How to Photograph Sun Flares: 14 Tips for Beginners


Sun flares can add beauty and drama to your photos. Cameras and lenses are designed to cut down on flare – so when it comes to sun flares, you are a rule breaker right from the start.

In this article, I share 14 tips to help you get started photographing sun flares:


Photographing sun flares: 14 tips for beginners

There are no rules with sun flares, they’re all about creativity. You can capture them at any time of day, and with these easy tips you’ll be out experimenting in no time.

1. Try various aperture settings

Have you noticed that in some photos sun flares look soft and diffused, while in others they look bold and defined? That has a lot to do with which aperture setting was used.

If you use a fairly wide open aperture, like f/5.6, you’ll get soft flares. But, if you use a small aperture, like f/22, you’ll get stronger, more defined flares.


In the split image above, the f/5.6 shot is a softer looking flare, and the f/22 is more defined. The points of the flare are created by the blades of the aperture inside your lens. When they come closer together (as with narrow apertures like f/22) you get more defined points on your flares.

Using different apertures will give you a variety of looks to choose from when you’re editing. You’ll also learn which type of sun flare you prefer, depending on the setting and feel you want in your photo.

2. Use Aperture Priority Mode

The easiest way to use tip #1 is to put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode (AV on a Canon, or A on a Nikon). This way, you’ll be able to easily switch the aperture setting. With your camera set to auto ISO, it will automatically choose the ISO and shutter speed settings for you.

Now you’ll be able to quickly switch apertures and see the difference it makes to your sun flares. Learn more here: Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority: Exposure Lesson #1

3. Partially hide the sun

Use an object (such as a fence post, building, tree, etc.) to partially hide the sun. This will allow you to capture flare, and add an artistic touch to the object you’re shooting.


Move around the object, let the sun peek out at different locations as you keep taking photos. I love doing this, and I always come away with something unique.

4. Move around and take lots of pictures

When shooting sun flares it really helps to move around – a lot. If you are partially hiding the sun (as mentioned above in #3) a slight movement to the right or left will cause a big change in the flare. Your photo could be flooded with too much light, or you might miss the flare altogether. Or it could reveal the flare in just the right spot, and create exactly the look you want.


It’s important to take lots of pictures. You’ll learn how much sun to include, in relation to the amount of flare you want.


Sun flares can be unpredictable, that’s part of what makes them fun to work with.

5. Try using some filters

When photographing sun flares, filters can also be helpful:

  • UV filter: This is a good idea because you will be shooting into the sun. Some photographers feel that a UV filter will protect your camera’s sensor.
  • Polarizing filter: This will help you get different effects as you rotate it. This filter can help increase color saturation and decrease reflections. If you have one, play around with it and see how it affects the flares.
  • Graduated neutral density filter: These filters are darker at the top, and become lighter near the bottom. They can prevent part of the image from looking blown-out, from shooting into the sun.


In the above image, I used a graduated neutral density filter for the photo on the right. It helped control the light, which kept the colors richer. Learn more about polarizing and graduated neutral density filters.

6. Shoot during different times of day

Around sunrise and sunset, the sunlight comes in at a unique angle. This creates a warmer, golden color., whereas during midday, there is a cooler (bluish) or more neutral color.

In the following image, two of the photos were taken around sunset, and the other two were taken a few hours after sunrise. Can you guess when each photo was taken?


I bet you got it right – the ones on the left were taken near sunset. They have a warmer feel, don’t they?  The ones on the right have a cooler feel. Learn more here: Understanding Natural Light Part 2: Color of Light.

7. Divide the sun with your camera

You can get a softer, more diffused look by composing your photo so that the sun is not fully in your frame. Try cutting the sun in half, or only including its bottom third.


Play with it. Create different effects and see which you prefer.

8. Use a tripod and a remote shutter release

As mentioned earlier, a smaller aperture setting (higher number) will give you a sharper, more defined flare. But, using a small aperture also means that your camera will require more time to take the photo. The longer it takes, the more chance there is for camera shake to cause blur in your photo.

If you are hand-holding your camera, this could be a problem. When your camera is on a tripod, there is much less chance of camera shake.


Using a tripod will help keep your photos looking sharp and your sun flares crisp. By using a remote shutter release (or your camera’s self-timer) you’ll reduce camera shake even more.

9. Keep the sun at your model’s back

By keeping the sun at your model’s back, you’ll allow the light of the flare to spill out around them in interesting ways.


Depending on the time of day, you might need to lay down, and have your model sit or lay down. The above image was taken around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and I was laying on the ground.

The higher the sun is, the lower you’ll need to be in order to place the flare at your model’s head, or shoulder level. Having your model sit down will make it easier for you. When the sun is lower in the sky, positioning becomes easier for both of you.

10. Use a reflector

A reflector is used to reflect the light back onto your subject. Reflectors are usually made of fabric (white, silver or gold) and can be hand-held, hung from a freestanding base, or placed on the ground.

Using a reflector could be helpful if your model is in the shade. It would help to brighten their face, making the photo look more pleasing.

11. Cover the sun with your hand to focus

It can be hard to focus when shooting sun flares. There is so much light, that your camera may struggle to lock on where you want. When this happens, hold up your hand to cover the sun, compose your photo, and press your shutter release halfway. Once your camera focuses, take your hand down and press the shutter the rest of the way.

You may have to try this a number of times until you get exactly what you want.

12. Place the sun out of the frame

To get a really soft flare effect, without a bright point, try placing the sun out of your frame.


I love how this adds soft light to the above photo, and how the eye is drawn up to the source of light.

