technique – using lens flare for effect
While lens designers try to minimize lens flare, and we use lens hoods, we can often use lens flare for special effect. Shielding the front element of the lens from direct sun and other strong light sources helps giving a more contrasty image. But letting the lens flare take over in a controlled way, can really give impact. That golden, sun-drenched summery feel to a photograph enhances the mood.
During this recent photo session in Central Park, New York, with a couple, Alli and Scott, the lens flare was quite intentional. But as is usual, there’s a certain progression towards the final images …
As mentioned in that blog post, for their engagement photo session, Scott wanted to go back to exactly the same spot in Central Park where he had proposed to Alli, and do this fun re-enactment. Cute!
For the initial test shots, I shot up towards the path where the horse-and-carriages would approach. But this meant that the background was constantly cluttered with people and bicycles and of course, the horse carriages. On top of that, the trees were shaded, and gave a too dark background. No separation.
So I decided that we should move to another spot, 90 degrees off to the side from where we were, but still facing the fountain. Now I was shooting directly towards the light. The sun-dappled leaves would create a much brighter background.
Now we have an interesting image. It just pops, and the background is simple. No clutter.
There is also an important change here, which might not be immediately obvious – I had Alli and Scott change position, with Alli now on the left-hand side of the image. The reason? The way she parts her hair. If you look at the initial test shot, her hair partially obscures her face. Turning her to the other side, leaves her face more open to the camera. This is something I immediately look for when posing a couple where the girl has long hair.
About the lens that was used, it is the new Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR (B&H). Since this engagement session was the first time I used it, I’ll post some more images in an upcoming review of the lens.
Lens flare reduces contrast, and we need to work with the image a bit to give it some punch again. Looking at the top image again, here is the comparison between the final image as posted here, and the JPG out of the raw conversion.
I used the Oh Snap! action in the Totally Rad action sets, to punch up the image some more, and also pulled the levels down a little bit.
But even before pulling the JPG into Photoshop for that little bit of sweetening, the brute adjustments were done on the RAW file to get to the image on the right.
Flare tends to wash out the image considerably, so as usual, I pulled the exposure down a lot, and also pulled the contrast way up. I often adjust the Black Point as well, but not in this case. From here I would generate a JPG, which is then retouched a bit in Photoshop if I feel like it.
And here we have it – an image which evokes just the right mood – fun, sexy and summery …
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