Many people ask me if their photos show an orb, or even a ghost orb.
I’m not sure that’s the right question to ask, but here’s the simple answer:
If the picture shows a round or spherical shape that’s at least partly translucent, that’s usually called an orb.
The two graves in this photo (at right) have orbs near them. Whether those orbs represent ghosts is another matter.
Orbs are round
The shape of an orb should be almost perfectly round. If it’s not, it’s most likely an insect. Mosquitoes, moths, fireflies, and other warm-weather bugs show up in pictures regularly. Sometimes you can see the wings; sometimes you can’t.
(Mosquitoes can look like little faeries in pictures. Some of them almost look as if they have faces, as well as dainty arms and legs.)
You’re looking for something round, with no yellow dot in the middle (that’s usually pollen).
Also, the orb shouldn’t look completely solid.
You can see through orbs
Generally, objects in back of the orb can be seen through the orb.
The photo at left is a good example. You can see the seat of the chair through the orb.
So, that’s what an orb looks like.
The more important question is: Can you explain why the orb is there?
I’ve written many articles about false orbs. You’ll find those articles in the Ghost Photography section of this website.
Some of those articles need to be updated. Frankly, it’s a lot more difficult than I expected, to create false orbs.
Though it’s still important to rule out normal explanations, the causes of false (normal) orbs are easier to spot than I realized.
Watch out for moisture
Moisture remains the leading culprit in creating false orbs.
If it’s damp out, you’ll see orbs — usually too many of them — in many or all of your pictures.
The photo at the right is an extreme example. That’s not rain; it’s fog.
(That photo was taken at Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH.)
However, if you see orbs in just one or two photos out of 30 or more… that may rule out moisture, unless the weather shifted dramatically while you were taking pictures.
While dust, dirt, mold, pollen and bugs can look like orbs in photos, they’re usually easy to identify if you’ve taken many photos with your current camera.
Test your cameras
Even if you’ve been ghost hunting for years, test your cameras.
I’ll be writing about this — with far more details — in my book about ghost photography, but you can experiment with your cameras right now.
- Your camera (or cameras) that you use in haunted locations.
- Something with dust on it. A Swiffer-type duster is fine.
- Something with pollen on it. A large flower or some goldenrod will be ideal.
- A spray bottle filled with water. You’ll want the kind of bottle you use to mist your plants, or one designed for household cleaner, or something similar that you use when you’re ironing. It should have an adjustable nozzle, so you can test it with a very fine mist and a heavier mist.
- A sheet of foil, at least 10″ x 10″.
- A piece of glass. You can usually pick up a frame with glass in it at Wal-Mart for about a dollar or two. Or, bring one from home.
- A glass bottle, like a beer bottle.
- A beverage can, like a can of beer or soda.
Then, you’ll take these items to a dark location, preferably outdoors. The evening should be fairly still or very slightly breezy. (If it’s too windy, the dust and pollen will blow away, and you’ll have to chase the foil across the cemetery or field.)
Set up your cameras so you’re ready to take pictures. Be sure your camera is set so every photo uses the flash.
Then, experiment with different sources of false anomalies.
For example, shake the duster or flower over your camera so the dust or pollen fall past the lens as you take your flash photo.
Spray water into the air, near and far from your camera. See what a mist looks like, and see what a sprayed stream of water looks like.
Place the foil at different locations, near and far, and at different angles. Take pictures so you see what light looks like when it’s reflected back at your camera lens.
Repeat that kind of experiment with the glass, the glass bottle and the beverage can.
Review your photos
Next, study your pictures on your computer. Look at them up close, so you can see exactly what the reflections look like, and if you might confuse them with real (paranormal) orbs.
That’s the only way someone can tell if an orb is normal or paranormal.
I can’t tell anyone if their orb is “real.”
In fact, even if there is an explanation for the orb, we can’t be sure it’s the explanation.
Maybe your ghost inhabits a dusty location or a damp basement. If so, it’s going to be difficult to identify the ghost orb among the normal orbs.
However, once you know exactly what a normal orb looks like, you’ll begin to see very distinct differences between normal orbs and paranormal orbs.
That requires practice, and it helps if you’ve already tried these experiments.