headboard and disappeared. There was no lights on, in the room, the headboard is black. Everything was so clear. This was real. I also have photos where spirits have a appeared.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Jan 4, 2017, 1:31 pm

      This sounds like retinal flashes to me but it you have recently had your eyes properly tested and examined then this raises other issues. Retinal flashes as usually extremely bright and primarily white and sometimes with blue light intermingled.

  • Tim Oct 2, 2016, 6:52 pm

    My very good friend (40 yo woman) saw blue levitating orb in the night. About 10 inch diameter. It was in mountain, small village, old cottage. Owner commited suicide years before, hanged. That night she was going down stairs to WC. There was no window, no street lights, no moon light. The date was Christmas Eve. The orb didnt move. She was frightened and quickly returned back to bed. In the morning, mother in law told, she had seen this “orb” too in different part of this house, but different shape, like cylinder.

  • Kris May 22, 2016, 2:21 pm

    I have two pics of what I believe are orbs. Would you be able to look at them and see what you think?

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker May 23, 2016, 10:09 am

      I only look at pictures of orbs etc. via my newspaper columns now but you can send it via the ‘Fate and Fortune’ link on the contact page.

  • Lee Feb 8, 2016, 4:53 am

    I don’t know how you can say most orbs aren’t real. Well. I have noticed orbs while video taping a birthday and now..3 months later I am still video taping them. Weird thing is I have at least 3 different ones..they come through every time. Its usually in the morning when I tape. Even with the house all lit up I get them. There is one I have video of just got the other day and I’m confused..this is actually some kind of ghost creature or something. It looks almost frog like – legs and everything! It leaped through room at lightening speed but I got it on video. You would be blown away at this! I want to know what it is. It was bright white. Another orb has a face and always has a snake looking thing coming out of the eye. I’m wondering if it means something. I wish I could find someone to look at these with me.

    • Dayne Dec 11, 2017, 10:45 pm

      Generally orbs are just dust on the lens. There is usually a lot more dust in the morning because it settles overnight.

  • Sandra Dec 25, 2015, 9:32 am

    On Christmas Eve my sister was about to snap a picture of me, when she noticed two lights bouncing off of me. I never saw them. I was wearing a reflective hat so I said she was seeing the hat’s reflection. She snapped the pics and two of the pictures have a rectangular reflection on the wall, but one has a reflection in front of me and one behind me. I can blame the hat on the wall reflection, but I don’t understand how on the third picture a rectangular reflection appears on me, bottom of the picture and another one behind me. One of your posts says I’m able to upload a picture, but I don’t see that option. I’d like to share the pics with you because it appears we captured something that was flashing in the room on three photographs.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Jan 21, 2016, 3:18 pm

      You can upload images of orbs and so on in the forum section of this site. See top bar navigation. Also, you can send them for analysis at my newspaper columns. The link for these is on the contact page.

  • Rebecca Nov 13, 2015, 12:19 am

    When I was a child I used to see orbs with my own eyes not a camera there would be 3 or 4 flying around in a kind of swirling looping movement. Other weird stuff happened like being shut in the toilet, door handles moving, footsteps on the staircase. One night the loft hatch moved and there were heavy banging noises which woke the whole house. Whilst walking home from a friends house I looked up at the window from the street and was sure I saw a lady with long hair but could not make out features or anything just a shape.

  • Austin Hughes May 3, 2015, 2:09 am

    I took a picture at night because we found something crazy at a trailer. Later, at about 8:45 I took a picture of some bushes where a guy was walking toward and I found a bunch of green and blue orbs. Is this paranormal or normal?

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker May 5, 2015, 2:37 pm

      Orbs are caused by dust or water on the lens so it is not paranormal. If you would like other opinions you can upload your pictures at our forums for comment.

  • diana earley Mar 6, 2015, 5:57 am

    My daughter took a photo with her cell phone of my grandson looking into a mirror with the flash on. My grandson was looking up in the photo so she took a closer look at the photo and discovered a ghostly face. My question is how and who do we send this photo to, to have it analyzed?

    We have discovered Fast moving orbs in videos we have taken of him as well But we are a little curios about the face in this particular corner of my house. My grandson has always been attracted to this area and giggles, and seems to have baby conversations while looking up the whole time. One person thinks its an evil looking face but we have no activity in our home that would lead us to believe it would be an evil spirit. My grandson is a happy go lucky 7 month old, but was born with a cleft lip and palate but this does not hold him back at all. He is the biggest healthiest infant his surgeons have seen with these issues. We really just want to get it checked out.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Apr 1, 2015, 12:49 pm

      You could book a paid email reading from me and send it as an attachment and I will look at it for you if you like. Or if you would like to send it to my newspaper column on the contact page of this site you can enter it for publication and even – if it is selected – be given a small prize. We do also have a forum in the community area where you can upload pictures and get people to comment. In my opinion most of the orbs I’ve seen can be explained by specks of dust or water on the camera glass.

