The Effectiveness of Stereo Photography in Ruling Out Orb Anomalies

in Photographs as Paranormal in Origin.

Mitch Silverstein1, Stephanie Bohn1
1Nyack Paranormal-

February 26, 2015

Abstract: Nyack Paranormal believes that orbs captured in photographs are merely anomalies caused by the design combination of camera, flash and lens. We set out to capture 1000 stereoscopic images to analyze the origin of this phenomenon. We found that 657 images out of 1016 taken with two identical digital stereo cameras contained one or more of these orbs. By comparing the pair of images captured by the 3D cameras we found none to show evidence that the orb(s) were anything other than a lens/flash/camera artifact.


NPI has previously reported on “orbs” and their origin {1}. We firmly believe they have no paranormal basis whatsoever. Since we make that claim we have provided proof to support it.

We previously presented three reasons why orbs are not spirits captured in photographs {2a}. One only needs to seek out the manufacturer of digital cameras. They state that orbs are merely materials of some sort being caught in the camera flash very close to the lens {2b}. They are out of the depth of field of focus and appear as larger, fuzzy, round and transparent circles. This is prevalent in cameras with the flash close to the lens and most compact digital cameras are designed this way. They admit it is an artifact of the design and the lens.

We also presented a test where we placed a very small diagonal slit in a mask (black paper) in front of the camera lens {2a}. We snapped photos and any orbs we caught generally appeared rectangular and diagonal, just like the mask. This shows the orb is an artifact created behind the mask, or in the lens, not located at a distance in the room. All other object in the room were unaffected by the mask.

The most convincing method is using a stereo camera and shooting pairs of images simultaneously. We have been using 3D photography long before we introduced it into our paranormal field work in 2009 {3}. Since the beginning we have not come across a pair of images that showed an orb in the same location in both images. Even when viewed in 3D as a stereo pair or an anaglyph (red/blue), the orb appears at the plane of the lens. Here in this experiment we have expanded on the data collection.


We visited a purportedly haunted location (which shall remain nameless) and set out to take a total of 1000 photos using two identical stereo cameras. We used the Fujifilm W3 (Figure 1) with the following settings on both: Auto exposure, forced flash, ISO 800, 16:9 image size, fine resolution and standard color. These cameras capture two image files for each photo, a .jpg and a .mpo, which is the stereo pair. The .mpo file can be viewed on the camera in 2D or 3D (autostereoscopic screen) or uploaded to the PC and viewed with software {4} which is the method we used. We had three rechargeable batteries for each camera and photographed over a two night period; the second night after a complete battery recharge.


Figure 1- The Fujifilm W3 Digital Stereo Camera

Front                                                                Rear



We scored the images based on the following: No orbs, less than 5 orbs and 5 orbs or more. We then analyzed the image by locating the positions of the orbs within the frame looking for a match. If needed they were viewed in 3D to determine distance from the camera and location within the room.


We found no images that would represent an orb as an object within the room out of 1016 photographs (Table 1).

Table 1- Distribution of digital stereo images
Camera 1  Matching orbs Camera 2 Matching orbs
No orbs     146 0 213 0
less than 5 orbs  251  0  213 0
5 orbs or more 98 0 95 0






All orbs caught in these digital images (657/1016 images) can be attributed to being an artifact as previously described. These were created in the lens where dust, etc. was caught in the flash outside the close range of the depth of field of the lens (Figure 2).

Figure 2- Schematic showing the hot zone concept for capturing orbs with a stereo camera. It is within the coverage of the flash and the two lenses but before the lens images overlap and not in focus on the image. Once an object such as dust is beyond this zone, they are in focus. Dust appearing in the focus range is typically too small to see in the final image.

© Nyack Paranormal

Figure 3 and Figure 4 show a typical result where different artifacts appear in the left and right image. Also provided is the anaglyph 3D image where when viewed with the use of 3D glasses (red over left eye, blue over right eye) the artifacts appear to be at the plane of the lens. Viewed with the naked eye one can see that the red/blue division shows all orbs are in different locations with no overlap. If there were any floating in the room there would be a match or overlap in location on the anaglyph of a red and a blue (right and left respectively) orb.

Figure 3- Typical stereo image pair from the photos taken for this study and its corresponding anaglyph.


Figure 4- A zoomed image stereo pair with its corresponding anaglyph shown below.


