Creativity Exercise: Sun Flare

Sun flare is one of those magical things in an image that can take it from ho-hum to stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous. And it all happens because of light and the way that YOU manipulate it.

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I LOVE the warm gloat that flare brings to an image and the visual interest that the dots and lines from the flare can add.

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So, how do you get it?

There are a few of basics to keep in mind when you’re trying to get flare.

  1. You need to have hard, direct light. The flare comes from strong rays of light, so you need to have a sunny day, generally when the sun is lower in the sky (early morning or later in the afternoon/evening).

  2. You need to be shooting INTO the sun. Backlit or slightly to the side is generally the easiest way to get flare to appear. If you’re between your subject and the sun then the chance of getting flare is basically zero.

  3. You need to have something for the sun to ‘hide’ behind. This is where you get to play around and start bobbing and weaving! In order for flare to happen, part of the sun (not all of it) needs to be blocked. If you’re shooting in golden hour, this often happens naturally as the sun starts to dip below the tree-line or behind buildings. But even if you’re not right within golden hour, you can still use other objects to block the sun. If I’m inside, I’ll often move around until I can get the window frame to block part of the sun to create the flare. Of if you’re outside and the sun isn’t quite low enough yet, then try to move yourself around (which often means getting lower) so that you can use people’s heads and the tops of tall buildings to block part of the light.

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Each lens you have is going to flare differently, and some just work way better than others, so if you have multiple lenses I recommend trying them all out to see what you like best. For me, my 24-70 on the 24 end makes the very best flare - even better than my 24 prime.

Also, if you have a lens hood on, make sure to take it off as the whole point of the hood is to block flare.

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You may notice that you have trouble auto-focusing when you’re shooting right into the sun as your camera can’t find enough contrast. You can fix this by either totally blocking the sun, focusing and then moving slightly, or use your hand as a make-shift lens hood so that you can focus, then remove your hand to take the shot and get the flare.

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In post production it often works well to warm the image up so that you can accentuate that warmth from the sun, and if you find that it’s too hazy, you can always use the dehaze tool in Lightroom.

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As always, we’d love to see what you come up with! If you share on IG, make sure to use #unscriptedmentoring so that we can find you.

Have fun with the flare!

Kelly