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Ring Recordings Have Strange Lights Or Orbs At Night – Why?

Have you been catching some eerie orbs in your Ring camera photos and videos? These orbs could be ghosts, but they are much more likely to be a simple trick of the light!

Ring cameras catch orbs due to a photography effect known as backscattering. This happens when small objects, like dust or small insects, scatter light in low-light conditions. You can mitigate the orbs your Ring camera catches by improving your lighting, lowering your motion sensitivity, or turning on snooze mode.

Let’s do a little Ring ghost-busting and find out what the cause of these orbs actually is!

Which Ring Products Can Record Orbs?

A light orb type effect from my Ring Indoor Cam inside my garage with color night vision enabled
A light orb type effect from my Ring Indoor Cam inside my garage with color night vision enabled

It might surprise you to know that every single Ring device that features a camera is capable of recording orbs and other strange phenomena. Here’s a complete list of Ring devices that may record orbs and other visual oddities at some point during its operation.

  • All Ring Doorbells (the 1-4 battery models, the Wired, Pro 1 and Pro 2)
  • Indoor Cam
  • Stick Up Cam
  • Floodlight Cam
  • Spotlight Cam

At this point, you might be thinking that this is a problem with how Ring has designed its cameras. If every single Ring camera is capable of picking up orbs, then something certainly must be wrong with the design that they’ve picked, right?

However, all cameras are capable of picking up orbs and other visual phenomena. This all comes down to the science of how cameras work.

How Do Ring Cameras Record?

In order to talk about orbs, we first need to talk about a visual phenomenon called backscattering.

There are some people that say that the orbs that they catch on film are ghosts or other spiritual phenomena, but we can rule out certain orbs as just an example of photographic backscattering. This happens when out of focus particles, like dust or rain, scatter light while extremely close to the lens of the camera.

This can happen to your Ring camera just as easily as it can happen to an expensive photography camera. Backscattering comes down to the simple physics of how light and focusing interact with the technology we used to capture images. There are other considerations specific to Ring cameras that we need to consider.

Some Ring doorbells and cameras only record at 15 frames per second. This is much lower than the Hollywood standard to 24 frames per second, and far lower than what your smartphone is capable of.

However, it’s probably a good thing that some Ring only records at 15 frames per second. This makes the file sizes much smaller and easier to transmit to your devices (using less bandwidth overall). You’re also still capturing all of the valuable information you need whether a friend has come to visit or you’re using footage from your Ring doorbell to identify a suspected burglar.

The 15 frames per second that Ring cameras film at cost us a little bit of performance when it comes to small objects that can move very fast. Insects and small birds are capable of speeds that can fly in between the frames that your Ring camera records.

While your smartphone will be able to capture the image of a fast moving insect in flight, your Ring camera might only pick it up as a blur on the screen for a single frame. This is especially the case for small insects that can also cause backscattering.

Plenty of the strange videos you see people posting online from their Ring doorbell cameras are most likely insects that are clipping between the frame rate of Ring cameras. This can make them look like anything from these strange moving specter to even a UFO.

Ring also features night vision which comes with its own unique problems when it comes to orbs.

How Ring Handles Night Vision

My garage with color night vision
My garage with color night vision

There’s something that’s a little eerie about night vision. Just how is your camera able to record in the darkness of night with that much clarity?

Well, the night isn’t actually as dark as it seems, especially when any night vision camera is recording. Light comes in a variety of wavelengths and only a small range of those are visible to the human eye. There are plenty of wavelengths of light that we just simply cannot see with our naked eyes.

Night vision cameras take advantage of this fact. Your Ring cameras use infrared wavelengths of light to illuminate the environment and make their recordings. Your front yard is actually lit up with powerful infrared lights from your Ring technology that allows recording during the night.

This is also how you can get backscattering even while it’s apparently dark outside. Infrared light is capable of causing backscattering just like visible daylight can.

We also should take a look at the false color option that comes with some Ring devices – something that Ring calls “Color Night Vision”:

The color night vision option within the Ring app
The color night vision option within the Ring app

You can toggle false color on and have Ring’s software use available color information in an image to add color throughout a night-vision scene.

This could be useful when trying to identify people or objects in frame, but it isn’t exactly perfect. If you’ve ever toggled your false color setting on, you’ll notice the Ring doesn’t always get the coloring right.

