Ahhh! Lens flare! I happen to adore all that dreamy haze, artistic, colourful, and geometric shaped light but this was not always the case. When I was first starting out as a photographer, I, like many, found myself drawn to those hazy and dreamy flare filled images but when I tried to capture images filled with flare I found my captures were often wash out or my flare overpowered my main subject. Whether you are embracing the gorgeous artistic enhancement of lens flare or want to eliminate it knowing how to control lens flare is your first step. Here are a few secrets to controlling and mastering lens flare.
To help you better understand lens flare let me briefly and simplistically explain what it is. Lens flare is simply light. When a photographer captures an image, using a digital camera, light hits the camera sensor triggering electronic signals that then turns the light into an image. However, sometimes, in certain lighting situations, there is light that refracts or reflects inside the lens. This light shows up in various forms of flare depending on the lens type, lens settings and how that light is refracting.
1. Use a lens hood
The first point of control when it comes to lens flare is in your gear. That hollow circular part that attaches to the front of your lens is your lens hood and it can be very effective in controlling and even eliminating lens flare. Lens hoods help block or minimize the amount of light entering the lens which will help reduce or control flare. Now if your goal is a lot of haze or lens flare then by all means remove your hood and let the light in!
2. Lens choice
Lens choice matters when it comes to flare management. Wider angle lenses are often build to handle more light entering the lens and can sometimes manage flare better when compared to telephoto lenses in the same light. More expensive lenses often have an anti-glare coating which can help reduce flare. Prime lenses or fixed focal lenses also tend to control flare better because there are fewer internal parts in which light can bounce off of. My favourite lens for capturing lens flare is my Nikkor 105mm 2.8f. It’s dreamy every single time.
3. Type of light
This may be obvious but the type of light you use will impact the amount of flare in an image. Direct backlight is going to result in more flare than shooting with your back to the light source, which will likely almost eliminate most flare. Side lighting will result in different flare than backlight. A high light source will result in less flare than a light source that is low and directly shining into your lens. Filtered light will typically result in less flare than full unfiltered light. Be aware of what type of light you are working with and conscious of how that light source will impact potential flare.
4. Photographer composition
This point is similar to the last except it’s not the type of light you’re using rather it’s your own position to the light that is important. Small movements can make a big difference in managing lens flare. I often take several shots of the same scene making small movements up, down, right or left so that I can choose how much or how little flare I want when I’m in post processing.
Closing down your aperture (f9, f13, f22) will result in less light entering your lens and less lens flare. Most often you can create a sun burst at these apertures especially if the rays of light are being dispersed by an object. A wider aperture (f2, f2.8, f3.2) will result in more lens flare because more light is entering you lens. Also, this type of flare is often more hazy and less defined when compared with apertures like f9, f13, f22.
6. Post processing flare
Yes! I’m all for it! My love of all things creative runs pretty deep. I admit that indeed I do use flare overlays to add and enhance flare in post processing. As long as the flare works with the type of light in the image I will often incorporate an overlay to enhance already present flare. I enjoy being creative so this type of editing works with my style of photography.
If you are subscribed to my website I sent you a spring gift so check your inbox! Did you get it? My spring gift to you is a sun flare overlay, which I created specifically for those subscribed to The Photographer’s Notebook! I used the flare in the image above. Enjoy using the overlay to enhance the flare in your images. If you are not subscribed to my website you can pick up the flare by subscribing, but do so before April 30, 2019 because this gift disappears after that date.
Enjoy embracing light!