Orbs in Photos: Debunked!

Posted on August 15, 2017

What Are Orbs In Photos? Ghost Orbs Debunked

Ghostly Orb in Photo

We’ve all seen it in photos on websites, review sites, and social media pages. That shocking photo of something that someone claims is a ghost. The most common claim is that of the ubiquitous orb in a photo. At Colonial Ghosts, we won’t get you excited about orbs in photos or marks on walls, because we know they’re not the real thing. However, we’re still taking you out to find the real thing and tell you the real story, just without the orbs.

While taking part of one of our Williamsburg Ghost Tours, you may end up snapping a picture filled with orbs. Many other ghost tours and even visitors will claim that these orbs are the manifestation of ghosts, but that is typically not true. It’s because they want to see something. Unfortunately, while we all wish we captured a ghost on a ghost tour of Williamsburg, there are several things that can create this effect, and none of them are paranormal.

Common Causes of Orbs

Common causes of orbs are dust, pollen, insects, drops of liquid in the air (which is exacerbated by the infamous humidity of the Williamsburg area), and foreign material on or within the camera lens. One or more of these items can easily show up in an image as an orb, especially when a flash is used. The items, such as dust, pollen, insects and drops of liquid, don’t even have to be in the camera’s view to cause the anomaly.

When in Colonial Williamsburg, you will likely take photos of the area and of yourself in front of historic locations or haunted houses. Particles in the air between the camera and the focus point of the image will appear as blurry spots or balls of light. It is really just a reflection from the flash, not Mr. Ghost!

From Film To Digital

The phenomenon of orbs has increased with the transformation of the modern camera. As devices have switched from film to digital, the phenomenon of orbs began to become a point of discussion. Upon further examination, research found that as devices began to shrink, they located the flash closer and closer to the lens, and more orbs were appearing in pictures as a result. The closer the lens is to the flash, the easier it is for the flash to reflect off of the dirt, water particle, insect, or other item, and for that reflection to enter the lens and create… an orb, not a ghost, spirit, or other manifestation.

Also, the higher the ISO used on the camera, the more orbs tend to appear. ISO is the acronym for International Standards Organization, the governing body that standardizes sensitivity ratings on camera sensors. When you change the ISO setting, you’re adjusting your camera’s sensitivity to light. ISO settings can be anywhere from 24 to above 6,000. These settings have a direct relationship to the camera’s sensitivity. A lower setting makes the camera less sensitive to light, while a high setting makes it more sensitive.

In English, ISO also refers to how long the shutter remains open while taking a photo. When it is slower and open longer, you will likely just get blurrier images unless the camera and subject are steady. However, with a higher shutter speed, those flashes off of the particles in the air show up as a bunch of orbs. They aren’t paranormal at all, and are nothing to be afraid of. But you should be afraid of our ghost stories.

Orbs? Mist Ghost Outside Haunted Hotel Fort Magruder

Didn’t Use The Flash?

But what if you didn’t use a flash? Reflection from other light sources is still a possibility and you may still see an orb even if you don’t use a flash. This is also where other image contaminations play a part in orbs, such as foreign material on or in the camera lens. If there is even a tiny piece of dirt or condensation on your lens, it can appear in a picture as an orb. Again, this is common in humid environments and is not a paranormal occurrence.

Even if you can’t visibly see dirt or bugs or moisture in the air when you are taking photos, they are there. Unless you are in a perfect vacuum, these contaminations are always present. This means that you can always end up with orbs in the images. Nothing haunted there!

When going on a Colonial Ghosts Tour in Williamsburg, Virginia, make sure to have your camera handy. We’re not saying it’s not possible to catch a ghost on film. Orbs may not be a ghostly apparition, but you might still spot a ghost or something of the paranormal variety, and have a chance to catch them on film!

At the very least, you’ll be able to take photos of the locations and capture something more important than ghosts- lasting memories with friends and families on a fun ghost tour!