Above photo by Sarah Lalone
As photographers, we are always studying the amazing things that light can do. And we don’t know anyone who doesn’t love lens flare!
Created when light directly enters a lens, lens flare can be a pretty little starburst, a rainbow-hued circle, or a hazy burst of warmth flooding the entire frame. It’s character is dependent upon the angle of the light, the shape of the aperture, and the glass elements within the lens.
It can make such a great additional element to photo but choosing the right lens for the best flare can be tricky. With the variables that affect the character of flare, all lenses are not created equal when it comes to harnessing this effect.
To get some insight on lens choices for flare, we asked the Click Pros to weigh in on their favorites.
Audoux says, “For many reasons…mainly because it is so versatile and fast when I am taking pictures of my kids. The cherry on top though is the amazing flare I get when I position the lens just right, either tilting it downwards when I am shooting into the sun or when I partially block the sun with an object or subject.”
Using the technique Audoux describes here, you can avoid some common pitfalls of direct light into the camera. Tilting the camera or partially blocking the light source can help keep the autofocus from struggling and can help maintain the rich colors that might get washed out with too much sunlight hitting the sensor
Currently, Ardelle Neubert says she’s been trying the Canon 45mm tilt shift lately to get “those big circle flares that fill most the frame.”
The unique mechanisms inside a tilt shift lens allow you to have some fun experimenting with new effects. Get creative with lenses like this and how they render light!
While zoom lenses are often seen as more utilitarian, they can also be used for creative results! Don’t rule a lens out for trying something new just because it isn’t the common choice for that effect. You might be surprised at what you can achieve with your “workhorse” lenses!
Diane Wittenberg reaches for the Lensbaby Velvet 56 when wanting flare. Wittenberg says, “I can get some pretty interesting flare with my Velvet 56, especially while shooting macro and towards the sun.”
Using a manual focus lens like a Lensbaby can be ideal when shooting directly into a light source. It’s often difficult for autofocus mechanisms to find enough contrast when there is so much light flooding the frame. Forcing yourself to use a lens that can only manually focus can be a great way to keep yourself from the frustration of missed focus and can allow you to take the whole photographic process into your own hands.
“I adore my Nikon 28mm f/1.8 lens,” Tetyana says. “This is the only lens I use and it works for me perfectly.”
Just because you have only one lens doesn’t mean that you can’t get an amazing variety of looks with flare! Remember that the shape of the aperture defines the shape of your flare. Make that aperture bigger and smaller and see what happens to your flare.
Angee Manns declares, “I have the Sigma 35mm Art and I love it for flare.”
While we love the big, bold flare that define some artists, we also love the gentler effects that can be achieved with certain lenses. Play with different angles, lenses, and times of day to find the lens flare look that works for you!