This can cause visual artifacts in your image that make things look like they’re floating or moving when they’re not. It’s just Ring falsely applying color to dust and other small objects that would otherwise go undetected.

What Are Orbs? (It’s Probably Not Ghosts!)

An infrared reflection causing a strange light effect at night from a Ring Doorbell Pro
An infrared reflection causing a strange light effect at night from a Ring Doorbell Pro

While we can’t totally rule out ghosts, we can point to a few known phenomena that cause cameras to record orbs. It turns out that orbs are caused by a combination of how cameras record, as well as what gets picked up in frame.

  • The first likely culprit is simple dust. What are you recording outside or inside, just is very likely to cause the backscattering that produces orbs. Dust particles can float and linger in the air and are excellent at capturing and reflecting light in a way that’s perfect for creating orbs.

    You can even test this yourself by taking a digital camera and doing some photography in a very dusty room in dim lighting with a flash.
  • Another common culprit is water. Water droplets can hang in the air even when it’s not raining and cause orbs to appear in your Ring camera. This one throws a lot of people off because they don’t often consider water droplets that could be coming from a neighbor gardening we’re just floating through the atmosphere.
  • Another cause can also be common household insects. Small insects tend to congregate around bright light sources including infrared. A few of these small insects can even make it inside the home causing some backscattering and orbs in your indoor Ring recordings.
  • The last thing that we should consider is the lighting itself. Backscattering, the phenomenon that causes orbs, typically only happens in low light settings. Using bright, focussed lighting, like a flash or the infrared light on night vision mode, accidentally creates the perfect setup for backscattering and orb photography.

Catching a few orbs every now and then you can add some excitement and mystery to your Ring recordings, but how do we get rid of these if they become a long-term problem?

How To Stop Ring Cameras From Recording Orbs?

A few weird light effects in view from my Ring Floodlight Cam Plus
A few weird light effects in view from my Ring Floodlight Cam Plus

We’re going to go to the four best ways for getting orbs out of your Ring recordings. Keep in mind that there’s only so much you can do to remove orbs, and you’re bound to catch a few every now and then. This is just down to the physical science of photography which makes catching orbs every now and then just another part recording images.

Lower Motion Sensitivity

The first thing you can do is to lower the motion sensitivity on your device:

Motion Sensitivity option from within the Ring app
Motion Sensitivity option from within the Ring app

If you have your motion sensitivity set too high, your Ring devices are going to start recording when those little insects or particles of dust float by the camera. Lowering the sensitivity causes your Ring camera to skip these recordings and save you the trouble of sorting through all of those orbs photographs.

Here’s how you can lower the motion sensitivity on any Ring camera.

  • Open your Ring app
  • Tap the three lines to open your Ring menu
  • Tap Devices
  • Select the Ring camera that has been recording orbs
  • Tap Motion Setting
  • Tap Motion Sensitivity
  • Adjust and lower the Motion Sensitivity Slider
  • Tap Save in the upper right corner

You might have to do some trial and error to find the right setting so that will still get you the recordings that you’re looking for, but we’ll skip all of the orb photography you’ve been dealing with.

Change Your Lighting

Another quick fix you can do is to change your lighting.

Backscattering is typically caused in low light settings when you have a single source of high-powered light which can easily scatter off particles like dust and water droplets. A quick fix for this is to add a second source of light that will help brighten up the image and reduce the scattering.

You can pick up a second infrared light and install it near your Ring camera. Try installing it in a way where the infrared light from your Ring camera and the second infrared light have beams that intersect each other. If you stack both lights on top of each other you might just accidentally magnify your orb photography problem.

Snooze Mode

Another quick fix is to simply turn on snooze mode which will turn off notifications from your Ring camera for a set amount of time. This can be particularly helpful if you are in a particularly dusty climate or there’s a rainstorm moving through.

The motion snooze options within the Ring app
The motion snooze options within the Ring app

Here’s how you can quickly turn on snooze mode for any Ring camera.

  • Open your Ring app
  • Tap the three lines menu
  • Tap Devices
  • Locate your device
  • Tap Motion Snooze
  • Move the Motion Snooze slider to set your duration
  • Tap the Save Snooze Settings button

If you decide you want to turn your snooze off, all you have to do is navigate back to the Motion Snooze menu and turn the snooze feature off.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

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