Sun flare or, more technically, lens flare can be a beautiful phenomenon in photography. The type of light that creates flare is drool-worthy and almost every photographer I know becomes a little giddy around this type of light. Lens flare occurs when certain types of light enter into a camera lens and bounce around scattering and refracting. The scattering and refracting results in creative haze and artifacts (colourful geometric shapes) that show up in an image's exposure. Lens flare is an effect that many photographers love, as it infuses beautiful creative light into an image. I've put together a few tips for you specific to how you can capture images with beautiful sun flare.
If you are looking to infuse your image with sun-drenched haze and geometric flare artifacts, then you will want to backlight your subject. Backlight occurs when light placement is behind your subject. You will be shooting directly into the light. When you backlight, it allows for light to enter into your lens, which is what you want when you are creating images filled with sun flare.
If too much light is entering into your lens, the light may overwhelm your exposure and overpower subject detail. This problem can be addressed in several different ways.
Lens choice when it comes to the quality and types of flare does matter. Lens flare will look different between lenses. The artifacts in my Nikkor 105 f2.8 are some of my favourites.
Additionally, a fixed focal length and a zoom lens will manage flare differently. Zoom lenses will often result in an increased sun flare effect as there is more internal surface area inside the lens for light to refract.
Quality and age of lens matter, too, as higher quality newer lenses are coated with an anti-reflective finish. This coating can help light transmit in a cleaner manner reducing the amount of haze and flare.
Aperture choice certainly matters when managing sun flare. Remember, aperture affects how much light enters into and hits your camera sensor. A wider aperture will result in more lens flare, whereas a smaller aperture will reduce sun flare effects.
Also, keep in mind that the smaller your aperture, the more likely you will produce a sunburst, which is a distinct burst of light as opposed to haze and scattered artifacts, which are more common with wider apertures.
Next time you are photographing in backlight, remember that sun flare can come in the form of haze, geometric shapes or even as a sunburst. Backlighting your subject is a beautiful way to infuse artistic light, including sun flare into your images. Don't be afraid to experiment and practise with this type of light.
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