13. Use Spot Metering

Spot Metering handles bright light really well, so if you’ve got the choice, go with this metering mode. All but one of the photos in this post were taken using it. If your camera does not have Spot Metering, then Partial Metering would be your next best choice. I use autofocus, with the focus point set to the center.

14. Have fun

This last tip is probably the most important. When photographing sun flares, it’s time to experiment and have fun.

Don’t be afraid to take tons of pictures, try different aperture settings, and move around. Sun flares are wild and unpredictable. Be creative and use different objects to block (or diffuse) the light. You’re bound to get lots of over, and under exposed photos, but you’ll get lots of gorgeous results as well.

Learn more about Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images.

Now it’s your turn

I would love to see your sun flare photos and hear your tips! Please share them below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Dena Haines is a photographer and content marketer. She blogs about GoPro and action camera photography on Click Like This. Check out: 32 Cool Things to Do with a GoPro.

  • Michael Bogert

    My only attempt at sun flares so far.

  • In general, the more the sun can be turned into a tiny point source of light, the more refined the sun flare will be. You mentioned partially obscuring the sun and also using a small aperture. One more thing that helps is using a very wide angle lens. For example, on a 16-35mm lens, I get the best flares at 16mm. Think about it this way, when shooting very wide, everything is smaller – including the sun. Lens choice also makes a difference because different lenses have different blade configurations for the aperture. So far my most favorite lens is the Canon 16-35mm – because it’s super wide and because of the blades.

  • Thanks for the tips David 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing this Michael. I really like the colors 🙂

  • David

    I concur… a recent shot using the 16-35mm @f/18 and 24mm. Using 6 stop ND and 3 stop grad ND filters (over exposed but no clipping). 18 rays from the 9 bladed aperture (2 per blade for odd number of blades, 1 per blade if even number of blades in the aperture).

  • I love this David! So pretty 🙂

  • kurine

    this is awesome!!!

  • Jim Mahon

    My favorite sun flare picture I’ve taken so far. Captured with a Tokina 11-16mm lens set to 11mm at F/7.1 on a crop sensor Canon T2i.

  • This is beautiful Jim! Very peaceful, makes me want to be there 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Gabi

    My most recent sun flare picture

  • Reena Prasadula

    One fine morning..
    REENA Prasadula

  • Reena Prasadula

    One fine morning

  • Beautiful shot Gabi! Photos like this remind me that winter is not all bad, lol! I’ll be ready for some more days like this by the time it rolls around again. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Stuart Tarn

    This is my contribution!

  • Stuart Tarn

    This is my contribution!

  • Tim Lowe

    Very comprehensive. I would only add to experiment with different lenses. The configuration of the aperture blades in different lenses gives different effects. A grad filter can also come in handy to even out the exposure.

  • Albin

    Nice column, I too often see flare as a “problem” rather than an enhancement, and this helps. I’d suggest AFL can make it possible to both maintain focus #11 and use a delay / remote #8 to avoid shake from the shutter half-press. AFL is the shortcut button on my Canon cameras.

  • jhdvorsky

    Great article! Inspired to try more shots like this. A shot of my wife at the skatepark on crisp morning.

  • Gabi

    This was actually shot a couple of weeks ago in the Latvian countryside. People were already complaining that winter seems to be never-ending around here, but I got some good feed-back on this picture despite the generalized “winter-hate”. I’m no professional, but it’s rewarding to be able to show beauty to those who are too overcome by the downside of things to see it anymore.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    I made a pointy sun – first one ever.

  • Kristi Alt Fitzgerald

    Just took this on Good Friday, I was excited to see the location of the sun!

  • Kristi Alt Fitzgerald
    I guess this isn’t a sun flare because of the composition but I was excited on Good Friday when I went to church to take this picture and saw the location of the sun!

  • That’s a cool pointy sun Terri 🙂

  • Awesome shot, love the composition! I can see why this shot would inspire you to create more 🙂

    Thanks for sharing jhdvorsky

  • Nice shot Stuart!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I agree, winter holds a special beauty. 🙂 This was our first winter in 6 years. We are back in Canada after living in Ecuador. You might enjoy some of the photos in my last article

  • Kevin Martin

    thanks for the wonderful tips, I don’t forget to tell everyone to just be patient also. The right shot will come along.

  • Kevin Martin

    I waited for the perfect moment to get this shot.

  • Kevin Martin

    I waited for the perfect moment to get this shot.

  • abhijeet joshi

    Few attempts to capture sun flares.
    Request your reviews.

  • abhijeet joshi

    Some attempts to capture sun flares.

  • Dawn Heath

    I agree with the wide angle lens. My fisheye takes great sun flare shots.

  • Dawn Heath

    I agree that wide angle lens can really help with sun flares. My 10.5mm takes great sun flare shots.

  • Bill Ward

    Taken with a (unfortunately borrowed) Canon 11mm lens at f20, 1/80 sec.

  • Nico

    Sunset in Provence (France)

  • Carol Hewlett-Gasser

    Newbie at photography.

  • Carol Hewlett-Gasser

    New at this!

  • Tanya

    Taken last October – I enjoy taking sun flare pictures

  • Tanya

    This was taken last October

  • Carolyn Bell

    One of my attempts, Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, CA.

  • Carolyn Bell

    Mobius Arch, CA.

  • Carolyn Bell

    Goblin Valley, UT

  • Carolyn Bell

    Derwentwater, Lake District, one of my first attempts at sun flare.

  • Beth Combs
  • Beth Combs

    love that you take your camera to church!

  • Carlo

    I think it’s important to use your live view mode, to do not risk to ruin your eyes looking at the optical viewfinder.

  • Yvonne Ismann

    as it was a wonderful early morning, and again, my camera Batteries would not hold the charge, I had to grad the cellphone, for what I have had an eye on…

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