Difference between Real and Virtual Image

Difference between Real and Virtual Image

We are able to see the beautiful world around us. We can read a book, watch TV as well as see our image in the mirror. It is only possible due to the existence of Light.

Light is a energy which makes things visible to us. Our eyes are worthless without light. We cannot see anything in the dark. There is no doubt to say this that sight and light are complimentary for each other.When light coming from an object and enters in our eyes, that we can see objects.-

Everyday we all see our image in the mirror, camera and sometimes watch cinema in theatre. But do we know what real image is and what is virtual?

For understand the formation of real and virtual image, first we understand the concept of formation convergent and divergent rays by the light rays.

Convergent Rays:

When light rays comes from the source and after the reflection or refraction, all the beams of light meet at single point. This kind of rays known as ConvergentRays and the single point where all rays converge known as Focus.

Converging Lenses are those lenses which converge all the light rays coming towards them.


  • When light enters in our eyes and forms the image on the retina. Due to eye lens, these rays converge on retina.
  • Similarly the rays received by the camera lens are convergent in nature.

Divergent Rays:

After the reflection or refraction, when the light beams scatter or travel in all direction. This rays are known as DivergentRays.

Diverging Lens are such lens which diverge or scatter the rays of light in every direction.


  • Street light reflectors are divergent. It is helpful to diverge the light.
  • Inside buildings school, hospitals, malls and apartment, you might notices the big mirror at the corner which is used to see the vehicle and people coming from other sides.
  • Sunglasses are also divergent the harmful sun rays which protect our eyes.

After getting the convergent and divergent rays.

Let’s discuss about the real and virtual image.

What is real image?

The image which formed when all the rays coming from light source and converge at focus, then obtained image on the screen is known as Real Image.

Real image is formed by the converging of light beams at focus.


  • The image of whatever we see in our eyes due to reflection is a real image.
  • It is formed on the photographic film of camera.
  • On a cinema screen (source of projector) produced image are the real images.

Characteristics of real image

Here are some characteristics of real image which help in the identify the nature of the image:

  • Real images occurs when the light converge at focus.
  • Real image is formed on the screen or behind the mirror.
  • Real images are always inverted in nature.
  • The image produced on the retina is inverted. But due to the functioning of human brain, we can see the things automatically erect.
  • Real image are produced by the concave mirror or lens and converging lenses.
  • Real images can be enlarged in size, reduce in size or same size as the object.

What is Virtual image?

Virtual image is opposed to the real image. Let’s deep dive into the understanding of virtual image:

When light comes from the source object and reflect or refract through the mirror or lens, the image which formed due to the divergence of light rays is known as Virtual Image.

Virtual image occurs due to the divergence of light beams. It is also known as Unreal Images.


  • Diverging lens or concave lens always forms a virtual image.
  • The image formed by the plane mirror is a virtual image of object.
  • Magnifying glass are also produced virtual image. Because the image cannot projected on the screen.

Characteristics of virtual images

For understand the virtual images more clearly, let’s discuss some properties of the virtual image:

  • Virtual image are always erect or upright in nature.
  • The image can not occur on the screen as it is virtual. These images always occur behind the mirror (lens).
  • Virtual image are shrunken in nature. That is the size of the image is smaller as compared to the object.
  • The virtual image is formed in the mirror is laterally inverted; like plane mirror in our home.
  • Virtual image can be produced by convex lens or divergent mirrors and plane mirror as well.

Difference between Real and Virtual Image

There are so many differences between the real and virtual images on the basis of formation, image position, image size etc. Here are some important key points that differentiate between real and virtual images are described below:

S.No.Real ImageVirtual Image
 1Real images occur by the convergence of light beams after reflection or refraction.Virtual Images occur by the divergence of light after reflection.
 2These images always obtain on the screen. Screen in the essential to form real image.Virtual images cannot form on the screen. They occur behind the mirror.
 3The appearance of image is always inverted.The appearance of virtual images is erect or upright.
 4They are formed by converging lens.These images are formed by diverging lens and plane mirror.
 5The concave mirror is used to produce real images.Virtual image is produced by convex mirror.
 6Image form on the same side of the mirror as the side of object.Image always forms on the back side of the mirror.
 7All beams of light meet at a single point known as focus.Light rays don’t meet at a one point.
 8Real images are formed due to the actual or real interaction of light rays.The interaction of light rays is imaginary in formation of virtual image.
 9Examples: Human eye, camera and projector (cinema screen)Examples: Plane mirror, magnifying glass and side view mirror in vehicles.


Real and virtual images can’t form without the light. Light is the essential source or energy to produce any kind of image. So the similarity between real and virtual image is light.

We can say that the forming image whether on screen or behind the mirror. Image forming will be real or virtual, actually it depends on the surface of mirror or lens.