It can sometimes produce an undesirable artifact in the photo. Flare can occur when dealing with a bright light source like the sun. The light can scatter due to an imaging mechanism. In particular, when there is a material defect in the lens, it can cause forward scattering or internal reflection.
Lens flare is prevalent with lenses that have a large number of elements, like zooms. Multiple interferences can cause internal scattering. Generally, there are two types of flare, Glare across the photo and Visible artifacts flare. Glare flare has a reduced contrast and color saturation. The visible artifacts have the shape of an aperture made by an iris diaphragm.
How Lens Flare Occurs
When bright light, particularly from the sun, enters your camera lens, it bounces inside it rather than hitting the sensor to form an image. The reflected light forms artifacts on the footage you have since it is reflected off the diaphragm, lens elements, and the sensor. Lens flare can sometimes ruin your shot or enhance it depending on the type of photography you are making.
Lens flare is also evident in the human eye when viewing reflective surfaces or a very bright light source. Your eyelashes sometimes can also cause flare-like irregularities, although they only might be diffraction artifacts. Artificial bright light used in photography and moonlight can also be excellent examples of bright light sources that can cause a lens flare.
Lens flare can lead to various effects such as lack of contrast, haze, orbs, polygons all over the photo, streaks, semi-round shapes with rainbow colors, etc. lens flare can show up in three different forms veiling, ghosting flare, and sensor or red dot. Here is an in-depth review of the three forms of lens flare:
1. Veiling flare
A bright light outside the lens field of view causes a veiling flare. The front lens elements usually are absent from the photo, but the rays reach the front parts. The photo appears as if it is covered by a veil, decreasing contrast on your screen. A haze or lack of difference is very noticeable where dark areas of the frame appear brighter with many colors.
Veling flare can create a moody, bright shot because the sun can be above the subject and the outside photo area around the object in the photo. The veiling flare does not affect the area surrounding the sun but reduces contrast on the physical attributes of the image in the photo. Many factors can intensify veilings, such as dirty front elements, dirty or low-quality filters, the absence of anti reflective coating technologies, and much more.
The use of high-quality multi-coated lenses can reduce veiling flare. You can utilize proprietary Nano Crystal technology from Nikon to keep the veiling flare controlled. The occurrence of a veiling lens flare on your shot can be beautiful, but it can be undesirable at times.
You can utilize an old manual focus lens if you want a strong veiling flare in your images. It makes your entire photo look hazy, with no visible aspects of the photos you want to leave out of your print. You can utilize an efficient lens to keep the veiling flare controlled in order to produce high-quality images.
2. Ghosting Flare
Ghosting flare is a starburst effect scattering polygonal shapes (ghosts) across the photo. Ghosting flare represents all artifacts visible in the image. The orbs of different shapes and colors appear from the bright light source. They can span the whole photo with various artifacts to enhance or lower its quality. They could be reflections of the bright light sources or shapes similar to the diaphragm lens.
Each image formed can have orbs or artifacts scattered all over the image. Each lens element is different, determining how many balls appear on the image. The more features a lens has, the more ghosts appear in the image. You can use 70-200mm with a complex design and many elements to enhance ghosting flare on your scene. On the other hand, the Nikon 70-200mm minimize the ghosting flare effect.
Furthermore, diaphragm lenses can cause internal reflection when stooped down. Stooping down the lens causes a minimum aperture that makes the ghosting effect not largely visible. This can produce polygon-shaped in your photos; hence you can control the impact.
3. Red Dot or Sensor Flare
Flare occurs when light bounces off a sensor, enters a lens, and then bounces back onto the imaging sensor. Red dots can sometimes radiate from a bright light source. A short flange distance is associated with small mirrorless cameras.
Red dot flare can make your camera images look better or worse if you’re using a low-quality camera lens. Modern mirrorless cameras often produce better images with red dot flare because they have a short flange distance.
Factors Influencing Lens Flare
Lens flare can be reduced or increased by certain factors. Here are a few factors that influence lens flare.
1. Focal length
Focal length is the distance between the optical center of the lens and the camera sensor. The measurement usually is in millimeters. The longer the focal length, the less quality of the photos you might get. A short focal length can minimize lens flare or get a better picture quality with lens flare. A shorter focal length can also be disadvantageous by making a big bright light source smaller.
2. Lens quality
High-quality lenses can reduce reflection and glare flare. Some have multi-coating technology to help produce superior quality images even with the lens flare effect.
Maintaining clean lenses will reduce reflections and glare flares. To keep your lenses clean, be cautious of putting fingerprints on them.
