Month: March 2016

An Exercise For You to Practice Depth of Field Without Going Outside


Many photographers, especially when starting out, have a difficult time understanding depth of field. I also hear quite often that photographers are waiting for nice weather to get out and shoot. So, here’s a fun exercise you can do at home, in any weather, that will help you understand the finer aspects of depth of field.

Depth of field is determined by which aperture you choose, what focal length you’re using, and the distance between the camera and the subject. In this example, we’ll explore depth of field using a 100mm lens.

To set up

Find between one and three small objects you can photograph. I found three sports water bottles with balls on the top to shoot. Next, you need some studio space. A patio door or very wide window works well.

Your next step is to set up your object, or objects, in front of the window and to place your camera in position. The object and camera should be parallel to the window.


This is how I set up my camera and objects.

I put the first ball, the soccer ball, about 12 inches in front of the cabinet. Then I put the second ball, the baseball, about 24 inches in front of that. I put the third object, the basketball, 24 inches in front of the next object, and finally I set my camera about two feet in front of the last object.

You’ll need to play a little bit to see what works best for you. It will vary depending on the size of the object you are shooting, and the focal length you are using. You want to be able to focus on all three objects, and take a photo of them without moving your camera, so play for a minute. Focus on the first object and make sure you can see all three objects in the frame. Then focus on the second and make sure you can still see them all. Lastly, do it with the third one, too.

Set your camera on either aperture priority or manual exposure, and use the widest aperture you have. I chose f/2.8. Your lens might not have that aperture available, if so f/4 or f/4.5 will be just fine.

Shoot wide opened focusing on each object in turn

Now, without changing anything but your focus, take a photo of each of the three objects.


This photo was shot at f/2.8 while focused on the object closest to the camera, the basketball. Notice the narrow depth of field, in other words, how blurry the background is.


This was also shot at f/2.8, but this time, I focused on the middle object, the baseball. Notice that it is blurry in front and in back.


This photo was also shot at f/2.8, but I focused on the soccer ball. I did not change camera position nor did I change lenses. Notice the depth of field, but also notice the change in perspective. Can you see that more of the cabinet is in the photograph?

Next shoot with a small aperture

Now, let’s try something a little different. Instead of shooting at your widest f-stop, shoot at your smallest, which means a higher number, like f/32 or f/16.


Here is the same situation. The camera hasn’t moved, but the aperture is now at f/32. The focus is on the basketball, but look how much is sharp.


Look closely. The aperture is still at f/32, but the focus has changed to the baseball. Notice the basketball is more out of focus, but the soccer ball in the back looks pretty sharp.


Above is the third example. The focus is on the soccer ball.

You can practice each of these things with different f/stops to see the difference between f/4, f/8, f/11, f/16 and f/32. Each choice will change the depth of field.

Change the distance to the subject


In the above photograph, I moved the camera closer to the baseball and shot at f/2.8. Practice isolating the elements and see what happens. Notice how the baseball really stands out, and look at the background. By isolating the baseball with a very narrow depth of field, the background becomes really out of focus. This tool is very helpful to clean up backgrounds.


Then I changed my focus to the soccer ball. The aperture is still at f/2.8. What do you notice about the background?


In the shot above the soccer ball is still in the original position, about a foot away from the cabinet. Notice how sharp the background is – this was shot at f/32.


Now, notice how we start to lose detail in the cabinet behind. This image above was shot at f/11.


Finally, by shooting at f/2.8, and without moving the position of the soccer ball or the background, the background has become more out of focus and less distracting.

Take some times and practice this at home. So what you’ve learned here is a great way to practice depth of field at home–even on a rainy day! So take out your camera, find some small objects to shoot and start practicing.

Please share in the comments below how controlling the depth of field could impact how you shoot. What did you learn by doing this exercise?

