One of the fundamental rules of photography is “Don’t shoot into the sun”, but some rules of photography were meant to be broken. The following article discusses how to best make use of lens flare to create stunning landscape scenes.
Aside from protecting the glass elements of your lens, a lens hood is designed for reducing lens flare. Lens flare is a type of visible artifact that occurs when stray light manages to enter directly into your camera’s lens barrel.
The effect can be a nightmare when attempting to capture a clear, definitive land scene. Lens flare can create an annoying white haze or produce polygon, starburst, ring-like, or circular shapes that appear across or around the scene of a landscape by the camera’s sensor.
Using Lens Flare to Enhance a Photograph
The basics of photography explain how to use various composition elements to produce a certain visual effect. Fully understanding how each element is used in media will help you to enhance a captured scene.
For example, lines are elements commonly used in a scene to guide the viewer’s eyes to a certain focal point which can be found in four states: horizontal, vertical, organic and implied. All four line types can be created using lens flare to draw attention to the subject of focus, tell a story, and even depict a certain mood as intended by you, the photographer.
Tips to Create Artistic Lens Flare
Deliberately creating lens flare takes some thought in its delivery. The following tips will provide various ways through which this can be done effectively:
1. Attaching a lens hood can greatly reduce lens flare, so the easiest way to naturally achieve lens flare is to shoot landscape scenes without a lens hood.
2. Each lens hood is engineered to block lens flare for a specific lens. Whenever you attach an improper lens hood to a camera lens, the likelihood of lens flare is increased.
3. Flare is particularly caused by very bright light sources, such as sunlight. Capitalizing on a light’s direction, angle, and intensity is especially important when capturing lens flare. You’ll have a much easier time shooting directly into the sun in the mornings or evenings.
However, if you’re shooting a landscape scene in the late morning or early afternoon, you’ll need to position yourself lower to the ground when aiming your camera into the sun. The most ideal time to create midday lens flare is typically 11am or 2pm.
4. Switch from auto focus to manual focus. Your camera typically will focus on the section of a landscape scene that has the best lighting in your frame. Manual focus will enable you to compensate for an overexposed background so your landscape still has adequate lighting to be properly captured by your camera.
5. Use retro camera lenses to create lens flare. These types of lenses aren’t integrated with coatings in their internal and frontal elements to help minimize the occurrence of lens flare as are modern lenses.
6. All lenses have an optimal aperture at which their focus is the sharpest. This is commonly known as the “sweet spot”. To get more lens flare, capture images farther away from the sweet spot.
Side Note: If you have a f/1.4 lens, the sweet spot should be twice the focal ratio at f/2.8. Likewise, if you have an f/2.8 lens, your sweet spot should be f/5.6. Shoot with tighter apertures, like f/16 or even f/22 if the sun is preventing you from achieving silhouettes.
In addition, prime lenses are less susceptible to lens flare than zoom lenses. Lenses with more complex internal elements such as zoom from wide-angle to telephoto are especially more prone to lens flare.
A new trend is growing among professional photographers where lens flare is deliberately used as a form of artistic expression. The theory is to “make lemonade out of lemons”, so to speak, to create dramatic pictures without using advanced techniques.
Lens flare can significantly change the mood of a landscape such as when you need to create an eerie, majestic, or romantic composition. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to produce lens flare easier the farther you move away from the “sweet spot” by applying tighter apertures.
There’s really no need to be afraid of lens flare once you understand how it can support and deliver various concepts in your landscape photographs. In fact, lens flare can be the most breathtaking and the most effective just before sunset.
The shape of the lens flare artifacts produced will differ depending on whether you use a wide aperture or a tight aperture. Using different forms and shapes of lens flare will especially come in handy when you want to create visual impact or reduce contrast in a picture.
For Richard Gaspari, the camera is like the third eye, but with more ISO and with an excellent shutter speed. Now, he writes for www.creativephotoconnect.com, where he tries to “train” others into framing high resolution moments.