We receive many photos that look something like these two sent in from Big Springs, Kentucky, by Faith Frederick in June, 2019. (Thank you for letting us show them here, Faith.) We've found that the camera lens design of later-model cellphones makes them particularly prone to this type of lens flare, when the sun or other bright, intense light shines directly into the lens. The same effect occurs in other types of digital cameras, too, in both still photos and videos. It makes little or no difference if the flash fires, except that sometimes direct flash reflections can cause flare.
The green colour of these flare orbs, somewhat ironically, comes from the microscopically-thin anti-flare coating on the camera lens. (But if this coating were absent, flare would wash out almost the entire image.) Also, the light source doesn't have to be visible in the photo to cause flare, but the flare tends to be more dramatic when it is.
If you don't want lens flare in your photos, try shielding the camera lens from the sun or other bright light with your hand, casting a shadow over the front of the camera. If the sun is visible right in your shot, like in these examples, you won't be able to cut out the flare. If you're shooting with a DSLR camera and you have a lens hood (lens shade) then use it! But do not look at the sun through the optical viewfinder as it may permanently damage your eyesight.
In both photos above we've reduced the overall size of the original photo, but the insets that show a close-ups of the flare orbs are at 100% scale). Flare orbs are nothing more than a secondary image of the sun, filtered by the lens coating and reflected from internal lens surfaces before forming part of the captured image. Other flare effects can be seen here but they're over a broader area and are less defined. There is nothing paranormal about these orbs - they are purely optical effects.
Most but not all orbs in photos can be recognised as either lens flare or near-camera reflections. Still, when we are analysing photos we take care to look closely at each individual image. We don't want to write off possibly paranormal photos by applying broad assumptions without fully checking at a case-by-case level. This would be armchair-skepticism, a lazy practice we make an effort to avoid in photo analysis as well as all other aspects of paranormal investigation.
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is a blog by James Gilberd - leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Strange Occurrences team.
James Gilberd is an amateur paranormalist, writer and musician, and a professional photographer, living in Wellington, New Zealand.