10 Secret Ingredients to Get Powerful Sunflare
When I started in my photographic journey more than a decade ago, I was warned “use a lens hood to avoid lens flare at all costs.” Most photographers thought of flare and excess light as a bad thing for photos. Some still do.
I love light. I love the way light can bounce off an object, can stream through a window, and can even create a soft haze on an image. I have chosen to purposely “use” light to craft starbursts and sunflare. And yes, I even sometimes add extra sunflare in Photoshop or add streams of light in Lightroom. Cringe!
Here’s a few tips on how to get great bursts of sunlight on your own terms.
- Shoot the sun against a vibrant blue sky.
- Switch to Manual, if not already there. You’ll get the best results this way.
- Set your speed. Aim for ISO 100, but closer to sunset (or after sunrise) you may need ISO 200-400+. If you want a “burst style” flare, set your aperture between f16-f22. If you want a hazier look with less definition, you can open the lens wider though.
- 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 usually try to retain the blue sky and slightly under expose my subject. I then adjust the exposure in Lightroom or Photoshop.
- For more control over the light, use a reflector or a flash to light your subject if they are “in range” of your source.
- If you are shooting objects further away, such as a building, take two exposures. In one, expose for the sky. In the next expose for your subject. Then merge in post processing.
- This technique works best when the sun is not directly overhead. Look for times where the sun is lower in the sky.
- Edges work great. While you can get sunflare and the starburst effect in mid sky, you can get even more dynamic results when it grazes the edge of a building or object.
- A lens hood “can” be your friend. If you want a hazy look, take it off. If you want a bolder starburst flare effect, keep it on to enhance the contrast.
- Results will vary depending on the type of lens you use. I get completely different results using my Olympus OMD EM5 than I do with my Canon 5D MKIII. When I use a prime lens versus a zoom, and depending on the aperture and focal length, the look changes too. Experiment to find your favorite looks.
Have fun with this new technique. I love the look and I often take a few images like these in different locations – just for entertainment… As with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. Beware – this can be addicting!
Now it’s your turn. Add your sunflare images below!