L. Sarhan has been a paranormal investigator and researcher for over 25 years.
When it comes to presenting evidence of the paranormal, pictures and videos of orbs seem to pop up everywhere. Many enthusiast ghost hunters get all excited when they see orbs in their pictures. They will argue with you that they are proof of the paranormal. Troy Taylor, author of Ghost Hunter's Guidebook and president of the American Ghost Society, calls these type of people "orb-a-philes." These "orb-a-philes" will swear by orbs and will not take any rational explanations into account. They will post these photos and videos all over the internet and try to convince people that this is positive proof that ghosts exist.
However, orbs are one of the most easily explained phenomenons in paranormal investigations. There are so many factors that come into play when debunking orbs in pictures and video. For serious paranormal investigators and ghost hunters, they will take a variety of environmental factors into consideration. In fact, many renowned paranormal researchers have discounted orbs as being paranormal for a number of different reasons.
Does this mean all orbs in photography can't be paranormal at all? Not necessarily. The science of paranormal research has been debated for decades and will probably continue to be debated for decades to come. However, when it comes to orbs don't be so quick to play the paranormal card. First, rule out all possible explanations.
It is always a good idea to perform a check of all equipment prior to an investigation. Be sure that camera lenses are free from smudging and dust. Also, make sure your fingers don't touch the lens during the investigation. Our fingers have natural oils that will leave a smudge residue. Smudging and dust could cause orbs to appear in your pictures. Even if you capture an orb with a pristine clean camera, it doesn't mean it is paranormal. Consider the following factors before submitting orb pictures as evidence.
The number one culprit orbs appearing in photographs and on video are dust and debris. According to Merriam Webster, dust is fine particles of matter. This could include dead skin cells, dirt, pollen, animal dander, hair, decomposing insects, dust mites, waste from dust mites, lint, insulation from the building, and the list goes on.
So what makes dust appear in film as orbs? The simple answer is retro-reflection of light off the dust particle. Many paranormal investigators and ghost hunters typically do their investigations at night. Because of this there might be flashlights involved, flash from cameras, infrared (IR) lights, and natural lights from the environment just to name a few sources of light that can cause this retro-reflection of light on dust particles. It doesn't take much light to reflect off of these dust particles and cameras are quick to pick it up. However, this doesn't mean orbs in photos taken during the day are proof of paranormal. It all comes down to retro-reflection of light regardless of the time of day or night.
Many "orb-a-philes" may argue that there was no dust in the area. This is simply something that cannot be proven. Although our human eyes may not be able to see dust particles prior to the investigation it does not mean that dust particles are not present. Remember, dust can be a variety of different things. Even paranormal investigators or ghost hunters can bring dust particles in from the outside on their clothing without even realizing it. Even still, a human body sheds 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells every hour. Now multiply that by how many people are at the location and how long they stay for the investigation.
Dust orbs can appear translucent to solid depending upon the type of dust or how close it is to the camera. Although most cases dust orbs are not bright but this doesn't mean they can't be.
Insects are another common problem in photographing orbs. They often appear as solid bright orbs of light. Insects are naturally curious when it comes to light sources. Have you ever noticed when you turn on a porch light that insects are attracted to it within minutes. They are just as curious even with soft infrared light.
Some people may argue that there were no insects at the location. This is hard to guarantee. Many insects are very small and typically go unnoticed by most people. For example, gnats and fruit flies typically go unnoticed unless there are several.
In many cases of having video evidence, orbs of light that move across the screen are often debunked as insects. Even a small gnat can appear large the closer it is to the camera. Many times when insects are in-flight, it creates an orb that appears to have a tail streaming behind it.
When someone thinks of moisture they think of water or vapors they can see. However, our atmosphere is filled with moisture molecules that humans cannot see with their own eyes. Cameras are great at capturing moisture molecules sometimes.
One example is when a group of paranormal investigators were on an investigation at a private residence, they decided to go down to the creek where a woman's body was dragged. Many of the paranormal investigators began taking random pictures during EVP sessions. Many of the photos came back with octagon-shaped orbs. This would be intriguing if the paranormal investigators weren't standing on large rock in the creek. Standing in a water source and the light from the cameras created a beautiful display of orbs.
Not all moisture orbs are octagon. They can be a variety of shapes. They can also be a variety of colors as well. Have you ever seen a rainbow when watering your lawn or washing your car? Moisture and light create literally a rainbow of colors. Keep in mind though, that not all water molecule orbs have colors.