The post An Exercise For You to Practice Depth of Field Without Going Outside by Vickie Lewis appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

7 Fun Strategies to Maximize Your Enjoyment of Photography

Get 25% OFF James’ ebooks: Essentials of Street Photography & Street Photography Conversations eBook Bundle now for a limited time only at Snapndeals.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

If you are reading this, I assume that you enjoy photography enough already. You’re here, after all. However, you can always enjoy it more – so I wanted to create this list of somewhat uncommon practices, that have kept me going over the years, and kept me passionate about photography.

1. Start a three day a week, neighborhood project

365 day photo projects are a fantastic way to gain some consistency in your life with photography, which is a key to enjoying it to the fullest. However, I want to take the pressure off a little bit with the everyday. You don’t have to come up with a good photograph every single day, although if you are able to do so, more power to you. Set aside a handful of sessions during the week, as if you were going to the gym. Think about is as if it were the gym. At first it might take some getting used to, but eventually it will become second nature.

While you strive for some consistency in how often you photograph, seek out similarity in what, and where you photograph as well. Go back to the same areas over and over again, and you will find that you will start to notice new things. This commitment and consistency will help you achieve a level of imagery that is tough to reach otherwise. Photograph within your daily life, at the places that you are the most intimate with. Use photography as a way to escape and relax, without actually having to go anywhere.

2. Get lost and strike up a conversation

St . Marks Place

While photographing the areas that you are familiar with is very important, go even further. You do not need to have a set destination in mind, just pick a direction and go. Explore different routes each time. I consider photography to be an extension of walking. If there were no cameras, I’d probably still walk, and get lost sometimes. Having the camera to document what you see is just a bonus.

Don’t slink around, and make sure to say hello to people along the way. Tell them what you’re doing, and offer to take a photo of them. It’s fun, and most people will like the idea that you’re out getting lost and photographing. The camera is a great excuse to meet, connect with, and to photograph new people.

3. Don’t worry about people wondering what you’re doing

New York City

Have you ever stopped to photograph a reflection in a puddle, and then looked up to have someone staring at you quizzically, wondering what you could possibly be doing by photographing a puddle.

Forget that person. Some of the best, most beautiful, most interesting, and unique photographs are of things that can seem very mundane when you capture them. Embrace this, because it’s really fun, and keep yourself from worrying about what other people think when you are out there. Otherwise it can make you feel bad about taking images that are actually different from the norm and interesting.

Similarly, you should not worry about what people will think when they see your prints. You cannot be a good photographer without some people disliking some of your work. Do what interests you, without worry about other people’s perceptions, and you will be a better and happier photographer.

The image to the right is one that I personally enjoy. It is probably not the type of image that will stand out as much as the rest in Instagram, but there are a lot of interesting details, textures, and tones here. It’s unique. This is one that I have learned to expect not everyone to love – but some will, and I do.

4. Go to gallery shows, and get lost in the photography section of bookstores

Viewing the work of other artists will keep you inspired, and will renew your passion for photography. It will also give you a better idea of what you are capable of creating, particularly during times of frustration.

In addition to this, start a photography book collection. There are a lot of expensive photography books available, but there are just as many important ones that are affordable. Save a little money each month to build your collection, and it will help inspire you.

5. Light, light, light

Lower East Side Snowstorm

I am not referring to the light you look at, but the amount of equipment that you go out with. One, light lens is all you need. Get rid of the fear of missing out, or that you brought the wrong lens. Pick one, leave the huge bag at home, and have some fun. Use a camera phone sometimes. You will be able to go a lot farther with less gear, have a lot more spring in your step, which will lead to much better images and enjoyment.

6. Simplify your editing

Ugh… editing!

Editing can be exciting, but only when you do it the right way. I know a lot of people who have so much fun shooting, then they upload thousands of photos over months, and they get bogged down in the thought of editing. It causes them to procrastinate, and ruins the fun they had when shooting.

This is why I am a strong believer in having an efficient and organized Lightroom catalogue, but it is SO easy to do. Come back, upload a day of photos to Lightroom, and just give five-stars to your top five photos from the day. I go a little further than this, and give three, four, and five stars, but you don’t have to do that.

