I’m sure you’ve all come across the term ‘lens flare’ at least once since getting into photography. It is a much-debated element, having both plus points & negatives. But, what exactly is lens flare?
When direct sunlight (or any other bright light source) directly hits the front element of the lens, it creates small streaks or spots in the image we are capturing. These are termed as ‘lens flare’. Lens flare may also decrease sharpness & clarity in our photos and also decrease contrast in areas of darkness in photos, degrading the quality of a shot. This is called ‘veiled flare’
With the basics done, let us get down to understanding how to eliminate (or control) lens flare in our images.
Using A Lens Hood
Apart from acting as a shield for your lens, lens hoods also serve the purpose of eliminating unwanted lens flares. Every top-end lens these days comes with an included lens hood and of late, most entry level DSLR’s & lenses also come with one. They are available in a variety of shapes & sizes depending upon the lens, its focal length etc. The 2 most commonly found shapes are- the petal lens hood (used with wide-angle lenses) & a round shaped hood (used with normal lenses). These lens hoods are indispensable tools which ensure flare-free shooting, while still allowing the required amount of light into the frame.
Zoom In/Zoom Out
Using a camera with a zoom lens/wide focal range lens? Then you’re in luck. Simply zooming in or zooming out to a different focal length would allow you to get rid of any unwanted flare. Although it may not completely eliminate the flare, but changing the focal length could surely reduce the impact of the distracting & unwanted sunspots.
Reframe & Recompose
You can always use elements present within your frame to remove/reduce flares from your image. Use branches, a tree, a building, other people & just about anything & everything which will not only remove the flare, but will also give you a perfectly composed shot.
Don’t Be Lazy. Flare troubling you? Then move to a different shooting position where you can find adequate shade for your lens,or where the sunlight, street lamp etc doesn’t directly hit your lens. Try coming between the light source & your subject. You can also move your subject around to get better lighting for your shot.
Shade your Lens
If your camera is mounted on a tripod or placed on a firm surface, then you can enjoy the luxury of using your hand (or someone else’s hand), or some other object to shade & cover your lens. Just be careful, that the hands or the objects shading the lens don’t turn up unexpectedly in your photographs!
Keep your lens clean- yes, back to the basics. A greasy, smudged lens is more prone to flare. Luckily, cleaning your lens is quite simple. Just use a blower to remove the dust and then clean the lens with a soft lens tissue/cloth. A prime lens (35mm,50mm etc) can also be used to avoid lens flare. They have fewer internal elements, which in turns causes less flare in photos. Also, you can purchase coated filters, which help in controlling the amount of flare which enters your lens. They’re slightly expensive, but to many photographers are worth the extra money spent. Be careful though,as cheaper, low-quality filters actually make a lens more prone to lens flares.
You may ask, can’t I just edit out the flare while editing? Well, yes you can, but isn’t it better to eliminate it while shooting? Simply use the steps mentioned above, and you can save precious post processing time. And yes, some flares may not get removed while editing the image, which may render a shot completely useless.
Although lens flare is usually not considered a welcome element, a fast increasing trend these days has been to include the flare as an integral part of photos.
Lens flare, if used creatively & correctly could add a lot to the atmosphere of a photo. Reframing/recomposing an image & including the flare as an impactful element could turn an ordinary photo, into something artistic & creative. Don’t forget, even Adobe has included a whole set of lens flare effects in Photoshop to use during post processing.