10 Secret Ingredients to Get Powerful Sunflare

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

10 Secret Ingredients to Get Powerful Sunflare


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.

  1. Shoot the sun against a vibrant blue sky.
  2. Switch to Manual, if not already there.  You’ll get the best results this way.
  3. 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.
  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 usually try to retain the blue sky and slightly under expose my subject. I then adjust the exposure in Lightroom or Photoshop.
  5. For more control over the light, use a reflector or a flash to light your subject if they are “in range” of your source.
  6. 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.
  7. This technique works best when the sun is not directly overhead.  Look for times where the sun is lower in the sky.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!


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  1. April 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm —

    LOVE this…I seem to create more silhouette’s, because I don’t like the base in the subject. So now I know how to avoid it!

    Random….I noticed a typo in #8, “… you can get even more dynamic results when it gazes the edge”

    Gazes should be “grazes” I believe. 🙂

  2. April 2, 2014 at 11:01 am —

    Jodi, thanks again for such a wonderful, succinct and especially helpful post! I’ve been playing around on my own, but it sure will help to have these tips the next time I go out and play. Always appreciated!!!

  3. April 2, 2014 at 10:56 am —

    How’s this one Jodi?

    Love a bit of sunflare!

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10 Secret Ingredients to Get Powerful Sunflare