The quality of the filters can influence the presence of lens flare in your images. To get high-quality images, you can utilize high-end filters to significantly reduce problems with lens flare.
5. Lens Hoods
A lens hood minimizes lens flare caused by stray rays of light. They ensure that the camera does not have an extra reflective surface that can reduce the quality of your images due to poor lighting. You can utilize a petal lens hood or a round lens hood.
6. Lens Elements
Lens elements determine the number of ghosts you will have on your image. The more the details, the more ghostings you have in your shot.
7. Lens Design
The lens design can impact the lens flare. The design itself can help manage lens flare even without expensive anti reflective coating technologies.
Multi-coated lens elements also impact lens flare. They can minimize lens flare in cases where they lower the image quality. Mutti-coating technologies are excellent ways of avoiding lens flare altogether in your photography.
How to Get Lens Flare
Lens flare photography can help increase the quality of your photography. It creates more beauty in the images you take, making them more valuable to professional photographers.
1. Shoot facing direct sunlight
You can achieve lens flare by shooting in the direction of the sun. Light getting into the lenses can be reflected or refracted, forming different types of lens flare rather than creating an image. The light can either be from directly from the sun or a studio light source. Facing directly towards where the light is coming can get flawless lens flare results.
2. Place your object in bright light
Placing your object in front of a bright light source can help achieve a specific type of lens flare. Blocking the light can help get a hint of flare at the sides of whatever is being photographed, creating a more stunning effect on your image.
3. Make starburst shoots
Making photoshoots during a sunrise or a sunset can help achieve a flawless lens flare effect on your photos. You can utilize different focal lengths to achieve more distinctive bursts in your images. The focal lengths help achieve different ray sizes, enabling you to manage the flares.
4. Regulate the aperture setting of the camera
If you change the aperture setting on your camera, you can capture the lens flare from different angles. You can set your camera at the smallest aperture and then open it up to manage the amount of light transmitted.
At a wider aperture, you might achieve more bursts that are more distinct, clear, and appealing. Besides the amount of light in the room or from your light source, another factor affecting the burst quality is the amount of light in the photo studio.
5. Conduct night experiments
You can achieve excellent results in your photos when you take shots at night in places with bright lighting, like under the street lights. You can also take photographs directly towards the moonlight for more distinctive bursts. Take your camera and shoot at discrete points of light to achieve more lens flare. You can take note of the lenses and lighting points that give you the best results.
6. Look around for options
In photography, you must get creative. You can look around for alternatives to help you achieve a clear burst. The more effort you make to take shots with the flare that enhances the image, the minor editing you will do on your work. You can also utilize different lenses and compositions to improve your picture quality.
7. Use of lenses and filters
Switching the lenses can greatly improve the quality of your images. Every scene can look different with each lens. You can also use polarizing filters, UV filters, or neutral density filters to make controlled lens flares. The higher the quality you use, the higher the image quality in your pictures or scenes. Poorly designed ones can cause flare problems.
How to Reduce Lens Flare in a Camera
There are three steps you can take to minimize it:
(i) Utilise prime lenses
Prime lenses are known to have fewer elements, thus helping in reducing lens flare in your scenes. It only supports more occasional reflections than zoom models, making them ideal for flare reduction. You can try them out since they are more affordable than their zoom counterparts.
(ii) Change the framing
Changing the framing of your camera can regulate the amount of light coming in. Adjusting the position you take might minimize lens flare since you can adjust the positioning of your light source beforehand during set-up.
(iii) Shoot when the light is behind you
If you are getting a lot of lens flare because you are shooting directly towards a bright light source, facing the other side might be of assistance. You can try to place whatever you are photographing in front of you such that the source of light or the sun is behind you. You can adjust the amount of light from the sun coming in to cut down the lens flare at this position.
Removing Lens Flare from Images
You can use many techniques to get rid of lens flare from a scene or image. You can use tools like a spot healing brush or clone to replace flare spots automatically. You can use adjustment layers to correct lens flare, where you can blend and mask several layers to erase large areas of bursts in the image.
If it is on areas you want to look natural, like hair, skin, or face, you can adjust saturation or color in the image while keeping the underlying textures untouched. The same technique is ideal for making the skin tone of the image even.
Photoshop can also aid in eliminating flares in the image you have. However, if it is so extensive in the photo, it might be hard to remove because it can leave the picture looking unrealistic. Your level of skills in photoshop will determine your ability to draw more complex lens flares in your image.
