What Are ORBS? Real or Self-Delusion?

Blue Orb in Photo
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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!


About Post Author

Craig Hamilton-Parker

Craig is a TV medium, author and mystical teacher. I will approve and respond to comments that are short, well-written and on topic. For personal questions and experiences please post on our forums.
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