Even if you are the best photographer in the world, traveling in the most exotic place, you probably will not get more than five portfolio worthy pieces in a single day. So forget the middling stuff – you can come back later to search for diamonds in the rough. Just spend your time figuring out your favorite five.

Suddenly, your archive will be slimmed down so much, and this will make it much more fun to edit. Instead of looking at a mountain of thousands of images from a year, with just a small amount of work up front, you will have the top 100 images from a year, ready to go. Then grab a glass of wine (or your favorite beverage), and start making them look pretty.

7. Print!
Flower, East Village.

What’s the fun in photography if you don’t print? Take a day, get on the floor, and print out as many images as possible. If you don’t print yourself, use a service and go crazy. Force yourself to have some dedicated time to do this, or it can become so easy to procrastinate and forget about it. Printing is tough to do well in 30 minute increments, so that’s why I suggest taking half a day and having fun with it.

Then give the photos to friends! Don’t hoard them. You made them for people to enjoy, right? So give out 5x7s and 8x10s to people close to you. This is one of the hidden beauties of photography, creating something you love, and giving it to someone who will appreciate it.

Please make sure to comment below if you have some additional tips that you use, as I’m sure we would all like to hear about them.

Get 25% OFF James’ ebooks: Essentials of Street Photography & Street Photography Conversations eBook Bundle now for a limited time only at Snapndeals.

The post 7 Fun Strategies to Maximize Your Enjoyment of Photography by James Maher appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Lightroom Quick Post-Processing Tips for Landscape Photography

Processing a good landscape image is a lot like getting a good haircut…it should look good, but people shouldn’t really be able to tell you’ve had anything done. Now while that may be a slightly funny (hopefully) analogy, it really is a good way to approach the editing of your landscape photos. Ideally, the image should be developed to its full potential in accordance to your vision, while stopping well short of over-processing. The key to pulling off a strong landscape image can sometimes be understanding when to stop.

Before and After Split

In this article, we will go from a straight out of the camera RAW file to a fully processed photograph using Adobe Lightroom CC. We will look at each step, and I will explain why each edit was made. By the end, you will see just how easy it is for you to take full control of your landscape photography with a few simple edits.

Shoot in RAW

Here we have the RAW file as it looked after importing into Lightroom.

RAW Screenshot

As always, the better the ingredients you have to begin with, the better the finished product will be. This means to always strive to make for best exposure, crop, and composition you can, before any processing is applied. Shooting in RAW format helps you immensely when working with landscapes. The greater dynamic range (exposure latitude) will allow you to bring up shadows, and manage highlights, much better than with smaller JPEG files. I know, I know – you’ve heard all of this before – but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again! RAW truly is the best friend of the landscape photographer.

Crop first

The image above is virtually level, but not perfectly so. The first thing we will do is open the crop panel and tweak the alignment before we begin any development. Having a grid overlay will really help you to get the lines of the image just right (with the crop tool activated, press the O key to cycle through all the grids available until you find the one you want). If you wanted to crop the image further, this would be done here as well.


Add Graduated Filters to adjust sky and foreground

Now that the image has been straightened, it’s time for the real fun to begin. The first thing to do is take control of the sky so that it isn’t quite so bright. To do this, we will use the Graduated filter tool. It’s located just above the Basic Panel in the develop module, in the same row as the crop tool.

GND Indicator

The filter simulates the effect of a graduated neutral density filter. It is an indispensable tool for adjusting landscape photos. Using the Graduated filter, you can decrease the exposure, add a little contrast, and then increase the clarity just to make the clouds more pronounced, which adds a little drama in the sky. In this example I also took town the highlights, and dehazed ever so slightly. The dehaze feature is a relatively new addition to the Lightroom tool box, is available in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC, and really helps when clearing skies.


Next, you want to process the foreground but not disturb the edits you’ve just made to the sky. To do this, click new to make a new Graduated filter.

New GND Indicator

To better understand where your edits will be applied with the ND filter, simply hover the pointer over the indicator dot for a second. Everything in red indicates where the filter is working (you can also just press the o key and it will show the mask overlay – it may also show in another color on your screen, press Shift+o to cycle through all the various colors).


