back to top

5 Creative Lens Flare Photography Tips

If you are a big fan of films like Star Trek, or anything by director J.J. Abrams, you have no doubt experienced lens flare.
These sci-fi style images can be created with anamorphic lenses, but also easily with normal camera lenses.
A photo of a man working in an office, with a creative lens flare effects coming from the window above his head

What Is Lens Flare

If you’re shooting into the light, then you’re going to encounter lens flare. This could be from photographing toward the sun, or even just an artificial light source, such as a flashlight.
Often lens flare from bright light is undesired. It can be removed with a simple trick, but for the purpose of this post, we want it.
Lens flare happens because of the strong light, but its strength is down to your camera lens. The lens elements are made from glass, so when the direct bright lit hits these elements, they create internal reflections.
Lens hoods are made to eliminate the chance for extra bright light sources from entering your camera lens. When the light enters your digital slr camera’s sensor, it bounces the light all over the place.
One area that can really help to cut down your lens flares is by using camera lenses with an anti-reflective coating. Editing programs can help to reduce this lens flare effect.
Understanding how types of lens flare happen is key to replicating it for fun and creative uses. You could also add these anamorphic flares into your scenes via Photoshop.
By widening your field of view, you increase the chances of lens flares. Reversely, zoom lenses cut down the possibility. Different lens types treat the sun flares in different ways.
A palm tree with lens flare entering from behind - what is lens flare?

5. Shoot Into the Sun

The main points you want to remember is to use spot metering mode on your subject and expose accordingly.
By that, I mean that if you want to prevent your subject from becoming a silhouette, then it’s best to set your camera to manual mode and adjust the exposure yourself.
The sun will produce these lovely flares of light as they pass through your lens. And that’s it. You’ve got some pretty lens flare.An outdoor portrait of a female model posing in a meadow, featuring creative lens flare

4. Use a Flash

The photo below actually uses a flash as the light source, in an effort to mimic the lighting that could have been there. As you can see, you still get a very similar effect.
Here, the effect is lessened due to the light not being as strong, and it’s more out of the frame.
A couple posing in a low light indoor setting, featuring camera lens flare

3. Aperture

You’ll notice that the lens flare takes the shape of your aperture blades. You need to take this into consideration. The better quality (more expensive, usually) your lens is, the smoother the flare is going to be.
If you open your aperture all the way up, then the flare is going to be smooth and circular. This is because there are no blades blocking the light.
A calm and pretty view of a wooden pier, featuring lens flare photography

2. Focus

When you shoot directly into the light source, your camera will have a tough time trying to find the right point of focus. To counteract this, there are three things you can do:

  • Firstly, you can use your focal lock to lock your focus on your subject with the sun blocked. Then recompose slightly and take the photo with the focus in the right place.
  • Secondly, you can use a narrow aperture. When you have lots of light at your disposal, you can stop down to a narrow aperture, and this will give you a deeper depth of field.
  • Thirdly, you can use manual focus and take all the control back yourself. This will work, but it’s not exactly the first choice.

An outdoor portrait of a female model posing in front of green bushes, featuring creative lens flare

1. Angle the Light

If you want the light to produce an artistic flare, then it needs to be coming across your photo. Good lens flare depends on the angle of the light, which correlates with the time of day.
Shoot in the evening with your lens flare coming from the side of your frame, perhaps using the rule of thirds.
A concert photography shot of musicians performing onstage, featuring lens flare
If you would like to keep track of the 30 Day Photography Challenge, come on over to my FacebookTwitter and Pinterest. Here you can and share your photos with me and the rest of the community.
The best ones will be included in these posts. Alternatively, you can leave a comment below. (Note: if you’re linking from Facebook, be sure to ‘copy image address’).

Save this article to your Pinterest profile to access it later!
['rmockx.RealPlayer G2 Control', 'rmocx.RealPlayer G2 Control.1', 'RealPlayer.RealPlayer(tm) ActiveX Control (32-bit)', 'RealVideo.RealVideo(tm) ActiveX Control (32-bit)', 'RealPlayer']
['rmockx.RealPlayer G2 Control', 'rmocx.RealPlayer G2 Control.1', 'RealPlayer.RealPlayer(tm) ActiveX Control (32-bit)', 'RealVideo.RealVideo(tm) ActiveX Control (32-bit)', 'RealPlayer']