5 Tips for Achieving Artistic Lens Flare: How To

5 Tips for Achieving Artistic Lens Flare: How To

lens-flare-how-to.jpgA recent trend among many professional photographers is the use of Lens Flare. Simple in theory, it doesn’t take a lot of advanced knowledge to add this technique to your list of photographic tricks. A few considerations will help you achieve your best Lens Flare capabilities without breaking into a sweat.

1. Shoot into the Sun: Lens Flare is caused by strong rays of light directly hitting your lens and causing a slight sun burst. Capitalizing on the direction of your light is the key to capturing Lens Flare.

2. Think Silhouette: Place your subject in front of you, with their back to the sun. Your subject will be backlit as though you were capturing a silhouette.

3. Use Manual Mode: Your camera will expose the scene for the total amount of light in the photo. If you follow the camera’s metering, you will be left with a silhouette as it tries to compensate for the amount of light. Shooting on Manual will enable you to over-compensate for the backlight, so your subject is perfectly lit – even with the over exposed background.

4. Shoot at an angle: Because you want an image with Lens Flare [and not simply over exposure], you need to remember one thing: Camera position to the sun. This will largely depend on what time of day you shoot. In the mornings or evenings, you will have an easier time of shooting directly into the sun. But at mid day this changes. You will need to position yourself fairly low to the ground in order to shoot into the sun. Typically, 11am or 2pm is most conducive to mid day Lens Flare.

5. Watch your focus: Your camera typically will focus on the object best lit in your frame. Shooting into the sun will make it more challenging for your camera to focus on your subject. You may need to switch from auto focus to manual focus.

Have you taken some great Lens Flare shots? Share them in the Share Your Shots section of our forum.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

Some Older Comments

  • denise April 12, 2013 04:13 pm

    I also love lens flare & seek it out - but in doing so have given myself migraines & that I don't love so much! Definitely a good tip earlier on in the comments to use live view!

  • Hans Rudolf Wellinger October 11, 2012 03:45 pm

    To all of you I would very strongly suggest forget the concern about the possibility of strong sunlight damaging your CMOS or CCDs.
    Be concerned about permanently damaging your eyes instead, caused by looking directly into the sun through your view finder, or even just with the bare eye.
    To shoot into the sun safely I put the camera onto a tripod, then point it in the general direction of what I want to shoot. I take a shot and view it in the camera replay mode and then adjust my camera positioning to get the photo framed correctly. Whilst this takes a few frames and some time, it is 100% save for both the camera and more importantly, your eyes.
    Even the most spectacular shot is not worth the risk of going blind.
    Ta Hans

  • Torr September 19, 2011 02:59 pm

    Great tips, but I feel lens flare is way overused, and even more used incorrectly. Most shots come out much to high contrast and grainy. Several of the above posters shots are beautiful and very well composed, especially the Corvette.

  • Daniel Burch August 16, 2011 12:07 am

    i just came across this article and I found it to be helpful. The camera angle to the sun can produce so many interesting effects. We plan to incorporate more photos into our website using this technique. Thank you for the article.

  • gc July 19, 2011 02:58 pm

    I created a lens flare pack awhile ago,..........i don't know if anyone would be interested...........but its definitely a good collection to have: http://www.gfxcave.com/freebies/item/41-free-lens-flares-pack-1

  • homer June 25, 2011 10:16 am

    There's a lens flare app for iPhone and iPad! It's called LensFlare!

  • Heather March 8, 2011 03:36 pm


    I took this shot using an old lens from a Nikon, that I put on my panisonic gf1, the day was smokey from a forest fires and the trees provided such a cool break in the light. I was just playing around but the image turned out pretty. I happen to like the lens flair and am learning so much from the other people who use it in their portraits. It is a definite trend in photography today, but if used correctly it adds depth or emotion to the image.

