Photographing Sunbursts & Achieving Intentional Lens Flare

Lens flare at f/18

Capturing a sunburst is kind of a fun way to be creative with your photos.  Usually lens flare isn’t traditionally “desired,” but when it is obviously done intentionality, it can be pretty cool.  It is my new current obsession. The photos I used for this post are just straight out of my camera.

Here are a few tips I have learned for capturing sunbursts with cool lens flare:

  • Put your camera in manual mode – (point and shooters, if you don’t have a manual mode, try landscape)
  • Use a smaller aperture (higher number)
  • Position your subject and sunburst where you would like them.
  • NOW TO FOCUS THIS SHOT, the key is to move just off that ideal shot line-up so the burst is behind your subject covered up.  NOW, you can autofocus on your subject without your camera going wild because it’s looking at the sunburst and doesn’t have a clue what to focus on.
  • I prefer to keep my lens on autofocus and perform the above step, because I find the lens does a great job focusing.  Better than what I would do if it were on manual focus.
  • Without refocusing, move slightly back to original position with sunburst showing and take your picture.
  • EXPOSURE – It is tricky to meter this shot with all the light, so take some test shots and see what you like.
  • The burst can be amplified, if you position it around a person, building, tree, etc.

*To avoid eye damage or camera sensor damage, avoid long exposures or staring into the sun too long.  Ouch.

Less lens flare with wider aperture: f/4.5 1/2000

Much more desired lens flare with a higher aperture: f/18 1/80