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6 Techniques for Capturing Sunbeams and Flare in Your Photos (And How to Save 30% on Your Own Personal Sun if these tips don’t work!)

by Erin Peloquin on November 30, 2010 · 5 comments

Photographs with sunbeams or flare are funny – some photographers consider them a mistake, others consider them art.  I fall into the latter camp!  I love the effect, and often enhance the sunbeams or flare that I capture, or fake them if I don’t.

(To fake them, I use Kaleidoscope overlays.  Tuesday, November 30, is the last day of the year you can buy them at a 30% discount.  Use code holiday10 at checkout.)

  1. To capture sunbeams, or rays from any light for that matter, use a small aperture – the higher the number, the more beams.  This is a great technique for capturing twinkling holiday lights. With a small aperture, of course, you’re going to have to trade off  with a long shutter speed or an underexposed subject.  You can use a tripod to minimize blur, silhouette your subject, or use an off camera flash to expose the subject.  (This picture is straight out of camera – the edited version is here.)
  2. You know how sometimes you can see sunbeams shining down through breaks in clouds on an overcast day?  Duplicate that effect with trees, a fence, or anything else that will filter the light unevenly.
  3. To get the polygon-shaped flare spots in the image, put yourself and the sun at a diagonal to the subject.  Tilt your camera until you find the most flare.  You should be able to see it through your viewfinder.
  4. Capturing this kind of light often reduces the contrast in your images and makes them look washed out.  Try increasing blacks in Lightroom or Camera Raw.
  5. Take off your lens hood, if you use one.
  6. If all else fails, visit the Kaleidoscope store.  Patti Brown is the master at adding light to images in post-processing.  Her light products (Light Play, Lite Flare, and Light Set) work just like textures and are compatible with Elements or full PHotoshop.  You copy them onto your image, move and size them, then adjust the blend mode and opacity until you have just the look you’re going for.  Here are some of Patti’s Light Play creations – click on the thumbnails to view larger sizes.
  7. Canon EOS 7D


    Canon 50mm 1.4

    Canon 50mm 2.5 macro


    And remember that you can save 30% off your entire purchase at Kaleidoscope through November 30 by using code holiday10.

    Patti’s images do much better justice to her overlays, but here is one of my before and afters using Sun Flare 3 from Lite Play.  As I mentioned above, the flare sapped the color and contrast right out of the image, so I repaired that in Lightroom.  In Photoshop, I added detail and balance by repairing the sky and using the Kaleidoscope overlay to replace the blown out half of the sun.  Click on the image below to expand.What do you do when you want to add a bit of flare to your images?  Share your ideas below – you always teach me so much!

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