June 29, 2009

Catching Sun Flare :: Aliso Viejo Photographer

xmas 2008 portrait2-lux hard

We modern digital photographers are a bunch of goofballs who might one day wonder why we spent so much time and energy intentionally trying to screw-up a photo with flare. And I will number myself amongst those who chased after the flare! [grin]

Engineers have worked hard to create expensive lenses that are impervious to chromatic aberrations such as sun flare. Lens hoods with non-reflective interiors have been created specially for each individual lens. Tutorial after tutorial after tutorial has been written to help us avoid sun flare. Expensive anti-reflective lens filters are available to decrease flare.

But. I've got to tell you: Sun flare is IN right now. It's hip. It's current. It's hot! But. I've also got to tell you: the rest of the world is going to think you screwed up when you show them your awesomely flare-endowed picture. I was thrilled last year to find flare on my tri-pod-achieved family portrait for our Christmas card. But my own mother (Hi, Mom!) wanted to know why I hadn't photoshopped out that green spot -- that green spot that was sitting squarely on my handsome husband's face, nonetheless. And she wasn't the only one who wanted to know why I hadn't fixed that "problem". :-)

So, in the spirit of trendy-ness (because, I fully acknowledge flare is "in" now, but might again be a photographic faux pas tomorrow), I hereby offer up the following tips for catching the flare. And, by the way, I accumulated this list by working backwards from the abundant tutorials describing flare avoidance. ;-)

The How-tos:

1. shoot directly into the sun.
2. wiggle/tilt your lens around until you can see the flare.
3. cheap lenses are more likely to catch the flare (because of lack of anti-reflective coating on lens) than expensive lenses.
4. do NOT use a lens hood.
5. zoom lenses are more likely to catch flare than prime lenses (because they have more lens elements).
6. smaller apertures are more likely to give you better defined flare and detailed sun rays.
7. cheap UV/polarizing/neutral density filters can increase flare by introducing additional surfaces from which light can reflect.
8. and one more (from Aunt Tea in the comments): it's easier to catch flare in the early morning and the early evening when the sun is lower to the horizon.

So here's one of my recent attempts to catch well-defined flare. I was using my zoom lens (24-105mm), hood off, wide open 24mm, shooting right into the sun, with apertures ranging from f/4 to f/16.

bridge flare

It's pretty clear that f/16 gave much better definition to the flare (you can see it all the way to the bottom of the frame) and the sun rays than f/4. If I'd had a cheap filter for this lens I would have popped it on for good measure.

Here's one more experiment. I had my 85mm lens (prime, no zoom), a cheap UV filter, no hood, and an f/16 aperture.

brett flare

Try as I might, the 85mm just didn't deliver much in the way of spectacular flare.

So, what do you think? Like flare? Not like flare? Think it's a weird current trend? Either way, you can use my list to chase after it, or avoid it like the plague.

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Deidra said...

I learn so much when I stop by your spot! I love the flare! I had no idea that's what it was, but it made me feel all nostalgic when I saw it. Thanks for telling us how to do it. Now, when I accidentally get the flare I can tell everyone it was intentional, and that all of the really great photographers everywhere are doing it!

Kat said...

I end up with flare. Now I just know that I am doing something trendy!

I do like the flare...just not on faces...

Anonymous said...

I like flare when it "lands" where I want it to. Like Kat, I am not a big fan of it on faces. Or every once in a while I'll get a nice big spot on someone's unmentionable area, and I know I can't use that shot--so awkward! :)

tearese said...

I love flare. And I know what you mean...I'll shot a picture that i think has something cool, like flare, or bokeh, and non-photographer people are happy to point out the "problem" with your photo. Like Elora's birthday photos last year in the fluffy purple skirt, where I intenionally blurred the background even more in photoshop. My mom said, "Well, I got your prints, but its just blurry...not Elora, but the background. I think the printers ruined it.
Yeah mom.

My Two Seasons said...

I love, love, love flare! I've been practicing a lot lately! I just love the effect it gives to a picture.

Rosina said...

I love flare, too. I don't have a lens hood but wanted to invest in one. Then I took a few pictures and discovered the flare and actually love it. Thank you for your insight!

Aunt Tea said...

i like flare to be in the mix. gives variety to the group of shots and...it IS in. i want to be IN too.

another tip: late afternoon makes it easier to catch flare because of the angle of the sun being lower in the sky.

(now i'm going to go back and see if you said that and i missed it...)

SKELLER said...

Nah, you didn't miss it, Pam :-), but I'm totally going to add it in now!

Life with Kaishon said...

Some days I like it. And other days not so much... What I do love though, is your family picture : ) And I LOVE that your mom asked why you didn't photoshop it out. Did you tell her it was trendy and in right now? Aren't Mom's the best?

Misty said...

Thanks for the tips. I haven't ever tried this but I have wanted to! :)

Anonymous said...

Love flare! always love everything you do and really appriciate your very easy to follow, step by step, photo taking tutorials!

I was also wondering if you would stop by and see a picture that I took and tell me what you think??? I was pretty tickled with it myself! love the colors...?
Thanks shi~

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks...I was hoping you would like it! where would you suggest a person go to do canvas's? I know you had some done a while ago? A friend is having some of his professional ones done, but he uses film still and they are being done SUPER professional...Me, not so profressional, but want it done nice, and I was wondering about panoroma phots's for developing also??? any ideas on that?

Becca~TimeWellSpent said...

I love the flare and the picture of your family is great!
I also love when you explain things~keep doing that. Maybe someday I'll actually know a little more about what I'm doing with my camera :)

Lisa Webb said...

k random question on flare, have you heard its bad for the lens to shoot straight into the sun? Just something i randomly heard and wondered how bad it actually was. I love flare, it can really create a mood. Its a style for sure but can be very dreamy and lovely. Thanks for the sun glare tips!

Tracy P. said...

I had to come back and look at this now that I can actually try it. I can't wait! Wish I had more time today... :-)

And my word verification is dying. Yup, that's me, dying to try it out!!!