How to Avoid Lens Flare
Like many things, lens flare is a natural part of photography. You can incorporate many techniques in your photography to avert lens flare. Here are a few ways you can take to reduce lens flare in your scenes:
I. Using a lens hood
You can block direct light from the sun from reaching your lens elements with a lens hood. It also prevents minor dings and knocks that can damage them. If your lens does not come with a hood, you can always buy one since it is affordable.
A camera lens hood prevents lens flare altogether in your scenes since it is unpolished and black to avert any reflected light around the lens area. While purchasing a lens hood, you must take note that a round lens hood is ideal for you if you’re using a long lens, while a petal lens hood is ideal for a wide-angle lens.
II. Quality matters
Pro-grade lenses come with superior-excellent anti reflective coating technology that helps to eliminate lens flare issues in your images. While they may be expensive, they allow you to take your photos quickly without getting reflections in your lens elements. They are easy to clean and do not attract dust particles which can accuse bursts in your scenes.
III. Blocking the light with your hands
If you do not carry your lens hood, you can block the light using your hand. You can use your hand to make a C-shaped curve around the top of your lens to control the amount of light getting inside. You only have to make sure that your hands do not form unnecessary shadows in the area.
IV. Avoid zoom lenses
Zoom lenses have more elements in their optical formulas, resulting in more lens flare on your images. Prime lenses have more straightforward optic designs and fewer elements; they are a better alternative. The fewer elements you have to deal with, the more you will avert lens flare incidences.
Framing helps you to change the perspective of your images easily. Changing the position of your photographs can significantly impact avoiding lens flare.
VI. Blocking the sunlight
You can use barriers such as trees, mountain ranges, boulders, and others to block out the light from the sun. Using obstacles to block the sun can get you fewer or no lens flare. It can also give a starburst effect due to the partial coverage of the sun or the light sources.
VII. Adjusting your angles
You have to adjust your shooting angles to ensure you are not shooting directly toward the sun. The further away you get from the direction of the sun, the fewer flares you get in your images. Also, standing in the shade can assist in averting lens flare since you are away from direct sunlight.
VIII. Remove dust and fingerprints regularly
Keeping your lenses clean is of utmost importance. Dust particles or fingerprints are prone to causing the occurrence of lens flare. Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe off the dirt.
IX. Check your gear
Particular camera gear is more prone to lens flare than others. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your equipment has the correct lens elements and internal parts for light to pass through rather than creating reflections.
X. Professional editing
Another thing you can do is edit the lens flare with professional software like photoshop. It is not the most straightforward technique, but it can completely eliminate flaring from photos. When editing your images, you can eliminate unwanted light shapes quickly and easily using professional software. You can use a spot healing tool, a brush tool, and others to edit them out.
Flaring can be helpful to your image in photography or lower its quality. How you control your lighting can determine whether you will get them in your photos or avoid it altogether. Although it is unwanted in many images, other photographers use it to improve their photographs of nature. It is easy to avert them in your photography and create clear photos.
Lens flare can give your photograph a helpful artistic feel, especially in commercial photography. However, you may want to avoid it when taking images for documents such as national identity cards, driver’s licenses, e.t.c.
1. What exactly causes lens Flare?
Lens flare occurs when the light comes from a very bright source gets in your lenses. The effect can vary depending on the direction and strength of the light source. If it’s a bright light source, it may also cause it to happen even if the light is not directly in front of the lens.
2. How is lens flare bad?
Lens flare can cover up your image, reducing its quality. However, it is not always bad when photographers and videographers use it to improve their artistic work.
3. How do I get rid of lens flare?
Excluding bright light sources from your frame can avert lens flare altogether. You can use a lens hood to prevent sun rays which could cause a lens flare. Keeping your lens clean can also eliminate lens flare appearing in your images.
4. Can a camera lens hood prevent lens flare at night?
You can remove all filters from your camera to avoid lens flare at night. Using coated lenses of high quality can also reduce incidences of lens flare while taking photographs. You can prevent lens flare in low light situations while taking images using a large aperture. Also, you should not use small lens diameters since it can increase the occurrence of lens flare in your images.
5. Can You Make an Artificial Lens Flare?
You can make an artificial lens flare while processing your photographs while editing. You can add unnatural lens flare to your images using professional editing software. Creating a fake lens flare on your pictures can be a viable idea if you do not have any other option.
Rachel Noël is a professional photographer and videographer from the UK with over 10+ years of experience. Rachel specializes in Underwater, Tavel & Portrait photography among other areas.