We did make some interesting observations. Typically if we caught a photo with many orbs, the number of orbs in succeeding images was reduced. This implies that the entering of the room, either walking through a doorway, curtains, or opening and closing a door, stirred up dust and/or moisture. The majority of the stir was caught in the first photo and the dust or moisture settled in the subsequent photos. This was most prevalent when curtains were involved since they can harbor dust. We also found an orb in one photo and none in the next which has often been reported as paranormal proof.

We also noticed when sitting down into a chair or on a bed, this also stirred much dust and a similar progression of photos occurred. Fabric harbors dust as does old buildings and unfinished areas.

The high percentage of orb photos can be attributed to low traffic in the building during winter months.  Our photo expedition kept us roaming and likely stirred up accumulated dust.


We have found that the same concepts apply to video captured orbs. These are also the same dust, moisture, insects etc. as found in photographs. The same lens system applies for video cameras. Drafts and convection currents move these particles around. While video recording the artificial lighting is different than using a flash but the effect is the same. You are essentially catching these particles close to the lens within the rage of the illuminator whether using an infrared illuminator with night vision cameras or a white light. Moving particles reflect light in varying intensities. The particles are not round, they are all different abstract shapes, and they just appear round close to the lens due to the nature of a round lens. As they drift and tumble through the air the reflective surfaces do not always face the lens or reflect the light back to the lens. If they tumble fast, the particle may appear to flash; if they tumble slowly they may seem to appear then disappear within the frame (a popular TV show specifically uses this to claim that the orb originates from an object and/or enters an object).

Stereo techniques can be applied to video recording. The best system would be using a DVR. All that needs to be done is to take camera 1 and camera 2 and place them side by side with the lenses pointed in the same direction and about 2.5” (65mm) apart. On the monitor the orbs will appear in either camera 1 or camera 2, but not both. We have tested the concept successfully in the field (Figure 5) and utilized a viewer to monitor real time 3D in an investigation (Figure 6) but we have not collected data for this paper. To analyze an anomaly upon review, a screen capture of both camera images can then be processed into a 3D photo. Using software the video may be converted also. There are beam splitters on the market that can fit the lens on a camcorder to allow portable 3D recording. These essentially split the single recorded image into a stereo pair within the same frame, these work on SLR’s and digital cameras with a filter mount on the lens, thread size specific.

Figure 5- DVR showing a stereo pair live utilizing two IR cameras.

Photos: and Dutchess Paranormal

Figure 6- Viewing real time stereo video

Photos: and Dutchess Paranormal


Dust cannot be prevented, dust settles everywhere. There is no way to clean a home or a public space to be free from dust. Moisture in the air as micro water droplets can also appear in images as orbs. Flying insects are common in outdoor nighttime photos (indoor too). Other materials present different shapes such as hair causes fuzzy streaks, dangling cob webs, etc.

Some have claimed they have been investigating where there are no drafts or air movement at all. This is a total fallacy. People milling about causes air current and will stir dust and moisture. Even while standing still the heat from your hand or camera can cause convection currents right around the camera you are holding. There is no way to avoid this on a typical investigation.

We have also heard claims that one’s house is clean and free from dust. You only need to look at the great lengths that manufacturers go through if their process needs to be free from dust by utilizing clean room technology {5} to see that is impossible.

As with many other examples of paranormal evidence, photos of orbs should not be presented as such. We have provided many forms of proof as well as others {6} that orbs captured in photos are not of paranormal origin. If you claim you captured a spirit in the form of an orb, you have the burden of proof. We will gladly offer our objective opinions on your research. In the meantime we highly recommend the use of a stereo camera to document the locations of paranormal investigations.


{1} In this paper the use of the word “orb” represents the generally circular artifact that is relatively brighter than the exposure of the total image and may appear anywhere within the frame of the photograph. They can be solid or somewhat transparent. They may also be elongated or an abstract shape.


{3} Mitch has been working with 3D photography since the early 1980’s when cameras used 35MM film. He developed the film and printed stereo pairs in his own darkroom with cameras manufactured in the 1950’s. In the early days of digital cameras he built stereo camera rigs utilizing two synchronous cameras. For paranormal work he built IR rigs for 3D nighttime photography. With the advent of full stereo digital cameras the work with the paranormal expanded and the 3D camera is now a standard in the tool box.

{4} Free “Stereo Photo Maker” Software download




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