Sun burst

Let in the Light: Secrets to Controlling Lens Flare

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.

ISO 200, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/400SS

ISO 200, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/400SS

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! 

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8, 1/800SS

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8, 1/800SS

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.

ISO 800, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/800SS

ISO 800, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/800SS

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.

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1600

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1600

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.

ISO 500, 35mm, 2.5f, 1/320SS

ISO 500, 35mm, 2.5f, 1/320SS

5. Aperture

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. 

ISO 31, 35mm, 22f, 1.3sec

ISO 31, 35mm, 22f, 1.3sec

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.

ISO 200, 200mm, 2.8f, 1/1250SS

ISO 200, 200mm, 2.8f, 1/1250SS

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!

My Favourite Types of Indoor Natural Light

Winter is certainly sticking around up here in the Northern Hemisphere where I live. Although most have made it through the majority of winter, if I’m being honest as opposed to optimistic, I know that we will not see signs of spring, outdoors, until about late April early May. However, signs of the coming spring are abundant inside my home. Once February arrives I begin to see new light in my home that disappeared during the darkest of the winter days. I get really excited this time of year discovering new light and using it in fun and interesting ways.

For those of you who know me as a photographer you will know that I’m incredibly passionate about light. I especially enjoy watching light move and change throughout the seasons inside my home. It’s like a little gift. As spring approaches and I begin to see the significant and dynamic changes within the light inside my home I begin to ponder how I can push my light use it in a creative way.

Here are some of the types of light I like to look for and use within my home.

1. Soft light

In its most basic form natural light found indoors can fall into two different categories: Soft or hard light. If you are new to the study of light, soft natural light can be defined as light that generally has a softer transition from highlight into shadow. If there is no clear definition between lightness and darkness the light is defined as soft. Soft light can be used in many different ways inside your home and is probably the most used light. I also think that soft light is often easiest to photograph.

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 400, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

2. Hard light

Hard natural light can been seen in situations where there is a distinct line between a highlight and shadow without a smooth transition between the two. I really enjoy playing with hard light which can bring unique and fun patterns into a scene.

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

ISO 100, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/1000SS

3. Patterned light

Patterned light is one of my favourite types of light. It can result from both hard and soft light but is very often hard or towards the harder side of soft in nature. I think it’s really creative light and can be used in all kinds of ways to add drama or unique interest into an image.

ISO 320, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/500SS

ISO 320, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/500SS

4. Sunburst or sun flare

Capturing a sunburst or sun flare adds gorgeous dynamic light into an image. A sunburst and sun flare can be found and captured when the sun is directly shining in through a window. You will most often see hard light in your home when there is the possibility of capturing a sunburst or sun flare. It’s easiest to capture that burst or dispersion of light rays when the sun is being filtered through or hitting an object such as the side of a window frame. This helps disperse the light creating that sunburst. Flare will occur when the light enters the lens and can be controlled with small movements in your positioning. A sunburst and sun flare can occur together or separately.

ISO 400, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/250SS

ISO 400, 35mm, 3.5f, 1/250SS

5. Silhouette

Silhouette isn’t as much a type of light rather it is how a photographer uses the dynamic range within a scene but I think it’s worth mentioning. Silhouettes are a beautiful way to highlight a profile or enhance a mood within an image. A tip here is to try and have your subject’s limbs separated from his or her body so that there is definition and your subject doesn’t become a black blob.

ISO 1600, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/320SS

ISO 1600, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/320SS

Here’s a little challenge for you this coming week! I’d love to see you find these types of light situations in your home and then shoot for them! Actively noticing the light in your environment will help you understand light better which in turn will result in you becoming a stronger photographer! Another tip is to pull out your Photographer’s Notebook! Have you picked one up for yourself yet? Study the light inside your home and jot down notes about what you see! This will help you not only learn about the light in your home but you’ll know where to go when you want to use a certain type of light in a creative way!

all content and images © Gina Yeo Photography, 2019