  • Melanie August 14, 2010 01:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I have asked so many photographers how to do it, but this seems to get straight to the point. I will have to go out tomorrow if it is nice and try it :D

    Check out my flickr : flickr.com/melaniebeckphotography :)


  • yazid June 20, 2010 04:10 am

    Hey there
    how about my samples of lens flare?

    and this

  • Lindsay June 17, 2010 02:09 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! It's exactly what I need as I am just breaking into the biz and want to ensure that I can offer my clients everything and anything that is currently "in" and/or "cool"! I know it will change next week but at least I am on an even playing field for now!

  • Muchan June 17, 2010 05:53 am

    I am new here. Love the Tips! I am a begginer, here is my flare
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/23145724@N06/4500820946/' title='Sunset' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2749/4500820946_db0a44bd4d.jpg']

  • IHSAN June 16, 2010 03:06 pm

    I took this summer of last year, in Singapore:

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/ihsankhairir/3545402808/' title='Catch the sun' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3357/3545402808_971ba2da7d.jpg']


  • ate32 June 16, 2010 03:28 am

    Here's one I got a few days ago just messing around :P


  • Jessica April 20, 2010 07:33 am

    i enjoy seeing lens flare from time to time, but only if used in the correct way.


  • Nisw December 10, 2009 08:53 am

    You never mentioned lensflares from lights other than the sun, but they can be cool too. For example I found out that if you take a photo at night with a long exposure (for example of the lights of passing cars) you see that the streetlights look like stars and give a flare.

    I try to take flare pictures quite often, and i usually try to get the source of the light either on the edge of the subject in the front (so you get a hlo effect) or on the exact edge of the picture, to make the rays fall into the photo.

    for example: in this picture there is a very very bright lamp shining on the old city wall i am standing on, and it's reflection in the water still makes the flare (and turn the picture yellow)

    In this one I am looking up into a streetlight (trying to get the falling rain in the picture by using the light from the lamp)

    this is another of those very bright yellow lamps, and on the right you see regular streetlights

  • Karrel Buck September 23, 2009 10:03 am

    Here is my shot into the sun.


  • Jennifer Moore September 3, 2009 06:22 am

    Are there perhaps filters that might protect the camera is one uses this technique?

    I'd probably go with the technique mentioned of lining up the shot and then stepping to the side for a quick shot. I'd probably put it on multiple and just hit the button and see what I get. I've been doing that a lot anyway as I get to know my camera.

    Jennifer Moore
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

  • Amanda August 13, 2009 05:33 pm

    I love some lens flare in my photography.
    I really love the way Lomo Fisheye cameras capture lens flare.
    Thanks for the great tips.

  • Stephanie Stewart August 12, 2009 12:02 am

    Great tips! I wondered about eye damage when doing this...I love using flare for certain shots, but hate to think I'm causing damage to my eyes and to my camera...


  • Jed August 11, 2009 09:27 am

    Cool, thanks for the tip.


  • bali photographer August 8, 2009 04:39 pm

    Thank you for the post. lens flare some time good some time bad i often use lens flare to add more dramatic result on my photo.
    Sample photo: Bali Wedding photographer

  • Jeremy August 7, 2009 07:08 pm

    Well I would just want to remind everyone that looking directly at the sun isn't the best idea for your precious retinas, and doing so through a lens makes it multiply worse. remember the more you are in focus, the more rays are concentrated on one spot in your eye, kind of like when you burn things with a magnifying glass. you don't want to do that to yourself. So use live view or else focus to infinity and take a photo blindly, or you risk always doing things blindly from then on.

  • Joel August 7, 2009 06:44 pm

    Thanks, Christina. Great shots. I recently took a shot which unintentionally resultted in rather creative lens flare. Check out the last photo in my post: http://www.shutteria.com/2009/07/photo-blog-post-on-kaufingerstrasse.html

    Glad that I now know how to create the effect intentionally! :-)

  • kuhlphoto.ca August 7, 2009 12:39 pm

    light = life in my view, so I personally love flare if it is done well, it adds so much energy to a shot. Plus its cool. Found that the exposure compensation feature can be really useful for shooting into the light (used along with overcompensating on your camera's metering).

