Difference Between Virtual and Real Images

Most people like to see themselves in the mirror after getting ready for a special occasion. Once they feel that everything is fine, they participate in the event with confidence and ask friends to take a lot of pictures.

However, majority of such people are unaware of the image types they see in front of them, whether through a camera lens or a mirror. That is because most people believe all image kinds are the same.

This is a wrong perception and the images you see in your daily lives have a lot of differences. They are not similar by any means, but you feel that there is no disparity in them at all.

Technically speaking, there are two major kinds of images; virtual and real. They are formed through different processes and the result we see in front of us is also different – but it is difficult for us to identify these with the naked eye. We have to take a closer look and an in-depth analysis can help understand these two types of images.

There are three ways an image is formed – reflection, refraction and diffraction of light rays. We can see better reflections when there is proper lighting in a room. On the other hand, we will be unable to see and identify the colours properly without good lighting, no matter how advanced a technology we use.

The biggest difference between virtual and real images is that the latter of the two can be printed on a paper or any other screen. For example, when you take pictures from a camera, you can edit them and then get printed hard copies for albums etc.

Compared to that, virtual images cannot be printed out on a sheet or card. We can just see them momentarily. For example, when you are standing in front of a mirror, you are able to see a virtual image of yours. However, you cannot get it printed no matter how advanced the technology you use. Similarly, you see reflections in stagnant water, which are also virtual images, and cannot be preserved or printed out.


  • 1

    Real image

    It is the form of image, which can be stored and seen on a screen because of light rays focussing on it.

    Image Courtesy: theatlantic.com

  • 2

    Virtual image

    This form of image cannot be stored on any medium and is seen temporarily.

    Image Courtesy: thinkgeek.com

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