How can we see a virtual picture

Virtual picture

A virtual image In optics, a light-reflecting or luminous object is an optical image that, in contrast to a real image, cannot be displayed on a screen at the place where it appears. With converging lenses, it occurs when the object is between the focal point and the lens.

Construction of the virtual image when looking at an object through a magnifying glass.
3D view of the beam path on the flat mirror

No rays of light emanate from the location of the virtual image (hence the term "virtual"), the rays seem to be but to come from the picture, since our perception of light rays as straight forward and if necessary, extend the beam that hits the eye backwards.

Important examples are:

  • The reflection in a flat mirror. It is behind the mirror (even if there is a wall there) at the same distance as the object and is the same size as this (even if the mirror is much smaller).
  • The magnifying glass image that a collecting lens creates from an object within the focal length.
  • The image you see of an object when you look at it through a diverging lens.


See also