Okay, so orbs are a retro-reflection of light off an object but did you know that light itself causes orbs in photographs? Take the sun for example, have you ever taken a photograph of a loved one on a sunny day and there were orbs in the picture close to the sun? This is from the sun's light rays. Same thing can happen with taking a picture of another light source such as a light pole or a reflection of the camera's flash. Also, try to rule out another person's flashlight in the distance or reflecting off a wall, window, or door.
In physics, the phenomenon that creates orbs in photography is actually referred to as back-scattering. Back-scattering is a diffuse reflection of waves, particles, or signals traveling back to the direction it came from. So in essence, this phenomenon can occur with more than just dust, insects, moisture, and light.
Patterns in the Orbs
Some people talk about seeing symbols, designs and even faces within the orb. Although that can be a little creepy, don't get too excited. It could just be an example of pareidolia. Pareidolia is a psychological reaction. It is when the brain is trying to process data into a recognizable shape.
The best example of pareidolia is cloud watching. Have you ever just laid down and watched the clouds pass by? If so, how many times have you seen familiar shapes, such as an elephant, a car, an angel, or other things? This is pareidolia. The cloud isn't actually the shape of an elephant nor a car but your brain mixed with a splash of imagination will certainly help you see an elephant or angel in the clouds.
So as you go out on your ghost hunt or paranormal investigation, consider the environment when you are taking video and still pictures. Take note of the slightest change in the environment, such as wind, rain, lights around you, or if you notice any insects. Even take note of any personal feelings or experiences at the time. This will help you when you begin to analyze the footage and photographs. It will help give you grounds to either dismiss the orbs or wonder sincerely about weather the orb in question is truly paranormal.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 L Sarhan
Angie Parry on May 16, 2020:
While me and my husband were sitting in bed, he turned the camera on on his mobile phone and we saw shooting orbs in all different directions. It was amazing. We havent seen them since, so I dont think it was dust.
Krissyledford.firstname.lastname@example.org on February 20, 2020:
Are these orbs or dust particles?
Jay Desman on January 22, 2020:
I caught a blue orb while filming my cat...I looked away (not thru camera) and saw nothing. I continued filming and could see a blue fluffy looking thing about the size of a big honeydew floating right by. My cat saw it and never took her eyes off of it! After I looked up on computer what the "blue" was supposed to mean, it said "protection", that we have a guardian angel of sorts around us. I wasn't all that excited to see the orb cause I sort of don't believe it but now maybe I have to...
Mark Maidment on January 12, 2020:
After this propa explination n proof of what orbs are. .
Yet still gormless people think they real. One comment on here i see. Hes researched orbs intelligence in them.
What did u do empty your hoover . ?
People orbs are not paranormsl. Never have been. Its the digital camera that causes this effect .u use propa camera of hi spec or slr u wont see 1. The explination here is bang on yet people still saying on here , believing dust to be paranormal.
Some comments say. By the shape its defo something. Its just how k8ght reflects if dust they alll different float about all over place. Its how light catches them. Creates an illusion .all it is. I believe in ghosts seen n heard loads stuff. Many many ghost invest teams now. Debunk orbs dont really say anything on them. Orbs was debunked. Can have cleaniest if places still get orbs . (Dust).
Anyone saying orbs real. Talking biggest rubbish . They not a clue .
I film n take pics in invests with all sorts cameras. One my best friends is tv cameraman. Anyone who knows cameras will tell u. Dust flashes up on digital cameras with light or IR Light as orbs
Orbs are not paranormal.
Dust particles are not spirits .
Propa read the article of what orbs are. Let it sink in. The truth sink in. Lol
ORBS IS ONLY DUST . and all other floaty bits in the air
Been doing this long time . . How cameras work.
Christina calvert on January 08, 2020:
From what I see at my house it looks just like pictures of drones I've got many that look just like this.
Me on December 17, 2019:
I have seen orbs with lights that looked like a Firefly in a bubble with my naked eye. That is not dust or insects I was walking between 2 sides of the cemetery there were several parading slowly in a row & went right through me as though I weren't even there.
