Articles - Orbs

Orb Zone Theory - ASSAP Website

Though the number of megapixels is irrelevant in the Orb Zone theory, the physical size of the sensor chip is not. More recent cameras tend to have larger sensors as well as more megapixels. This means their lenses have a smaller depth of field which reduces the likelihood of orbs. 


The vast majority of orbs are white or shades of grey. Orbs sometimes appear truncated around the edges of frames in some photos (caused by vignetting as the dust is very close to the lens) How orbs can appear in front of backgrounds too close to be in focus (because they are very close and out of focus themselves, not in focus objects 'out there') how orbs can appear to be moving (they are multiple overlapping orbs caused by objects with several highlights, like insects)* How orbs can have tails, usually fading away downwards (because they are falling raindrops)Why orbs are never larger than around one tenth of the size of the photo frame Why cameras that produce odd-shaped orbs, such as diamonds, always get the same shape in all orbs


The vast majority of orbs are white or shades of grey. Orbs sometimes appear truncated around the edges of frames in some photos (caused by vignetting as the dust is very close to the lens) How orbs can appear in front of backgrounds too close to be in focus (because they are very close and out of focus themselves, not in focus objects 'out there') 
how orbs can appear to be moving (they are multiple overlapping orbs caused by objects with several highlights, like insects)* How orbs can have tails, usually fading away downwards (because they are falling raindrops)Why orbs are never larger than around one tenth of the size of the photo frame Why cameras that produce odd-shaped orbs, such as diamonds, always get the same shape in all orbs

Some people claim to have tracked individual orbs moving between photos taken in rapid succession and so have concluded that they are moving very quickly. One obvious difficulty here is, how do they know it is the same orb in both photos? Most orbs are featureless amorphous grey or white circles. Even if one could prove that the sane orb appears in two successive photos, it doesn't mean they are moving fast. The orb could indeed be caused by exactly the same bit of dust. However, it only needs to move a very short distance slowly in the orb zone, which is very small and close to the camera, to appear to move a long way in the photo.


More Orbs
When an object is too close to a lens to be in focus, it looks fuzzy. However, it becomes fuzzy in a quite specific way. It turns into a series of overlapping circular blobs of light called 'circles of confusion' (see diagram). These can appear quite sharp (see top photo) but they are actually a representation of a single tiny point (a highlight) on the complete object (which, overall, then looks fuzzy and out of focus). You can often see this 'orbing' effect in pictures where there is a portion (particularly in the foreground) that is badly out of focus. 


Very small objects, like dust particles or small water droplets, produce just a single circle of confusion (or orb). This effect can occur anywhere but is often only noticed when it occurs at somewhere significant, like a haunted house. 


Why are some orbs oddly shaped or colored? Find out why some digital cameras have an 'orb zone', making them prone to orbing. See a photo showing how orbs are really very close to the camera, rather than 'out there'. Take great orb photos, controlling brightness, transparency, color and shape! And see why orbs have nothing to do with the infra-red sensitivity of CCDs.


Probably the most common anomaly noticed by many people is that of odd photos. You take a perfectly normal photo and, when you see the result, there is something odd there - something not noticed at the time of taking the photo. There might be an 'orb', for instance. An orb is a circular (or sometimes another regular shape) patch of light that some people think is paranormal. Or it may be a strange light trail, a patch of mist or some other strange unexpected oddity. 


Many people have speculated that orbs are ghosts or spirits in some form or other. This seems to have arisen mostly because they have been photographed at a reputedly haunted places. Such places can be particularly prone to orbs as they may be old and dusty. Also, orbs show up better against a dark background, as often occurs during a vigil/investigation. However, you can find orbs in photos taken anywhere. Away from haunted places, they are generally ignored or regarded as an irritation. They can be removed with photo editing software. 


If you are going to be somewhere where you think there might be something anomalous or paranormal to photograph (such as on a vigil/investigation), please ensure you set your digital camera to take high quality photographs. In particular, try to set the photo size to the highest practical setting. 


A digital camera may have a 5 megapixel specification, for instance, but without changing the default settings it may only be using 0.3 megapixels. This may be fine for social snaps but is no good for serious paranormal research. It is impossible to say what an apparently paranormal photograph is really showing if, when you blow it up, all you get is big rectangular pixels where you are hoping for extra detail. 


Remember, you wouldn't want to be the one who got a photo of a ghost only to find it is too small and fuzzy to convince anyone! 


