using lens flare for effect

using lens flare for effect

While we often try and avoid lens flare, controlled use of lens flare can enhance the mood of a photograph. The question came up during a workshop last week – how exactly do you get lens flare. It is quite easy to get flare – shoot towards the sun, or any bright light source. Removing any filter will help in not washing out the image. Controlling the flare is more difficult though. Different lenses flare in different ways. The choice of aperture also affects how flare appears.

As an example, one of my favorite lenses, the Canon 24-105mm f4L (B&H), flares in a very interesting way. It creates rainbow streaks which appear and disappear with slight adjustments in position. Since it is so unpredictable, the only way to really use it, is to shoot a lot, and keep changing your angle and position. Out of a sequence of about 20 images, I really liked the one above where the flare was an interesting pattern above her which somehow flowed with the composition of the image. The flare also caused the contrast to be more flat, giving the appearance of lifting the shadow details in her face. The image below shows how it looked without flare, and the image at the bottom shows an example where the flare just blew out the image.

settings for all three images: 1/160 @ f4 @ 200 ISO
(no flash; no reflector; only ambient light)

7 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    Yet another thought provoking Post. I was actually trying the same experiment two weeks ago on holiday, using the same lens too. I was happy with the results, but i’d say i ended up somewhere between #1 and #3 above.
    Even with spot metering i found it surprisingly easy to get an almost totally blown image.
    I think the sun positioning is crucial to the final effect.

  2. 3DGV says


    How do you get such rich colors on your photograph (referring to the deep red you obtained on the jacket). when i take pics, the colors are not that vivid and i end up moving the color sliders on the PS RAW tool to enhance them.

    Obtaining vivid colors is something i struggle with. The scene i look at might be vivid to my eye, but then after the capture, it looks bland. I use a Canon 40D. Maybe changing the ‘picture style’ menu option might help. Not sure if you set those options.


  3. 4 says

    DGV .. what are you using for your RAW processing software?

    This was shot with the classic Canon 5D, and the 24-105mm f4L … and I used Canon’s DPP software to process the RAW file. No adjustments other than:
    + 0.3 on the exposure,
    a slight change on the WB to remove some of the orange tones.

    An important thing here … move away from using Auto WB. I find the Canon DSLRs tend to give a cold color balance. I like a warm spectrum.

    I really like DPP for its skin tones. Also that it mimics the camera settings.

    Neil vN

  4. 6Wolfie says

    Great use of the lighting most would regard as adverse! The flare in the first shot imparts a lovely warm soft-focus glow to her face.

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