Using the Graduated filter, I increased the clarity of the foreground grass, as well as illuminated the shadows. This will help to draw the viewer’s eye into the image. I’m careful not to overdo the exposure here. The main subjects of the image are the horses, and the mountains in the background, so I want to keep those emphasized. Speaking of horses…

Do local edits using a Radial Filter

I wanted to really make the horses standout within the photo so let’s make use of another powerful tool in the Lightroom arsenal – the Radial filter. It works virtually the same way as the Graduated filter, except that it is applied in the form of a circle (fully adjustable). It can be set to apply edits either inside or outside of the circular outline.

Circular GND Indicator

With the Radial filter, I raised the shadows around the horses and increased clarify slightly. I also threw in a little extra sharpening there as well. When using the Radial filter, it’s important to remember that the border between what is, and what is not edited, is very controllable. Make use of the feathering slider in order to control the density of your adjustments as they radiate outward or inwards of the circle. Effective feathering will make make your adjustments with the Radial filter seamlessly blend in with the rest of the image. Here you can see exactly where the edits will be applied.

Circular GND Red

Makes global adjustments

So far, the image has been processed using only the Graduated and Radial filter tools for local adjustments (specific areas). Now we will make some final global (whole image) adjustments in the Basic Panel.

I brought up the overall contrast and shadows, and added in a little bit more clarity. Doing this made the highlights a little too harsh so I reduced the exposure by -10. This photograph was made in the waning golden hours of sunset, so I increased the total temperature (white balance) from 4400 to 5200, so that the tone better matched what I was feeling at the time of the exposure.

Global Adjustment

Add an edge vignette

As a final touch, I add in a small amount of vignetting.


Vignetting is great because it serves to draw the viewer’s attention into the image. In the case of this photo it works well, but that is not always the case. Just as with any other effect used in post-processing, discretion is the name of the game. When using a vignette, make sure it fits the overall mood of the image. Experiment with the feathering slider (and others) until you achieve the desired effect. As a general guideline, very subtle vignetting usually works best.

See, that wasn’t difficult at all! We have went from a completely unprocessed RAW file to a fully developed image using relatively few edits in Adobe Lightroom.

Before and After

Processing a landscape image doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Everything you do to a landscape photograph should compliment the scene and add harmony. You have some incredible processing tools available today which can help you to achieve your creative vision. Be careful that you don’t go too far, though. Every photograph is as unique as a fingerprint, and should be approached individually. Use the techniques in this article as a guide to your processing, and have fun helping your photos reach their full potential.


If you have any additional landscape post-processing tips that work for you, please share in the comments below.

The post Lightroom Quick Post-Processing Tips for Landscape Photography by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

3 Reasons Why Mirrorless Cameras are Better than Digital SLRs for Focusing

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

A lot has been written about the drawbacks of autofocus performance from mirrorless cameras. Most of this focuses on the tracking of moving subjects – an area where the phase detection autofocus found in digital SLRs is still superior (although the gap is closing).

But when it comes to focusing on still subjects, the mirrorless camera is a better tool. Surprised? If you’ve never used a mirrorless camera, you may be. Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

1. Phase detection versus contrast detect autofocus

Mirrorless cameras have a different autofocus system than digital SLRs.

In a digital SLR most of the light coming through the lens is reflected up by the mirror, into the pentaprism and through the viewfinder. A small part is deflected downwards to a dedicated autofocus sensor. It uses a system called phase detection autofocus to calculate the camera to subject distance, and tell the lens where to focus.

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

The red lines in this diagram show the path that light takes through an SLR camera with the mirror in the down position. Most of the light is reflected into the pentaprism and the viewfinder. Part of it is reflected downwards towards the autofocus sensor.

The advantage of phase detection autofocus is that it’s fast (generally speaking – but it also depends on which camera you have) and very good at tracking moving subjects. It’s the best system anyone has managed to come up with for an SLR camera.

