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Thursday, March 4, 2010



I am going out of town this weekend and will not be back until midweek next week. I will be returning all emails and phone calls end of next week, so please be patient!

Now, because I need to get packed and ready I am doing Q&A Friday early! In fact, I think I may do Q&A's a little more randomly--just as the questions come in and I get a good number of questions to go over, so if you have them, send them in!

Now, onto the elusive sun flare:

Okay I have a Friday question. Sun glare. Love it. Tried it- - - it only works with my wide angle. (Of course). I've heard you close your aperture up to a high number-- say a 8 to a 12 or something? Shoot not directly into the light but maybe stick it in the corner of your shot? Not workin' so hot for me.

I admit, sun flare can be a bit of trial and error. And honestly, my sun flare doesn't always look the same. However, I have found that I can achieve it consistently as I want. So I'll walk you through what I do, and my thought process in order to achieve it.

First, and most obvious, you want to back-light your subject. This means that you want the light source, in this instance the sun (flare can also be achieved using artificial light sources) behind your subject.

Time of day matters. When the position of the sun is lower in the sky, sun flare can be achieved. This means morning or evening will typically be easiest (in the Salt Lake Valley, because of the position, height and proximity of the mountains to the east, it is much easier to achieve evening sun flare, because by the time the sun rises over the Wasatch Mountains, it's a bit too high). Of course sun flare can be achieved mid day, but your camera position will need to be very low.

One thing I have found is that when the sun is higher in the sky, I get a shower of rays from the top of the image, along with speckled geometric shapes. When the sun is lower I get more of a burst of light and circles.

It's typically taught that you want to use a higher number F-stop (between 8-16) and a lower number shutter speed. But I haven't found this to be true for me. I've had varying results with a large variance in settings. But what seems to work best for me is positioning the sun behind the subject, so that part of the subject clips the direct ray of light coming from the sun. Because the rays coming into the camera can create such an intense haze, it is sometimes difficult for auto-focus (AF) to lock in. Unfortunately I am crap at manual focus (different from manual exposure), so I like using AF 100% of the time I shoot. Because of this I need to clip that ray enough to get the AF to lock in on the subject. This can be a challenge sometimes, but my clients always giggle when I'm 'uggh'-ing and 'arrggh'-ing over the matter. And, we eventually get it. You have to have patience sometimes. My zoom lenses have a lot harder time than my fixed lens because there are more mirrors and space for that light to bounce around.

Another thing: it's really hard to see your settings in camera when you are attempting sun-flare, so try a setting, check your image on your LCD and change things around. I do suggest starting with the high numbered aperture and then working from there. You can position the sun in the corner of the viewfinder, just a smidgen of sun showing, or not at all...this will help to clip those rays. Move that camera up and down, back and forth, side to side. Play with it to see what you get. I have to frequently reposition my camera in order to get the flare. I often cannot be directly perpendicular to the sun, I need to be above or below it by a few degrees in order to achieve it.

Here are some examples of images I've taken that have sun flare, and because I know so many of you learn by seeing the settings and the resulting image, I've added those here for you. Three of these images are straight out of the camera, so that you can see what they looked like from the get-go. The other one I couldn't find my SOOC shot, but it's very close to what it looked like initially.

Notice on this first one I placed the subjects as more of a silhouette. This was achieved by the fast shutter speed.
F9.0, 1/2500, ISO 250, Lens 50mm 1.4

Look what happens when I slowed the shutter down for this couple. It let in a lot more light to the front of them.
F13.0, 1/250, ISO 320, Lens 24-105mm F4L IS, at 90mm

Here I needed a lot more light in her face, but still wanted the burst of sun. My aperture opened up to a much lower number, and her hand cut that ray enough to let me focus. I tried a little higher than this and it just didn't work. Notice how I'm underneath her.
F4.5, 1/100, ISO 320, Lens 24-105mm F4L IS, at 60mm

F4.5, 1/200, ISO 200, Lens 24-105mm F4L IS, at 55mm

Send your questions to joannataylorphotography at gmail dot com!


Mandi said...

Thank you! Soo so beautiful. The bottom sun flare is amazing.

Christy B said...

Gorgeous flare images!

Erik Aune Photo said...


Another photographer blog I follow also did a posting on this back in June and just like you (thankfully) included their camera settings, so if you want to see a different perspective, here is the link.

And, of course, Photoshop has a nice built in camera flare plug-in when the sun just can't be at the right place. :)

Thanks for the tips and settings.

Lisa said...

Love the flair shots!!!

Charlotte said...

Those are great!! Love love love! Amazing shots!

Jaime Dillmore said...

Love it! Great post on sun flare! I love these shots!!

ellen d said...

Great explanation and beautiful example shots!