7 Tips To Capture Sun Flare or How to Add Magic to Your Images

For the longest time I tried to understand how to add sun flare to my images. Sun flare felt like this mysterious and magical quality that I could only capture if all the stars were aligned and it was my lucky day. The truth is, there are definitely a few useful tricks to capturing these colorful lines and floating bubbles. In an attempt to give you the best tips, I asked some of my photographer friends to share their best pieces of advice with you. I am truly thankful for their help and could not be more excited to share their talent here. 

We hope that these tips will help you create beautiful sun flare images! As you will see, each photographer has her own way of achieving her artistic vision. This is the true beauty of photography, there are a million ways to capture the world. You really can't get it wrong! 

1. Lower your shutter speed and set your camera on burst mode.

Words and Images by Utah Family Photographer C|Fairchild 

" The first image was taken an hour after sunrise in Moab Utah. I wanted to capture the sun just entering behind the arch. I used my widest lens, 2.8 24-70mm, and had it as wide as it could go as I leaned against the furthest rock. Since I had time (and no moving parts), I allowed my shutter to drop to 1/100th of a second allowing it to capture every ray of light, to include dust particles, to be had. A lot of the rock in the foreground was shadowed so I lightened it in post processing. 

Second image: as the sun was just getting ready to set behind the mountains I had the family play a game of "London bridges" with the kids. I am a sucker for backlit images, but for this one I wanted the sunset to be the focal point. For this, it was all about timing as the blanket continued to rise and fall. I had my camera set to burst mode capturing every second I possibly could, keeping in mind the location of the sun."

1st image camera settings: ISO 100, f/22, 1/100 sec - 24mm2nd image camera settings:  ISO1000, f/2.8, 1/4000sec - 26mm

C|Fairchild Photography, Utah, Sun Flare
C|Fairchild Photography, Utah, Sun Flare

2. Play with your aperture and see how it affects the type of flare you capture.

Words and Images by Brandy-Lee's Lens, Vancouver Island, Cobble Hill, British Columbia Photographer.  

"I love opposite sides of the spectrums with my f-stops, where manual mode is a must. My first image is f/13, a high f stop is needed for this type of starburst, combined with a low shutter speed of 1/40s and an ISO400. Ideally, I should have upped my ISO to 1000 or more so I could up my shutter speed a tad. Post processing and shooting RAW, being able to increase/decrease shadows in certain areas, helps greatly!  My second image is f/1.4, which gives a soft look that I also love. This image has a high shutter speed of 1/8000s and an ISO200.  I did not use a flash or reflectors for these, I love the artsy look and the challenge of trying to get it right in camera with LOTS of experimentation."

1st image camera settings: ISO400, f/13, 1/40s - 2nd Image camera settings: ISO200, f/1.4, 1/8000s

Brandy-Lee's Lens, Vancouver Island, Sun Flare
Brandy-Lee's Lens, Vancouver Island, Sun Flare

3. Angle your lens for the best flare. 

Words and images by Florida Photographer Sharon Velazquez.

"I get the best flare from my 50mm/1.8. Angling the lens upwards a little and having the sun off to a corner gives me the best flare.

In post processing, I usually lower blacks and increase contrast.” 

Sharon Velazquez, Florida, Sun Flare

4. Adjust the contrast in post-processing

Words and Images by Senior and Product Photographer, Lauren Hummert Photography, in Sherman, Texas. 

"For my sunflare images, I love to up the contrast.  I also deepen the shadows so that the flare stands out even more and adds more drama to the photo.  My second image was taken with my iPhone and edited with the VSCO app (preset f1).  A great motto to remember: The best camera is the one you have with you!"

Lauren Hummert Photography, Sherman, Texas, Sun Flare
Lauren Hummert Photography, Sherman, Texas, Sun Flare

5. Sunrise and sunset are the best moments of the day to capture some flare.

Words and Images by Photographer Michelle Huber, from Pennsylvania. 

"Sun flare is best created when the sun is lower in the sky, in the early morning after sunrise, or in the the evening before sunset.  The winter months are ideal because the sun is lower in the sky for longer periods of time.  Sun flare can be created at other times of the day as well, it simply might be harder to get it in the frame because of the angle of the sun above you.  Either way, experiment with angles and times of day to get the look you are trying to achieve."

Michelle Huber, Sun Flare
Michelle Huber, Sun Flare

6. You can Even capture Sunflare indoors!   

Words and Images by Family Photographer Jacque Jackson, from Ollipop Photography in Richmond, Texas. 

"Don't be afraid to search for the light indoors. I find that the late afternoon, early evening is a great time to capture a sun flare with the sun being low in the sky. This is especially fun at this time, as there will likely be lots of shadows throughout your home that you can play with. You can use the reflective surfaces to give the shadows mixed with the flare an opportunity to enhance your image.

Additional Tip: I have also found that using a wider focal length such as a 24mm will help you create a larger sunflare. The more blades in your lens, the more points you get on your starbursts! "

Ollipop Photography, Richmond Texas, Sun Flare
Ollipop Photography, Richmond Texas, Sun Flare

7. Safety tips: protect your eyes and your equipment! 

Words and Images by Photographer Jamie Fuller from Fultography, in Skagit Valley, Washington State

"If you’re getting direct light from the sun and have nothing to break up that light, try using live view and save your eyes! I don’t use live view very often but, I’m all for saving my eyes! Just keep in mind having live view on for long periods of time pointed at direct sunlight can do some damage to your sensor. 

Try avoiding a telephoto lens, especially if you’re not using live view. When you look through the viewfinder it will only magnify the intensity of the sun and could hurt your eyes.

For long exposures use a filter and protect your camera. There are several kinds of filters available and I’d recommend a Neutral Density filter for long exposures and they are easy to find at B and H or Amazon." 

Fultography, Sun Flare
Fultography, Sun Flare