It is possible, though difficult, to produce orb photos in daylight, without a flash. You need to take photos when it's raining (but protect your camera!) and get the light at the right angle and brightness. Daylight orbs are generally not as obvious as 'normal' ones (using a flash) but can be quite bright if they catch the sunlight at the right angle.


Some orbs do have colours other that white or grey. However, these can be explained by Moire fringes, refraction in water droplets and chromatic aberration, none of which contradict the OZT. 


Consider the following possibilities that might falsify the Orb Zone Theory:


a)Supposing there was a photo showing an orb partly behind an object in the picture. This could not be explained by the OZT where orbs are caused by objects just in front of the camera lens. Such photos do exist. However, in all the examples so far examined, the faint translucent orb was overwhelmed by a highly saturated colour in the object supposedly obscuring it. In other words, the missing portion of the orb could not be seen because it was overwhelmed by the more strongly coloured object behind it (particularly if it is highly coloured or very dark or light). Digital photography is more prone to this sort of effect because it has a smaller latitude (degree of detail visible in dark or light areas) than film*. See this page for more information. In fact, it is a legitimate question to ask why, if orbs are really 'out there' (as opposed to being very close to the lens), they always appear to be in front of the many varied subjects of orb photographs (covering a wide range of distance from the camera)? There ought to be lots of photos showing orbs partially obscured by other objects but in fact such pictures are extremely rare. The effect of a partially obscured orb is quite easily reproduced! 


* Interestingly, you can sometimes the effect that the colour of the orb has on the object behind (usually making it slightly lighter) even though the shape of the orb cannot itself be made out. If the orb was really behind, it should have no effect on the colour of the object.


b) Another confounding type of photo might be one showing an orb with a shadow. These, too, have been reported and some examined. However, in all cases the 'shadow' was usually either a coincidental dark shape or, more often, the result of over-processing the photo.


c) What if orbs appeared more frequently in haunted locations or around particular people or events? Research has shown no evidence of more orbs in haunted locations than in non-haunted places. However, there have been claims that certain people or places 'attract' orbs or even that some people can 'will' them to appear. To test such claims requires more than just examining photos. All such claims of orbs around particular people or places could just be coincidence. It requires a carefully designed controlled trial, similar to the one that showed that haunted places are no more likely to have orbs than non-haunted places, to test the claim. 


d) What if orbs were seen by witnesses at the time they were being photographed? This has been reported, though very rarely. Even if it is demonstrated to be true, it does not affect the OZT. This is because, the OZT does not cover such 'orbs'. Such phenomena should not be considered orbs at all. The OZT is only concerned with 'orbs', which are defined as NOT being seen when the photograph was taken. Lights have been reported in haunting cases for decades, long before the advent of digital cameras, and are nothing to do with orbs despite a superficial similarity. Indeed, the widespread interest in orbs may be affecting such reports. 


I encourage you to read the full Orb Zone Theory -


Also -


Sorry.  Not a Fairy

It is an insect lit by camera flash. Notice the other orbies? - not paranormal.  Moisture and dust.

Contact EGP with any further questions

Snow, rain, mist, fog, etc. can create some amazing orbs in pictures.

"In this photo you can see a cluster of orbs in front of a copy of our newsletter, ASSAP News. Note the parts 'missing' (over the lighter areas of the photo) from some of the the fainter orbs in the cluster over the word 'News'. The brighter orb below, over the ASSAP logo, is dense enough not to lose any bits to the light background. This shows how bits of orbs can go 'missing', leading to the idea that they are behind objects in the photo." (ASSAP)

Here is a fancy "orbie" - many would be quick to deem this as a "spirit orb".

My Thoughts on "Orbies" - A follow-up to The Orb Zone Theory

Linda Dantonio

There is serious debate as to the white (white-ish, blue-ish, red-ish) dots that sometimes appear on photographs.  For the most part, I agree with "The Orb Zone Theory" (above).  Let me try to clarify and expand...


