Orbs caught in the act of forming in a swarm of insects! The angular objects are insects in focus.
There is a lot of detailed information about orbs on the paranormal photo pages of this web site. Much of the information about orbs, which many people find endlessly fascinating, is therefore spread out.
For an index to ALL orb pages go to Orb Centre.
For a more detailed Orb FAQ go here!
For details of how orbs are formed see here!
How orbs form
Orbs are circles of confusion caused by objects too small and too out of focus to be seen properly in a photo (things like dust, water droplets, pollen and insects). Instead, they show up as circles formed from pin-point highlights on the tiny object.
Digital cameras are particularly prone to producing orbs because their lenses have a much greater depth of field than film cameras. Usually a flash is required to show orbs but you can get them in daylight. It is also perfectly possible to get orbs with film cameras though it is more difficult.
Orbs vary in size, brightness and transparency depending on the illumination available.
Orbs continue to fascinate
Judging by the number of web sites dedicated to orbs, they fascinate many people. And yet, if you ask any serious paranormal researcher, they will dismiss most, if not all, orbs as photographic artifacts. Indeed, many of the web sites dedicated to orbs admit as much. So why do orbs continue to exert such interest?
One reason must be that they are relatively common and easy to produce. For every picture apparently showing a ghost, there must be thousands featuring orbs.
Orb shape, colour, transparency
Why aren't orbs dust shaped?
Orbs are circles of confusion formed by the highlights of objects, not the whole object.
Why aren't orbs dust coloured?
Orbs are formed from highlights which reflect most of the incident light which is usually white from a flash unit
Why are some orbs transparent?
Orbs vary between grey/transparent and white/solid. If the orb object is intensely illuminated it will appear white and solid. Less well illuminated orbs are transparent.
Why are some orbs coloured?
Usually it's caused by Moire patterning but also sometimes by chromatic aberration or even refraction (in water orbs only - see pic above).
Why are some orbs not perfect circles?
There is a typical optical truncation effect at the corners of photos (see pic above). In addition, shapes can be affected by interaction with other orbs and by spherical aberration. Some orbs are diamond-shaped or hexagonal due to the shape of the lens aperture.
Are orbs only seen in infra-red?
Some people have speculated that digital cameras are particularly susceptible to orbs because of their sensitivity to infra-red. This is a myth.
Aren't there pictures of orbs behind objects in the photo?
It can look like it but there haven't been any convincing cases so far (though see here).
See the paranormal orb FAQ.
Paranormal orbs - reasons to believe
Still think orbs are paranormal? Try this page or this one. For more information on paranormal theories for orbs, see here.
Also, visit the Orb Gallery!
Are orbs paranormal?
How do we know orbs are photographic artifacts?
- it is possible to recreate orbs perfectly with dust, powder, water, etc. just in front of the camera lens
- You can take pictures of perfectly sharp orbs in front of a background that is too close to be in focus (see photo left)
- all orbs produced by a particular camera show the same shape and 'structural' characteristics, such as the number of concentric circles (given equal brightness, transparency, etc.), because this is dictated by the lens, not the orb
- orbs near frame corners show a characteristic truncation - an optical effect (vignetting)
- orbs can be seen clearly in out-of-focus areas of ordinary photos
- orbs never take up much of the frame of the photo - if they were 'out there' why no close-ups?
Aren't single orbs a sign of ghostly origin?
Sometimes single orbs, often spectacular, show up on a photo. It has been speculated that if orbs are caused by dust it is unlikely you would get a single bit on its own. The volume of dust in the air obviously varies all the time. It is perfectly possible for one dust particle to be in front of a camera by chance when the density is low. Alternatively, lone orbs could be insects.
Are there any genuinely paranormal orbs?
Light phenomena, including small floating glowing spheres, have been observed in haunting cases for many years. They have even been captured in photos. The difference with these lights is that they were seen by people at the time. They don't just appear on photos after the event.
It is possible that the orb 'craze' may be masking this real phenomenon. Whether these lights are paranormal remains to be established.
© Maurice Townsend 2007