Those Damn Orbs, Digital Cameras and the Paranormal.
The Great Debate.
Orbs. Those annoying little things that appear in everyone’s "paranormal" photos these days. I can’t count how many times someone has heard we do paranormal investigation and then asked me to look at a picture of their “orb” or how many emails we have received with people wanting us to look at all the orbs in their photo that they took on a dry, dusty night in a cemetery. When I found myself politely writing them back to alert them as to how dust in the air reacts with cameras, I would never hear back from them or they would write back desperately trying to argue why the dust in their photos were spirits. So let’s get this part out of the way.First and formost. Do not send us pictures of orbs. Ok, that part is done.
When I first started ghost hunting, the digital camera was in its infancy. The first ghost hunters I worked with were using 1.5 megapixel cameras. EEEKKK! That’s the lowest standard in a cell phone now and if you have a cell phone camera, you know the quality isn’t all that great.
My first digital camera was a 2.1 megapixel Kodak and just about every picture had an orb in it. Did that mean my camera was picking up on every ghost in the vicinity? Hardly. What many of us didn’t understand at the time was the science behind the machine. I don’t profess to be any kind of technology guru or camera expert, but after awhile, even I started to wonder if the orbs constantly showing up in my photos had something to do with the new technology in my hands and not the spirits. Orbs were showing up in almost every picture I took, even regular non-ghost hunting photos, such as my grandma’s home, which I’m pretty sure isn’t haunted. With my 35mm, I had only gotten maybe fifteen orb photos.
When the digital camera first came out, Troy Taylor, head of the American Ghost Society and author of The Ghost Hunters Guidebook (which has turned into the Bible of ghost hunting rightfully so), was vehemently opposed to using digital cameras in ghost hunting except for taking pictures of the area you were investigating to map it out. He felt the camera wasn’t up to par yet with 35mm and people were mistaking many of the digital bloopers on their pictures for paranormal activity. He was right. Digital cameras, unlike 35mm, use an image sensor to gather light and convert it into an electronic form. Earlier image sensors still needed a lot of work but they are finally starting to catch up to 35mm. A few years ago, Troy changed his mind and stated that five megapixel cameras and up were ok for ghost hunting. Because I can’t say it any better, please read Troy Taylor’s article, The Trouble With Orbs.
I was ecstatic the day my 2.1 megapixel camera broke. There was no argument. I absolutely had to go spend $300 on a new camera. I walked into the glowing, golden doors of Best Buy and Tom Welling from Smallville was the greeter. He picked me up and carried me to the camera isle. The whole store began clapping wildly and confetti started to fall from the ceiling while Lionel Richie came out and started singing All Night Long…well…ok, let’s just say the doors opened, an unmotivated greeter said hi to me and looked away quickly and a Kodak rep who looked like Santa helped me out. Time passed and I was the happy owner of a new five megapixel camera that could do everything under the sun. And you know what? The orbs disappeared.
When the paranormal television explosion started a few years ago, everyone and their brother started to grab a camera and head out to their hometown cemeteries and haunted spots and then there was no stopping the mighty orb. Orbs were out of control. When Michigan’s Otherside was strictly a paranormal investigation site, people were sending us photos daily of orbs next to their cat, above their Aunt’s head and floating next to a McDonald’s sign. Everyone wanted their orbs “validated.” Well, no one can really “validate” a photo and say its genuine paranormal activity. The only thing we can do as paranormal researchers is be open minded skeptics and try to debunk the evidence before we present the evidence (kinda of like that Ice Cube song Check yo self befo' you reck yo self).
There seems to be two camps within the paranormal. Those who love orbs and those who don’t. It’s probably obvious what side we're on, but I’m not completely closed down to the idea of orbs. I have seen a few pictures that defy the norm. Usually the photos of the big, single bright balls of light that don’t appear to be reflecting from anything are sort of intriguing. I’ve also seen some bizarre stuff on video that didn’t react like a piece of falling dust and a few things with my own eyes. Some psychics even talk about seeing spirit energy in orb form. Nothing is for certain when it comes to orbs except one thing: don’t send us pictures of orbs.
Read Troy Taylor's (head of the American Ghost Society) article on Orbs: Orbs Debunked!
Help stop the spread of useless orbs by learning how to use your equipment, paying attention to your environment, weather conditions and read a few books on basic photography. If you truly spirit photography, read Chris Bailey’s article on our site for a lot of good tips.