The Sun Flare Photography Guide
Sun flare photography is arguably one of the most stylized in camera effects you can utilize. In landscape photography crisp, starburst sun flares are a staple of any great sunset photo. With portrait photography, sun flares can add a new point of interest to the photo.
Whatever the image, a sun flare is the cherry on top of your photo sundae.
Now I bet you’ve probably tried your hand at sun flare photography, but struggle to get it just right.
How do the pro’s capture such sharp and clear sun flares? Is there some kind of secret tool?
Luckily for you, there’s no secret piece of gear; just a special recipe of camera settings to get the perfect sun flare effect.
Luckily this isn’t the Krabby Patty Formula, so let’s get these ‘secrets’ out in the open.
Here’s the ultimate guide to capturing better sun flare photos.
Tips For Sun Flare Photography
1. Pick The Right Aperture
When it comes to sun flare photography, the most important thing to remember is aperture.
Your aperture controls the amount of light that passes through your lens, while dictating your depth of field. If you are totally unfamiliar with this, be sure to get my Free Photography Essentials E-Book where I talk in depth about aperture and other important camera settings. You can get access here.
For the best sun flare effects you will want to have an aperture of F/11 or greater. I personally like that sharpness of the flares I get at F/16 but it’s truly personal preference.
Try to play around with different apertures and see how it effects the outcome of your sun flare.
If you choose to shoot at an aperture of F/8 or wider, your flare will look a lot more milky and soft. Below are two examples of F/5.6 and F/8.
Note how the flares are noticeably different than the images above.
So if your sun flares aren’t looking like you want, change your aperture. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
2. Hide The Sun Behind A Defined Edge
You will capture the best sun flares when only part of the sun is visible. By hiding the light behind an edge it causes the sun flare to spread across shadowed areas and really stand out.
Now what the heck do I mean by an edge?
An edge can be anything from a tree branch, a persons shoulder, a rock; whatever. Anything with a clear edge that obscures part of the sunlight from view.
Whenever I am trying to create a sun flare, I take a few shots in different positions. Each position I allow more or less light to peak around my edge for varied results.
You might be surprised how a little bit of light goes a long ways in creating great sun flare photos.
3. Keep Your ISO Low
To ensure your sun flares stay crisp, shoot at a lower ISO.
By shooting at a lower ISO your image will have less noise and grain that could diminish the quality of your sun flare.
If you are in a darker setting you may have to use a tripod to compensate your shutter speed for a lower ISO and smaller aperture.
If you have to use a slow shutter on a tripod, try setting your camera to a 2 second capture delay. This ensures there’s no shake in your camera when you hit the shutter button.
4. Choosing The Right Time Of Day
Sun flares can be captured at any moment of the day. However, they look best in a composition when they are lower in the sky.
During golden hour, your sun flare will appear warmer and have a great yellow orange glow. In mid day your sun flares will turn out to be much more white.
Waiting for golden hour and scoping out the perfect edges to flare against is a great idea, if you’re wanting to capture the perfect sun flare photo.
5. Choose The Right Lens
Admittedly, any lens will create a sun flare of some kind. The difference being the quality and sharpness of those flares.
Lower quality lenses seems to make for more milky and soft sun flares. Higher end lenses will create more defined crisp sun flares like you see below.
No matter what lens you are using, the basic principals of creating the sun flare remain the same. However, the end result may vary.
What lens do you use and love the flares from? Let me know in the comments below!
6. Use Live View Instead Of Your View Finder
Now a quick word to the wise, don’t look directly through your viewfinder when shooting lens flares. I mean, have you ever tried looking at the sun?
Ya I know. It’s bright and it hurts.
If you prefer to keep your retinas in tact, opt to use live view. Live view lets you compose all your shots for perfect sun flare goodness, without scorching your eyeballs.
Put your LCD screen to use people!
So there it is, the secret recipe to sun flare photography in all its glory. Pretty easy right?
Simply remember to select the right aperture value and experiment against different edges.
It can be a lot of fun messing around to see how the sun flare plays in your composition.
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