Mr. Wright on November 15, 2019:
I been researching Orbs and ran across your post. I can say that the Orbs Im are experiencing are hundreds of unknow light that float around with intelligence. Once I seen them go through my camera around and spin at incredible speeds. I went out and recorded the orbs around my camera and they followed me back to my door. I even have a large Orb float pass my camera slowly with the bottom half moving in a walking motion.I sent footage too experts all over the country and some says its a orb storm and other still not sure what they are.One thing for sure when I recorded off my phone and was walking through them its not from our world and the light was moving through me and around. It was hundreds and they was not dust, insect or particles. Lights that look like circles and also have a trail. I have hours of video from at night and daytime. I moved my cameras to a different area of the yard maybe 200 feet and it followed the camera . In my situation something is trying to communicate and let it be known that its here. Since I been recording it all time of night and day it have gotten stronger and now its able to trigger my motion lights. I had also sent copies to the Enviromental Protection Agency and they also could not verify what it was. Both a resher in the U. K. and a police evidence tech now reseacher himself agreed and said it was only one Entity regardless of how many orbs that was clustered together. I will be taking there advice and adding more cameras for that front side and back view along with laser grids this weekend. I personally believe its a spirit , I dont feel that its trying to hurt, haunt or bother me. When you see it in front of my cameras it feel as though it want my attention because it definitely put on a show in front of the cameras
Conny Manero on October 11, 2019:
Hi L Sarhan,
I would like to know what you make of this.
L Sarhan (author) from Huntsville, Alabama, USA on June 24, 2019:
Depends on the shape and environmental factors. Moisture air molecules can sometimes appear to be more octagon in shape. Even dead skin cells can fall off and float in the camera's view. They aren't always "round".
Shirley Bodine on June 21, 2019:
What about white looking thing's that aren't round?
Louisebb on April 26, 2019:
Yes many orbs are actual dust particles, however what I video taped last night was no piece of dust. I was taping my dog in my home when I saw something go through the screen. In the video my dog looked to the right as if she saw something. She then went back to fetch her treat. Just as she was about to pick it up a perfectly round semi transparent white orb came swooping down from her right, stopped for a millisecond in front of her and then sped away and up towards the ceiling past me. Just as it passed in front of my dog, she was startled and quickly backed up. She has acted odd like that for years and I just thought she was neurotic but it turns out it was more than that. I joked with her vet that she stares at the ceiling, corners halls etc and shivers as if she is seeing ghosts. She also does the sudden stopping and backing up thing quite a bit. BTW, while I was taping it my one eye saw it go through the screen but my other naked eye looking at my dog saw nothing which seemed very odd the moment it happened. They say animals can see things we can’t. Apparently they do. I wouldn’t dismiss all orbs so lightly. I haven’t seen a video quite like mine, since the way it happened and my dogs reaction can’t be explained away.
Ideaot on March 05, 2018:
Only idiots will vote to call orbs 'paranormal' either as 'Absolutely' or 'Sometimes'. Such stupids, plenty around us, go to the extent of believing that Earth is FLAT in this year i.e. 2018.
Mike Ferguson on March 21, 2017:
I caught some at Waverly Hills useing a near full spectrum camera. I say near because these cameras cant see the whole light spectrum like gamma rays. I also saw them without the camera especially in the "DEATH TUNNEL".
Ana Luce on February 27, 2017:
I appreciate the pics of dust orbs and moisture. I have been doing night shots for research and I questioned the appearance of moisture and dust orbs. I know the insects and how they come through on Night Portraits. There is a woman who specializes in orbs-photography since last five years. I see her work posted but question the technology she uses to create 'ET's' in every orb submitted by followers or taken by her own camera. I asked how she finds orbs to be satellites and or holograms from other dimensions based on what? I did not get an answer. She lives in Australia. So what do you know about this work? Or have you seen her work? Merlina's MFT Method-
Art Davenport on June 04, 2016:
Dead on accurate! I can take pictures or video in any location and get you all the "Orbs" you want. colored, pulsating, going different directions and even making 90 degree turns. Our rule of thumb is simple.... if you don't see it with your own eyes, its probably not what you think. We have seen balls light with our own eyes. There is no mistaken what you are seeing. Almost as if its a flashlight or lantern. Rare is an understatement when you see these. Simple science explains this as the article outlines. Well done explained Linda Sarhan!
Mackenzie Sage Wright on September 11, 2014:
Very true; orbs are like the least reliable method for proving ghosts, with modern cameras it's just too easy to get them from natural causes. I knew someone who bought a house and swore it was haunted because from day one pictures were always full of orbs. I visited and she encouraged me to take some pictures-- but every room had a central air and a spinning ceiling fan. I took a closer look at the fans and they were pretty dusty. Orb mystery solved-- though my acquaintance wasn't happy about considering the natural possibility and dismissed me. Great hub.