However, phase detection autofocus has a significant weakness – lack of accuracy.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that most digital SLRs have a combination of cross-type and single line autofocus points. Cross-type autofocus points are the most accurate, and should always be used when focus is critical (for example, when using a prime lens at its widest aperture), otherwise the camera may not focus where it is supposed to. Your camera’s manual will tell you which of its AF points are cross-type.

Whenever you use a non cross-type autofocus point, you cannot rely on the camera to focus accurately. This is fine when using small apertures, which give you plenty of margin for error, but not when focus and accuracy is critical.

The second reason is to do with camera and lens calibration. Even when you use a cross-type autofocus point your camera may not focus exactly where it is supposed to. For accurate focus, every part of your camera setup – from the autofocus sensor, to lens and autofocus motors that tell the lens where to focus – must be working in perfect harmony. It only takes a small degree of misalignment to throw the accuracy of the system out.

Most of the time you won’t notice, because there is sufficient depth-of-field to make the focusing inaccuracies irrelevant. But if you use a wide aperture, especially with a telephoto lens, then depth-of-field is measured in millimetres, and accurate focus is essential.

For example, if you are taking a portrait then it is conventional to focus on the model’s eyes. If you miss focus, and her eyes are soft, then people will notice and the portrait will lose its impact.

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

I made this portrait with an EOS 5D Mark II and 85mm lens set to f1.8. With this camera it is necessary to measure and calibrate the autofocus system to ensure accurate focus at wide apertures.

Most mid-range and high-end digital SLRs have a feature that allows you to measure and compensate for inaccurate focusing. Manufacturers have different names for this – Canon and Sony use the term Autofocus micro-adjustment, Nikon calls it Autofocus fine tune, Pentax uses the term Autofocus adjustment and Olympus Autofocus focus adjust. It’s bit of a long winded process – you have to test your lenses by focusing on a ruler, or a purpose made scale, to see if the focus is accurate, and make adjustments if it isn’t.

You can also get your camera and lenses calibrated at a service centre. This is the only way to calibrate an SLR camera that doesn’t have the above feature built-in.

That was bit of a long explanation, but crucial if you are to understand why phase detection autofocus is not as accurate as it should be.

How are mirrorless cameras different?

So, how do mirrorless cameras differ? As they don’t have a mirror, there is no way of deflecting light to a dedicated autofocus sensor. The solution is to take a reading from the sensor. The camera looks at the point on the sensor which is meant to be in focus, and adjusts the lens until maximum contrast is achieved. This is called contrast detect autofocus.

This system is slower, because the camera has to move the lens first one way, then the other, to find the sharpest point. But, it is much more accurate (for still subjects).

With a mirrorless camera autofocus micro-adjustment is redundant. You don’t need it, and you will never have to measure or calibrate the camera’s autofocus system. It also doesn’t matter which autofocus point you use, as they all work equally well. That is why, for still subjects, autofocus in mirrorless cameras is superior to that of digital SLRs.

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

I made this portrait with a 56mm lens at f/1.2 with my Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera. With this camera it is easy to focus on the model’s eye. There is no need to calibrate the camera’s autofocus system.

2. Manual focusing

Mirrorless cameras are also a better tool for utilizing manual focus lenses.

Modern digital SLRs are not designed to be helpful with manual focus lenses. The split prism focusing screens of the past are gone, and assistance is limited to a light that comes in the viewfinder when the subject underneath the selected AF point comes into focus.

Mirrorless cameras are different. They have a tool called focus peaking, which is specifically designed to help you manually focus a lens. The camera highlights the parts of the scene that are in focus, so that you can see which areas are sharp. You can also magnify the image at the touch of the button, making it even easier to see whether the subject is sharply focused.

This feature works best when using lenses at wide apertures. Both tools take advantage of the camera’s electronic viewfinder, a feature that most digital SLRs don’t have.

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

This mock up shows how focus peaking works. I made the portrait with a Helios 58mm manual focus lens at its widest aperture setting of f/2. The red lines indicate how focus peaking shows you what is in focus.