  • michelle Kline Jan 10, 2015, 7:09 pm

    I have a few pictures of orbs that I recently found out about when my grandson was born. He says he has been seeing a man in my bedroom and I looked back on pictures and there are faces in orb and other things too. I would love to send to you for you to see them.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Jan 13, 2015, 11:29 am

      On this site’s contact page there is a link to the site of my column in Fate and Fortune Magazine where you can send me your ghost pictures and orbs for analysis.

      • Bridget O'Connor Feb 9, 2015, 1:02 am

        HI Craig. Where can we post a picture to be analyzed of an orb?

        • Craig Hamilton-Parker Apr 2, 2015, 1:46 pm

          There’s a link on the contact page of this site to my magazine column. You can send it there and it may get selected for analysis. We also have a ghost pictures forum on the community section of this website.

  • Louise Sinkins Nov 23, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Thank you for this information! I’m a believer but dust orbs where plaguing me, until I learnt how to use my camera properly!

  • Tanya Canning Jun 3, 2014, 4:32 am

    Please can you help my family are constantly saying things like I need to get my head sorted out or I have lost the plot: I have got videos of orbs and videos and pictures of some really spooky stuff going on. I have been told that a video I recorded was a recording of a ghost or spirit but even with this proof I am still unable to convince my family and friends I am not nuts HELP!

  • carol Jan 23, 2014, 2:58 pm

    The picture that is posted on this page. What would be causing that in the picture? Is that an orb?

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Jan 25, 2014, 1:29 pm

      It look like an orb but it is a complete fake. This picture I made as an illustration for an article I wrote about fake orbs for a magazine. In 99.9% of cases – perhaps all – orbs are an effect caused by dust or moisture on the camera lens or in very close range to the camera.

  • really different Nov 22, 2013, 9:20 pm

    I see orbs and more in the last month than ever before in my life. I had to make sure that I wasn’t just seeing things so I asked an orb to show itself again – its so fast when they do… and it did. It really was …so beautiful: not like a light of this world. A beautiful almost aqua blue and it shown brighter and grew bigger only for a flash moment (even though ironically it was tiny small.) but that showed me they have intelligence. I want to know what to do how to help them or how to communicate to where I can hear them. Any advice would be great. Thank you and have a wonderful day. P.S. I was alone in a bathroom in the dead of night. I’ve seen it and many others especially in my boyfriend’s house. And when I seen it and it shown itself again as I asked if I was alone so it couldn’t have been reflecting off an aura.

  • Greg May 23, 2013, 12:54 am

    Having seen an orb I can say that there is no doubt about their existence. I knew it was there, I felt it knew I was there and when I looked left to view it I was suddenly rushed by the orb and struck on the left side of my face. I felt the feeling of a rush of concentrated wind on the side of my face, even in my left ear. Then it was gone. It was a bright glowing color, just still in the air about five feet off the floor. When I looked it seemed as something was inside the orb, something that was aware of me being there with it. Only way I can describe it.

    • Lb Jun 28, 2015, 10:13 pm

      At last, your description fits mine: a solid sphere, not made of light, capable of moving towards me at great speed. It hit the side of the bed and made a loud bang. I felt like it was an entity, like it was as aware of me as I of it. Seen this twice and both times it has flown towards me.

  • Nichola Lloyd May 19, 2013, 11:44 pm

    Hi Craig. I actually saw three orbs with my own eyes moving around a small area of my sister’s bedroom one night when I was staying over. It was quite late at night and dark. The balls moved upward and seemed to disappear through the ceiling! I managed to grab my phone and snap a few photos. I’d love your opinion on what you think these balls of light were. I could see a slight trail behind them as they moved upwards…. These orbs were not dust!

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker May 20, 2013, 4:54 pm

      If you go to the contact page of this website there is a link to send your pictures of orbs and ghosts to my magazine column. The selected pictures are given a full analysis to determine what they are. Only the best are chosen and I usually reject pictures of orbs as they are so easily explained. Your ‘orbs’ were seen with the naked eye which makes for a more interesting image so please send it to my editor.

  • Lynne Baty Sep 28, 2012, 8:51 am

    My friend and I have captured what we believe to be orbs and we have captured thick mists. In one set you can see it as it forms. I have a TON of pictures. I would love to be able to email you these orb pictures and see what you think.

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Oct 1, 2012, 11:03 am

      You cannot upload pictures of orbs on this page for analysis but you can either send them to my paranormal pictures column at Fate and Fortune magazine and I’ll take a look or post them on our community forums here. I would post just a couple of Orb pictures at first as most orbs are caused by moisture or dust on the camera lens and can be easily explained. We do however have one or two orb pictures that could be of supernatural origin.

  • Lynzie Sep 24, 2012, 10:20 pm

    What about a picture that was clear and perfect and suddenly develops an orb?

    • Craig Hamilton-Parker Oct 1, 2012, 11:08 am

      Orbs are usually caused by dust or moisture. They are normally only seen on digital cameras because these have a short focal length that captures images close to the camera lens. Maybe you are describing an orb appearing on a developed print? In the past this was usually caused by a stray crystal in the developing fluid that sits on the photographic paper to cause a white ring. But do post your images on our orb forums and you’ll get more specific comments about your interesting orb pictures.

Leave a Comment