We would like to bring as much truth to the profession as possible. One of the most important pieces of evidence is photos. But it is also one of the most misconstrued.
The more fake photos that pop up on the internet, the worst it makes the professionals look. There are already many skeptics in this field, and posting a lot of fake, false-positive or non-paranormal images on the internet makes the research of professional, dedicated groups less credible. Here are some tips to make sure your evidence is true and credible.
The most commonly touted of these images are of orbs. Most people don't understand that orbs are naturally occurring. The vast majority of the photos that have orbs in them are not paranormal-related and are elements of the environment, such as dust, mist, bugs, etc. Some folks lay claim that if an orb has color then it is in fact paranormal. They even go as far as to say that it is a ghost or spirit and that they can see a face in them. This is pretty far fetched considering that orbs are forms of energy, not the whole elements of a spirit or ghost. And just because an orbs has color doesn't mean it is paranormal-related. Typically, if it has red or orange, it is not paranormal. Cool white, light blues, greens and yellows are something to look closer at.
OK, so what are they?
Simply put, orbs are forms of energy; balls of energy. They do, however, occur in relation to spirit activity. The theory is that in order for an entity to manifest (show itself) it needs energy. The entity draws energy from any source it can. Energy has heat, which is why temperature drops occur when an entity attempts to manifest. Another side effect of this manifestation is orbs. But, they are parts of the manifestation, not entities as a whole.
3 types of naturally occurring orbs are:
1) Reflection from an object
Most people in search of paranormal activity take the photos at night and require the use of a flash, which is the culprit so to speak. This is usually easy to spot due to its undeniable characteristics.
What happens is that the flash is reflected off an object, producing many circular bursts of varying intensity.
2) Refraction of moisture
This is a very common capture in outdoor investigations. This is simply the flash refracting on the moisture. These are usually irregular shapes and will vary in contrast or transparency. They are easily mistaken for paranormal orbs.
3) Refraction of Dust
These are most common in buildings, and more so in older ones that are unoccupied. These very fine particles aren't visible to the eye alone. What happens here is simply that the flash refracts off the particle, usually producing a perfect circle. They are very easily mistaken for paranormal due to their close resemblance.
Ways to tell the difference between possible paranormal orbs and environmental orbs:
Well, we use one very simple tool that you always have with you: a flashlight. What we do at times when we see orbs on our digital camera monitor is to simply shine the flashlight in the exact line of path the photo was taken. If you see fine particles floating in your flashlight beam then chances are you have captured one of the natural orbs. If you're using a video camera with the built-in light, you can do the same. If you see orbs floating by the camera monitor while your filming then just look at the path of the camera light; you can almost always see the moisture or dust particles floating through the beam of the camera light.
So how do I know if I've captured a real paranormal-related orb?
A "real" paranormal-related orb will have 3 distinct characteristics: It will have a defined outline, it will give off its own light and will always have a flight pattern.
Open your photo with an editing program, such as Photoshop, and zoom in to where the orb is. If it's real you'll be able to see these 3 elements. Keep in mind though, 99% of all orbs captured are not paranormal. If it looks like a cell under a microscope, it's not paranormal.
Ghostly mist / ectoplasm:
This has to be second place next to orbs in the most common mistaken paranormal pics. The problem I've always had with this one is that it's very easy to avoid. The majority of photos out there that display this alleged phenomena are actually just showing cigarette smoke. Either the camera person or someone nearby is smoking. Most people don't realize how far cigarette smoke can travel while maintaining it's density. This smoke can drift into your photos without being visible, especially at night. The flash refracts off the smoke giving you the illusion of ectoplasm. This is very easy to spot because there's either a trail showing where the smoke is emanating or there will be dense cloud in a condensed area. You may also notice streaks or waves in the smoke.
Avoid this by not allowing any of your investigators to smoke during an investigation. This includes you as well.
This one is a little harder to spot to a novice, but very easy to a professional.
There are many photos with these circulating around the web. The problem is that 99% of them all are just camera abnormalities. The usual cause is either a hair on the lens or a camera strap in the way. They can be all different colors and shapes and can even appear to have a wave pattern to them. I've never seen an energy rod that couldn't be explained. This is one phenomena that I personally do not believe in.
Just remember that if you put your evidence out there for the world to see, make sure it's authentic.
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