Dabbling In Cliche: Lens Flare

Starburst

Lens flare is caused by light reflecting and scattering through the lens instead of refracting on it’s intended path. The result can show up in the image as streaks, artifacts such as rings or circles, and even as a sort of haze that washes out both color saturation and contrast. Lens manufacturers have spent years refining their systems to combat flare with advanced coatings and materials in addition to simple lens hoods and yet flare seems to be popular and “in style.” Photographers are using flare as a technique to add drama, lightness, or even a cinematic feel to images.


While it may almost be cliché to do so, I had the opportunity this past weekend to attempt a few lens flare photos. It was more of a learning experience than anything, but here are a few quick tips on achieving lens flare.

-Remove the lens hood.
-Shoot into the sun as if creating a silhouette.
-Meter off of your subject or switch to manual exposure.
-It may help to compose and meter exposure for the image with the subject blocking the sun and then just step left or right to unblock the sun.
-It’s easier to achieve early or late in the day when the sun is low, otherwise you’ll have to shoot upwards.
-Use a low ISO.
-Don’t use LiveView on a DSLR as it might damage the sensor.
-Compose through the viewfinder and try not to go blind!
-Wide apertures yield larger flares.
-Small apertures create more shapes.
-Lastly, different lenses create different flare, so give them all a try.

2 Comments on “Dabbling In Cliche: Lens Flare

  1. I find myself often telling people who see these pictures that Bryce takes of me that “I’m not really this cool, but the photographer makes me look that way.” And its not like these pictures required a long photo shoot – Bryce just captured them on the fly, deciding in the moment how he could take an ordinary moment and make it look extraordinary.

    • Thanks! I think it’s the job of the photographer to make the client look their best. If the resulting photo isn’t flattering, nobody will ever see it.

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