First of all, what are orbs? Orbs are theorized to be concentrated pinpoints of energy that have manifested intensely enough to present as a small ball of light, or as a small pocket of matter.
Often confused, orbs are not evidence of–nor even indicative of paranormal activity. Energy orbs are just that, balls of energy floating around in the air.
Scientists have been concerned with balls of energy for many years now, including ball lighting–which is a phenomena naturally occurring but so rare that scientists have a hard time studying it. They’ve managed to reproduce the phenomena in a laboratory, but whether or not the process is anything similar to what happens in nature is still a mystery.
However, some people believe that in the same way that we track anomalous and often-times communicative sources of “energy” on a ghost hunt, these balls of energy may well have something to do with ghostly activity.
But if we’re gonna talk about orbs, we first need to break down some photography.
First of all, DEPTH OF FIELD. What is it? Depth of field is the depth that your camera keeps objects in focus.
This varies depending on the lens. A narrow depth of field creates very blurry backgrounds, where the object in focus is only a very shallow part of the image.
With a deep depth of field, objects in the foreground are mostly in focus, while objects in the far background are also mostly in focus.
Also FLASH. Okay, we all know what a flash is: an intense burst of light from your camera to illuminate the room. But also keep in mind that holding a flashlight or other bright light source (including those invisible to the naked eye, like IR illuminators) are all in essence the same thing.
Now, the common explanation in paranormal research is that supposed “orbs” that appear on camera are actually dust particles. The dust is illuminated by the flash on your camera, and then, because your camera has focused on something deeper in the frame, farther away, the dust that is close to your camera lens is out of focus, forming a pretty sphere.
Consider this video here, in which out of focus lights turn to pretty, perfect circles with sometimes strange little squiggles or swirls inside.
These little squiggles are the product of the out of focus object. Play with the focus on your cameras. This very easily becomes the MATRIXING effect, also called PAREIDOLIA. Our human brain is trained to recognize facial features as part of our psychological development. So when you think you see a face because you’re zoomed in to the pixels, it’s not a ghost. The “orb” is a perfect sphere because it’s out of focus. Even if that was a spirit manifesting, they’re not going to manifest so that the more out of focus your camera is, the more in focus they are. If the “orb” was far enough away that your camera could focus on it AND see a face within it, everyone in the room would be aware of that orb.
The key is also this: Most orbs, if they are self-contained energy, would be characterized by their PRODUCTION of light, and the brightest point would be the center, radiating light OUTWARD, and in best case scenarios, casting that light onto another nearby object.
Most dust particles captured in photography are REFLECTING light. You can clearly see an outer edge is illuminated, or the orb is for the most part simply transparent.
This is oftentimes witnessed on video camera too. Video usually utilizes a powerful light source, the IR light, that investigators use often. Think of it as a constant flash. Anything drifts in front of the lens, you have an orb. Often because this light is so powerful and direct in an otherwise dark room, insects and floating particulates, when they hit the light beam, are brightly illuminated, and move in odd patterns.
Sometimes they’re close enough to the camera to see wings. Sometimes they’re far and small enough they seem only like a small dot.
Why are they sometimes in colors? I was told that if they were purple, it’s my uncle. Oftentimes, the flash illuminates the room and bounces off the dust particle. If the particle looks red, it’s usually because there was something red in the room that the flash bounced from, and this is what illuminated the dust.
This can also be due to water particles, insects, and dust. All of which are around us constantly. If you show me a picture of an orb from a dusty tunnel, old attic, or outside during a snowstorm, I’m obviously going to rule it out.
If you show me an orb from anywhere else, let’s face it, I’m gonna rule that out too. Dust is everywhere.
HOWEVER. Let’s play some devil’s advocate here.
Orb’s DO seem to be a recurring phenomena. I’ve seen then with my own eyes in a dark room. Often they seem to be a trick of my eyes, those semi-supernova-esque type appearances that oddly enough are often validated by other people in the room. I’ve seen them under chairs, near people’s bodies, floating by the ceiling and along the floor.
I’ve never seen one photographed.
However, there is something to be said too for the idea that if a spirit concentrates its manifestation to an individual point, perhaps it can come through as MATTER in a very tiny space. In which case, wouldn’t it look just like a dust orb on camera?
Certainly so. If that’s what’s happening, if matter is actually forming before your camera, close enough to the lens to be out of focus and illuminated by the flash, maybe it is indeed a ghost. My problem is that if it in all likelihood is a piece of dust or moisture or bug(which are all EVERYWHERE), what are the chances you’ve captured proof positive of a ghost?
In my opinion? Slim. Very slim.
Other ways to try to capture orbs then would be such:
Set up an experiment in which you put two cameras a few feet from each other, on tripods. Using the flash on both, and rigging a remote to set both off at the same time, an orb should appear in both of the photos if it is indeed deeper in the room.
However, this also supplies problems. In a dusty room, you might get two separate orbs in the photos. So, I’d trust using an SLR camera with no flash or bright light source close to the camera, and a lens hood.
If you get an orb in one of those photos, check to see if it seems to be producing light or reflecting light. If reflecting, where is it coming from?
But that’s all I’ve got this week. Disagree? Agree? Let me know more down in the comment section down below!
My name is Karl Pfeiffer. I’m a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. I won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then I’ve lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published my first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com