Sun Burst Style Sun Flare: 10 Sure Fire Tips to Achieve It

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Sun Burst Style Sun Flare: 10 Sure Fire Tips to Achieve It

how to get sunflare in photographs

Sun Flare can be beautiful.  If done intentionally, it can add to the art of a picture. Have you ever wished you could make the sun look like this? It even makes the Detroit Jail above, look pretty and inviting (well almost). Sun flare, once you learn how to achieve it, is fun and very addictive!

Here are 10 easy to follow tips to help you achieve sun burst defined “star-like” style sun flare.

  1. Start with clear day.  A few clouds can be around, but the sun itself works best against a vibrant blue sky.
  2. Shoot in Manual Mode! You need control.
  3. 1st set your speed, likely to be ISO 100 but if near sunset may be ISO 200-400. Then set your aperture between f16-f22. Sun flare can be achieved when opened up more but the more “wide open” your lens, the less definition you will get. If you shoot with wider apetures, you may get Lens Flare and that hazy look, but not the crisp star burst effect.
  4. Lastly set your shutter speed.  You will need to vary this setting quite a bit depending what you want to preserve (sky or subject).  I often split the difference and try to retain some blue sky (light) while not completely underexposing my subject. The exposure I can then adjust in Lightroom or Photoshop.
  5. If you are having trouble getting the sky and subject exposed properly, you can either use fill flash or reflector if the subject is close.  If the “subject” is a building or anything else and is far away, you likely will want to take two exposures back to back. Take one exposing for the sky and one exposing for your subject.  Then merge in post processing.
  6. Though the sun can be just about anywhere as you can see from these shots, the lower in the sky, the better.  This is especially true if you want to get people in the shot. You can see in shots where it was high in the sky, it would be hard to include people in the shot.
  7. One really great way to get sunflare is to use a building or tree – let the light play off the edge.
  8. Shooting into the sun like this makes seeing your screen difficult.  I strongly advise you not to look directly at the sun through your viewfinder. Ouch! After taking a few shots, turn the other way and check your images so you can see them better.  See what needs to be altered with your settings.
  9. Use your lens hood.  Using one will help cut down on haze (unless of course that is the look you are going for).
  10. Be creative and have fun. I personally love this look with architecture and environment. It works for portraits as well, but try not to overuse it.  You can have too much of a good thing.


This shot is at the old train station in Detroit. As you can see, I shot it at an extreme angle to capture it. The sun was still very high in the sky. It was too high to use the edge. I deepened the sky and brightened the building using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop.

how to get sunflare off a building

Sunflare can even be accomplished with reflections of the sun.  The sun was actually setting in the opposite direction, but its reflection was on the Renaissance Center. I was able to capture its reflection.

how to get sunflare from edge of a buildingThe sun was at a great spot for this graffiti wall on this building. I got lower so that it literally skimmed the edge of the roof.


how to get starburst sunflare in images

This shot was taken in Northern Michigan.  If I had fill flash, it would have been achieved in camera.  Instead this was accomplished more in Photoshop.  I took two shots and combines the exposures so that one was exposed for sky and one for the subject.  It is not quite perfect – but I still love it.

beautiful sunflare pictureAnd lastly, this photo was taken as the sun was low in the sky in Arizona.  The building helped capture this flare. The shot was totally unplanned.  I happened to turn around and snap this shot of group of photographers – totally an accident. But as you can see, it was a really fun one.

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  1. barb
    September 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm —

    Very nice photo’s.. Thanks for the tut!! Whenever we get sun again I’m going to try this out!!!..

  2. May 11, 2012 at 7:58 am —

    Would it be possible to include the settings for some of these pictures? I played around with the sun flare a bit yesterday, starting with the low ISO and recommended aperture, but I was having a terrible time finding an exposure that created crisp flare. I’d love to see what speed some of the pictures above ended up with! Thanks for the tips – I’ll keep working on it!

  3. Alice C.
    April 16, 2012 at 8:38 pm —

    Wow! What awesome photos! I am definitely inspired to go out and play with sunflare now 🙂

  4. Mike Sweeney
    August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am —

    Nice article with good tips and links. The sample shots are not bad either 😀 I really like the third one in the series.

  5. September 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm —

    Thanks for posting this, very helpful!

  6. Tara Brooks
    September 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm —

    Thank you Jodi! I love reading your tutorials 😉

  7. Sherri LeAnn
    August 15, 2009 at 3:52 am —

    This is so helpful – I haven’t been very successful with Sunflares – hopefully that will change now !
    Thanks a million : )

  8. August 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm —

    Thanks so much for these tips!!! I love reading your blog! 🙂

  9. Monica
    August 10, 2009 at 10:35 pm —

    Thank you so much for the tips. I am really excited to go out and try some sun flair photos. You last photo is really fun!

  10. August 10, 2009 at 5:42 pm —

    Thanks for sharing Jodi! Beautiful photos!

  11. Heather Price........vanilla moon
    August 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm —

    I totally love that last shot,such a lot going on in it.I enjoy sunflare shots,i have learned a thing or two or three here though,thanks!

  12. August 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm —

    Okay, so maybe I’m just being dumb but I’m always nervous to shoot sun flare because somewhere in my manual it tells me not to shoot directly at the sun or I can damage the sensor. Should I be using a filter or something so that my mind can rest easier about my sensor?

  13. August 10, 2009 at 11:31 am —

    Thanks, Jodi! You always have the best tutorials. I enjoy reading your blog.

  14. SarahInParis
    August 10, 2009 at 10:50 am —

    I love these images Jodi and thanks for the tips. I’m super keen to play around with sunflare. One question… is it true that pointing your camera at the sun will damage your lens ?? I’m always scared to play too much as I’m worried about the lens. Am I just being a worry wart?

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Sun Burst Style Sun Flare: 10 Sure Fire Tips to Achieve It