Creative Lens Flare

Normally lens flare is something to be avoided in your shots. However there are times it can used to create creative photos if used properly.

First you need a light source to create the lens flare. If using the sun it works best if it’s low in the sky. Next make sure your feature object partly obscures the light source to reduce the glare.

To get the correct exposure you will need to to dial in an exposure adjustment. This is because the camera will meter the scene and under expose the shot due to the strong light source. You will need +1 or higher for correct exposure.

The type of flare will be influenced by the lens and aperture selected. As a rule of thumb start with a wide aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 with a focal length of 40mm to 100mm.

Back to basics

1. Limit the number of shot you take

Back in the days of film photographers were usually limited to 24 or 36 exposures. Once the film was full it would be sent away for processing at around £3-£5 and would take a few days to come back. Because of the costs and time photographers had to be more careful about planning each shot. With large memory cards its easy to take a few hundred shots in the hope one or two are worth while. However try placing a limit of say 36 shots, this will force you to think and asses the surroundings before clicking the shutter release.

2. Limit the focal length

With a zoom lens its too easy to stand in one spot and let the lens do the work. However by using your feet and walking around the subjects you may see opportunities not present when using a zoom lens. Try selecting 50 mm on the lens and not changing it for an entire session and see what happens.

3. Limit your subject

Rather than taking pictures of many roses, trees, buildings, sculptures, or people – focus on just one subject and look for new and interesting ways to capture it on digital film. Study it from every possible angle, and find ways of positioning it (or yourself) that might not seem so obvious. Try returning at different times of day, or seasons of the year, and see how it changes.

Photographing the moon

Taking clear pictures of the moon is quite difficult. Its easy to end up with a bright white blob which looks more like the sun.

Experimenting is the best way to get the perfect shot, however the following should hopefully give you something to work with.

Lens: 200mm or larger, anything smaller will make the moon appear quite small.

Use a tripod or rest your camera on something solid. Its almost impossible to get a sharp image handheld.

The following are example exposure settings that I’ve found a good place to start:

Example 1: Sunny f/16 rule – Shoot at f/16, shutter speed 1/200, ISO 200

Example 2: f/5.6 shutter speed 1/250, ISO 200

Example 3: f/11, ISO 100 1/125 – 1/250

Because the moon can be bright its quite easy to overexpose the shot.

Either focus manually or use auto focus then switch to manual before taking shot

Use bracketing so you get -1ev 0ev +1ev shots

Try changing your metering to spot, using center or matrix will cause your camera to meter too much from the dark sky.

Useful shutter speeds for blurring effects

Panning fast moving vehicles: 1/125 (1/30 for more obvious blur)
Panning push bikes: 1/60 (1/15 for more obvious blur)
Panning moving animals or people running: 1/30 (1/8 for more obvious blur)
Blur fast flowing waterfall: 1/8 (1 sec for more obvious blur)
Blur people walking: 1/4 (1 sec for more obvious blur)
Add blur to waves: 1/2 (2 sec for more obvious blur)
Blur fast moving clouds: 10 sec (30 sec for more obvious blur)
Smooth out sea: 15 sec (30 sec for more obvious blur)
Traffic trails: 20 (1 min for more obvious blur)
Capture star trails: 10 min (1 hour for more obvious blur)

Using a zoom lens without a tripod

Where possible is always best to use a tripod when using zoom lens. Even with image stabilization and fast shutter speeds it can still be difficult to avoid shake towards the end of the zoom.

To help try putting one foot slightly forward shifting your weight at the same time. Put your elbows against your chest and put one hand under the lens to support the camera. Don’t press the shutter release with too much force and control your breathing just before taking the shot.

Sunny 16 Rule

Sunny 16 rule – On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight. For example with ISO 100, aperture f/16 set the shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/125. Anther example ISO 200, aperture f/16 set the shutter speed to 1/200 or 1/250.