    Here are 2 I've tried and a contact who uses flare prominently in her portraiture:



  • ash August 7, 2009 11:21 am

    i've rarely taken a shot with the intention of having lens flare in it, but sometimes I have lucked out with a flared photo worth sharing ; )


  • MeiTeng August 7, 2009 10:42 am

    Never thought lens flare could be another creative tool. Like the last shot. Dramatic lens flare effect. I don't have any great lens flare shots.

    Thanks for the tips.

  • wijew August 7, 2009 10:08 am


  • Scott August 7, 2009 08:27 am

    Got up into the mountains with anoter photographer a couple of weekends ago and he showed me a neat trick backlighting ice blocks with the sun. Taking this a step further and allowing the sun to poke through brought in some nice flare:

  • donna August 7, 2009 08:14 am

    No! We hates the lens flare! Way overused...

  • Nipun August 7, 2009 07:47 am

    These tips are good. However, Nikon recommends not to point your lens directly to a high-intensity light source (like The Sun). So I am not very sure if this is a very good technique for your equipment. The pictures do look great and very artistic but don't know if its good for equipment's health.

  • Stefan Tell August 7, 2009 07:24 am

    Using a high F-number might also be helpful if you want really obvious lens flare. And positioning the sun in a corner of the image lets the "sun rays" and spots have a large area to be visible on.

    Here is one recent that I am happy with:

  • Jane August 7, 2009 07:06 am

    I have been very careful to avoid as much lens flare as possible, but on visiting stonehenge at sunset, I couldn't resist. I don't ever use Live View, and with the ISO set really really low, you get this:

  • Arun August 7, 2009 03:34 am

    I am not a big fan of lens flare pictures. but it does work by accident sometimes and the results look good. thanks for the tips

  • Xepo August 7, 2009 03:23 am

    This is my favorite of any of my shots with lensflare: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xepo/3728357005/in/photostream/

    Buuuut, if you really wanna see some good lens flare photography, check out Samantha Lamb's stuff: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samanthalamb/sets/72157600033545229/

    When I asked her how she gets such awesome lens flare, she told me to completely block the sun with the subject, get your framing right and everything, then simply step to one side so that the sun is only partially blocked by the subject.


  • Ed V. August 7, 2009 03:14 am

    I read a lot about trying to reduce or eliminate flare in photos, but I agree sometimes it adds character. I also like flare with (almost) silhouettes:


  • robb August 7, 2009 02:52 am

    wow this is cool.
    i sometimes experiment with flares but this is truly an inspiration.
    thx for sharing.

  • Alfeel August 7, 2009 02:24 am

    An experiment of some months ago..I wanted to do something like a "holy flare" take a look... http://m.flickr.com/photos/alfeel/3510415468/

    Good article bye!!!

  • Ethan August 7, 2009 02:17 am

    Even if I'm not looking directly into the sun, is it still causing damage to my eyes? I find the brightness so dramatic some times that it causes my eyes to water.

  • Pedro Ferreira August 7, 2009 02:00 am

    Is there any risks of burning the CCD? I am always a bit careful in exposing the CCD to direct sunlight.

  • TeresaZ August 7, 2009 01:53 am

    Thanks for the sharing this info. I'll get outside with my daughter and try your tips today!

  • Rivers August 7, 2009 01:52 am

    Actually, I've read that you should not use the Live View function when pointing at the sun. Normally, your camera's sensor is is not exposed until the shutter opens. In Live View, the sensor is exposed continuously. Framing the afternoon's direct sun could damage your sensor.

    I would suggest wearing sunglasses and using the optical viewfinder.

  • James Dolan August 7, 2009 01:29 am

    Thanks alot for the tips :D I will take most of them into account when shooting in broad daylight!

  • Pete August 7, 2009 12:55 am

    Awesome tips! But I have a question. My Sony A200 has no live preview mode so I can only compose shots using the viewfinder. Normally, this is fine because I am sort of old school anyway and prefer to compose my shots this way. Any tips on how to shoot into the sun without going blind? :-)