As you read the above article, and especially if you went to the ASSAP site and read more, you will see all the reasons for these "orbs".  The long and the short of it is that what may appear in a photo to be a suspicious circle of light most likely is simply a piece of dust, a drop of moisture, etc.  It may appear to be in a certain spot in the room/area, but is most likely postioned rather close to the camera.  A certain range from the camera's lens actually captures these particles, renders them a bit translucent and/or out of focus and some may be confused as to it's actual location depth-wise.  For example - you have a picture of a room full of antiques.  When you review the photo, you see a white circle that appears to be coming from behind a mirror.  What you don't realize, is the circle is actually a tiny piece of dust that is very close to the camera's lens.  You don't see part of the the dust circle, because it is actually blending w/ the lightness of the mirror (see photo above for example).  A lot of the time, an easy way to rule-out an "orb" is if you see a definite center to it.  So many of these have concentric circle-lines within it.  As it has been explained to me by Carrie (Shimkus) Furmanick (founder of the former Massahcusetts Area Ghost Investigators Coalition), this is a marker of a naturally-caused spot of a natural particle iluminated by the flash of the camera.  Carrie and I were presented a series of photos once, where there seemed to be a consistant bright "orb" with no distinguishable center that  seemed to appear over one gentleman's head in a several of the photos.  Yes, it was certainly interesting, but especially since it was outdoors, we cannot assume that it was paranormal in nature.  We did find it interesting though.  


This is something that happens more often with digital cameras.  It is very rare for these dust/moisture "orbs" to appear with SLRs (Single-Lens Reflex cameras - ones that use film).  The exact reasons are further discussed in the whole Orb Zone Theory article (and see figure below, left).  It also happens mostly when using flash to take the picture.  The bright light of the flash is shining through these particles.  Basically, it is the same thing that happens with rainbows - the light from the emerging sun shines through the water droplets left in the air, breaking up the colors and when you see the full spectrum of color, you have a rainbow.  This could also explain why some of the "orbs" may appear in color.  


As for mulitples - Some will argue that having multiple orbs is too coincidental since other pictures did not produce any or vise-versa.  This is simply due to positition of these particles with respect to the "orb zone."  People will also argue that having multiple pictures showing "orbs" is proof that it is a spirit moving in the room/area.  They will say that it is impossible for the single particle to move that much and still appear in the picture.  One answer is that the actual particle didn't have to move that far, since the "orb zone" is actually a small area, so it wouldn't have to move very far.  Another is actually another question: How do you know it is the same particle?


Some may simply be a trick of the mind.  In a picture looking through leaves of trees with the sun-light shining behind, especially if the picture is out of focus, the sunlight appears as little circles of light.  Even if some look more pronounced and seem odd, you have to assume the obvious rather than claim it is paranormal.  Many times, people will swear that they see a face within an "orb".  This is almost certainly something called "matrixing" or "visual paradolia", where your mind is always trying to make sense, even in nonsense.  Your mind "fills in the blanks" to form a face or something else familiar.  It could also be a coincidence that anomalies within the suspected "orb" just form that way.  There is also a growingly popular thought that when you're in a creepy place or a location reportedly to be haunted, your mind-set is that the small oddities in pictures (video, recordings, etc.) is it must be evidence.  It is important to remain grounded and realize that the simpler explanation is usually the correct one.  Also, if there is a possible natural explanation for the "orbs", we must accept it as not being paranormal no matter how "creepy" the picture makes you feel.  When in doubt, throw it out!  Or - if it looks, feels or acts like a moisture/dust particle, then assume it to be such - call a spade a spade.


I do believe that it is possible that some pictures may actually be "orbs".  In rare cases, there is a spot in a picture that is just so different, for example: the spot throws a shadow; the spot takes an irregular shape (one that can't be explained by moving dust/moisture particle), and others yet to be discovered.  There are also times when people witness "orbs".  I have heard of cases of people witnessing blue "orbs".  In one case, they witnessed it float along like a bubble, then hearing a "pop" noise as it dissappeared.  Though they witnessed  this, they were not able to get the "orb" to appear in photographs.  Again, did they witness an "orb", or did they witness a random mass of earth-gases?  Though, what they witnessed was interesting, they realize that there is another possible explanation for the occurance, and concur that was of natural causes.  The same goes for mysterious mist that can occur in photos.  The earth does randomly expel pockets of gas/gases, which can certainly explain these mist photos even though they may not have been witnessed at the time.  


What does all of this mean?  "It's simple science" as a friend (Chris Schlosser - an instructor for TAPs Academy and Co-director of the TAPS family team, Virginia Paranormal Society) pointed out, that if we can not really determine a spirit "orb" from a particle "orb", we cannot use any as evidence.  This is why I refer to these anomalies as "orbies" - a way to refer to the phenomena without commiting to the term "orb".  I also find that it is extremely rare to capture any photographic evidence due to the same kinds of explanations as discussed here.  Mostly, I like to photograph to document the surroundings and mainly hope to capture when an object has been moved unexplainably, which is why I take a series of photos in a row.  This practice of taking several pictures in a row could also help with possible photo evidence of apparitions since you could capture before, during and after photos.  It's a good practice when photographing a location.