3. Hyperfocal distance

Fujifilm cameras have another tool that will be of interest to landscape photographers as it helps you instantly find the hyperfocal distance without referring to tables or smartphone apps.

The viewfinder has a depth-of-field scale that shows you the point you are focused on and the area in focus on either side, according to the selected aperture. If you move the focusing ring until the depth-of-field scale touches the infinity mark at one end, you have found the hyperfocal distance point. It’s quick and easy.

To be honest, I don’t know if this feature is available in any brand of mirrorless camera other than Fujifilm. I’d be grateful if Sony/Olympus/Panasonic, etc., owners would let us know.

Mirrorless cameras and focusing

This diagram shows how the depth-of-field scale works. The bar shows the point the lens is focused on (white), and how much of the scene is in focus (blue). The lens is focused on the hyperfocal point in this made-up example.

Since buying my first Fujifilm camera a little over 18 months ago, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what a great tool mirrorless cameras are for photography. They are much better than my old digital SLR for focusing on still subjects, or for using manual focus lenses.

The difference is so great that I predict that one day most photographers will use mirrorless cameras, and digital SLRs will be a niche item built for photographing sports and wildlife.

But what do you think? Please share your thoughts, or ask any questions about focusing, in the comments below.

Mastering Lenses

If you want to know more about lenses and autofocus check out my ebook Mastering Lenses: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Beautiful Photos With Any Lens.

The post 3 Reasons Why Mirrorless Cameras are Better than Digital SLRs for Focusing by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Photograph Sun Flares: 14 Tips for Beginners

Sun flares can add beauty and drama to your photos. Cameras and lenses are designed to cut down on flare – so when it comes to sun flares, you are a rule breaker right from the start.

In this article, I share 14 tips to help you get started photographing sun flares:


Photographing sun flares: 14 tips for beginners

There are no rules with sun flares, they’re all about creativity. You can capture them at any time of day, and with these easy tips you’ll be out experimenting in no time.

1. Try various aperture settings

Have you noticed that in some photos sun flares look soft and diffused, while in others they look bold and defined? That has a lot to do with which aperture setting was used.

If you use a fairly wide open aperture, like f/5.6, you’ll get soft flares. But, if you use a small aperture, like f/22, you’ll get stronger, more defined flares.


In the split image above, the f/5.6 shot is a softer looking flare, and the f/22 is more defined. The points of the flare are created by the blades of the aperture inside your lens. When they come closer together (as with narrow apertures like f/22) you get more defined points on your flares.

Using different apertures will give you a variety of looks to choose from when you’re editing. You’ll also learn which type of sun flare you prefer, depending on the setting and feel you want in your photo.

2. Use Aperture Priority Mode

The easiest way to use tip #1 is to put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode (AV on a Canon, or A on a Nikon). This way, you’ll be able to easily switch the aperture setting. With your camera set to auto ISO, it will automatically choose the ISO and shutter speed settings for you.

Now you’ll be able to quickly switch apertures and see the difference it makes to your sun flares. Learn more here: Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority: Exposure Lesson #1

3. Partially hide the sun

Use an object (such as a fence post, building, tree, etc.) to partially hide the sun. This will allow you to capture flare, and add an artistic touch to the object you’re shooting.


Move around the object, let the sun peek out at different locations as you keep taking photos. I love doing this, and I always come away with something unique.

4. Move around and take lots of pictures

When shooting sun flares it really helps to move around – a lot. If you are partially hiding the sun (as mentioned above in #3) a slight movement to the right or left will cause a big change in the flare. Your photo could be flooded with too much light, or you might miss the flare altogether. Or it could reveal the flare in just the right spot, and create exactly the look you want.


It’s important to take lots of pictures. You’ll learn how much sun to include, in relation to the amount of flare you want.


Sun flares can be unpredictable, that’s part of what makes them fun to work with.

