8 Easy Tips for Lens Flare (Tutorial)

This is my first ever tutorial as promised. Hopefully it’s understandable and easy to simulate :).

I first started exploring photography almost a year ago today, and part of that exploring meant pouring over blogs and reading tons of websites devoted to photographers.  I love almost every type of photo out there, but the ones that always caught my eye were light and airy. Many had these amazing little rainbow circles that were almost magical to me! Come to find out, it’s actually something that isn’t wanted by many photographers, thus the invention of lens hoods.  Well! I am not one to go by the rules, so after many months of experimenting I’ve figured a few tricks out to get that little rainbow circle in my photo’s. Btw the rainbow circle is called a lens flare sometimes refered to as a sun flare.

Hint #1: It’s easier to produce a lens flare with a crappy lens! All you kit lens owners rejoice!!! That’s me too btw! So even if you own an awesome $1,500.00 lens but have yet to master the lens flare, pull out that first lens you bought or that came with your gear.


Lens EF50 f/1.8 II
ISO 100
1/500 sec f 2.8

Hint #2: Focusing. It’s practically impossible to focus when you’re shooting straight into the sun. So I block out the sun with my hand while I focus and expose for my subject. I have my focus set for center focus so once I get it, I will recompose and then click.

Lens EF-S55-250mm f/4-5
1/250 sec at f / 5.6
ISO 100

Hint #3: Exposing. This one took me FOREVER to get. I admit, I still have a way to go figuring out exposure. I’ve abandoned the meter inside my camera, because more times than not, it’s wrong. Or maybe not “wrong”, just not what I’m going for. So here’s the trick. Set up the histogram to show on your display. I was terrified of histograms, but trust me, they aren’t THAT bad. :).  When going for lens flare, most of the time, if not all, the background will be blown out. Who cares!? It’s part of the creative process that comes with the look we’re trying to achieve.  So expose for your subject.  And over-expose that by a little more so you don’t have a black blob.

Lens EF-S55-250mm f/4-5
1/250 sec at f / 5.6
ISO 100

Hint #4: Shoot during the golden hours. If not, you will be on the ground aiming up, which isn’t bad, it’s just not always as easy.

Hint #5: You can actually see it through the lens! I look for the flare in my viewfinder. When I can see it, I know that I have it.  It’s not as big on the photo as it is in the viewfinder though so don’t be shocked!

Nifty Fifty
1/320 @ f / 3.2
ISO 100

Hint #6: Different apertures will give you different shapes. When I have my aperture opened all the way up (think low numbers) I get round flares. When I have it closed (higher numbers) I get more of a hexagon shape.

Nifty Fifty
1/100 sec @ f / 3.2
ISO 100

Hint #7: Different lens’ have different colored flare.

Nifty fifty
1/1000 sec @ f / 2.8
ISO 100

Hint #8: Have fun!

This is my absolute favorite that I took when I first started trying to get lens flare!

1/20 sec @ f / 29
ISO 400

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robin
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 06:04:56

    I like lens flare too. Great tutorial, Morgan. 🙂


  2. Brandon Brasseaux
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 07:11:41

    Thanks for the tips. This is something I’ve been trying to work on lately in portraits. And I agree, the last one is awesome. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Journey Photographic
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 00:20:50

    Some very nice examples of lens flare here – particularly the two in the park. One other tip I’d add, which your set of pictures demonstrates well – it’s easier to get lens flare when the sun is off-axis to your lens (that is, not in the centre of your picture).

    Oh, and if you are looking for the ‘starburst’ effect (similar to the second and last shots), then the smaller the aperture (the larger the f number) the better. It also helps to have the sun partially concealed behind something.


  4. Jolene Hanson
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 16:28:48

    Awesome tutorial. Thank you for the tips!! If we actually get some sun in the rainy ol’ Pacific NW this weekend, I will have to try them.


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