Monday, August 8, 2011

{tips for creating beautiful sun flare}

Now, "technically", lens flare is a "no no" in photography.  The people who make our camera?  Well, they work hard to create a product that will NOT produce lens flare (hence the large lens hoods you see some photographers using).  

However, lately it seems that sun flare has become a growing trend in the photography world.  It can take a "blah" and run of the mill image and turn it into a beautiful surprise.  
  1. Shoot Manual:  This isn't "necessary" but makes it a lot easier.  I've gotten sun flare from my little point and shoot (see below), but I love using my "big camera" to mess with the settings and customize my image.  So, if your camera is capable, and if you are familiar with shooting manual... do it.  You'll want to keep a low ISO and most likely play around with your settings until you get the effect you want in that spot.  Once you get an image you like (I suggest practicing on a still subject... a flower, the side of a building, a tree etc...) you can use that setting to shoot other objects then and there.  (obviously, different days and different times and different camera settings will produce a different image)

  2. Exposure:  Now, the #1 rule to getting sun flare... shoot INTO the sun.  Your subject will be "backlit" (aka, the light source behind them) and your camera will be thinking "BRIGHT!" and to compensate it will underexpose your subject and try to expose the sky properly.  You don't want this.  Actually, you really don't want your camera to be thinking at all so I highly suggest putting it in manual and choosing your ISO, aperture and shutter speed to create an image you like.

  3. Focusing: When shooting into the sun, your camera may end up hunting around for a place to focus without any luck.  If I can't get a solid focal point I will sometimes put my hand up to the side of my lens (ahem... the job of a lens hood) to block the sun momentarily.  Once I lock my focus, I move my hand and take the picture (I may recompose the shot if needed, but keep my focus locked). You can also put your camera in manual focus mode or use a higher aperture to allow you a little leeway if you don't get your focus dead on.

  4. Time of day:  I tend to find that shooting in the late afternoon/early evening produces the best sun flare for me.  You want the sun to be in your lens, either fully in the middle and bouncing off your subject or just "kissing the edge" of your lens.  If you attempt sun flare in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point, you'll need to get low on the ground and shoot up toward the sun.  I love shooting a few hours before the sun sets as the sun is low and the light is beautiful and golden. Also, you don't necessarily have to be outside for this to work.  Try using a window or doorway to produce sun flare.

  5. There is no right or wrong:  In my opinion, the object of sun flare is to evoke some warm and magical emotion into an image.  Play around with it... we're in the digital age so you can take a thousand pictures to attempt to get something you really like.  The flower picture I posted below?  I think I took about 75 different shots... changing the angle, changing my focus point, changing the composure of the picture, adjusting the sun's position in my lens etc.... 

So, go out this evening and play around!  I can't wait to see what you get!

An image with my little point and shoot camera:

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