5. Try using some filters

When photographing sun flares, filters can also be helpful:

  • UV filter: This is a good idea because you will be shooting into the sun. Some photographers feel that a UV filter will protect your camera’s sensor.
  • Polarizing filter: This will help you get different effects as you rotate it. This filter can help increase color saturation and decrease reflections. If you have one, play around with it and see how it affects the flares.
  • Graduated neutral density filter: These filters are darker at the top, and become lighter near the bottom. They can prevent part of the image from looking blown-out, from shooting into the sun.


In the above image, I used a graduated neutral density filter for the photo on the right. It helped control the light, which kept the colors richer. Learn more about polarizing and graduated neutral density filters.

6. Shoot during different times of day

Around sunrise and sunset, the sunlight comes in at a unique angle. This creates a warmer, golden color., whereas during midday, there is a cooler (bluish) or more neutral color.

In the following image, two of the photos were taken around sunset, and the other two were taken a few hours after sunrise. Can you guess when each photo was taken?


I bet you got it right – the ones on the left were taken near sunset. They have a warmer feel, don’t they?  The ones on the right have a cooler feel. Learn more here: Understanding Natural Light Part 2: Color of Light.

7. Divide the sun with your camera

You can get a softer, more diffused look by composing your photo so that the sun is not fully in your frame. Try cutting the sun in half, or only including its bottom third.


Play with it. Create different effects and see which you prefer.

8. Use a tripod and a remote shutter release

As mentioned earlier, a smaller aperture setting (higher number) will give you a sharper, more defined flare. But, using a small aperture also means that your camera will require more time to take the photo. The longer it takes, the more chance there is for camera shake to cause blur in your photo.

If you are hand-holding your camera, this could be a problem. When your camera is on a tripod, there is much less chance of camera shake.


Using a tripod will help keep your photos looking sharp and your sun flares crisp. By using a remote shutter release (or your camera’s self-timer) you’ll reduce camera shake even more.

9. Keep the sun at your model’s back

By keeping the sun at your model’s back, you’ll allow the light of the flare to spill out around them in interesting ways.


Depending on the time of day, you might need to lay down, and have your model sit or lay down. The above image was taken around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and I was laying on the ground.

The higher the sun is, the lower you’ll need to be in order to place the flare at your model’s head, or shoulder level. Having your model sit down will make it easier for you. When the sun is lower in the sky, positioning becomes easier for both of you.

10. Use a reflector

A reflector is used to reflect the light back onto your subject. Reflectors are usually made of fabric (white, silver or gold) and can be hand-held, hung from a freestanding base, or placed on the ground.

Using a reflector could be helpful if your model is in the shade. It would help to brighten their face, making the photo look more pleasing.

11. Cover the sun with your hand to focus

It can be hard to focus when shooting sun flares. There is so much light, that your camera may struggle to lock on where you want. When this happens, hold up your hand to cover the sun, compose your photo, and press your shutter release halfway. Once your camera focuses, take your hand down and press the shutter the rest of the way.

You may have to try this a number of times until you get exactly what you want.

12. Place the sun out of the frame

To get a really soft flare effect, without a bright point, try placing the sun out of your frame.


I love how this adds soft light to the above photo, and how the eye is drawn up to the source of light.

13. Use Spot Metering

Spot Metering handles bright light really well, so if you’ve got the choice, go with this metering mode. All but one of the photos in this post were taken using it. If your camera does not have Spot Metering, then Partial Metering would be your next best choice. I use autofocus, with the focus point set to the center.

14. Have fun

This last tip is probably the most important. When photographing sun flares, it’s time to experiment and have fun.

Don’t be afraid to take tons of pictures, try different aperture settings, and move around. Sun flares are wild and unpredictable. Be creative and use different objects to block (or diffuse) the light. You’re bound to get lots of over, and under exposed photos, but you’ll get lots of gorgeous results as well.

Learn more about Using Sun Flares and Starbursts to Create Stunning Images.

Now it’s your turn

I would love to see your sun flare photos and hear your tips! Please share them below.

The post How to Photograph Sun Flares: 14 Tips for Beginners by Dena Haines appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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