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« How to use portable flash | Main | Cropping to make better photographs »

Use flare creatively to make better photographs

Flare can make a photo more powerfulFor the most part, photographers try to avoid having light from the sun enter the lens when making a picture.  This happens when you shoot a backlit subject, or when the sun is at an oblique angle.  I always check the lens to make sure I know if light is hitting the lens before I start shooting.

The first problem with flare is that you may get the telltale star shapes in the picture.  The second problem is that flare will affect the contrast and detail resolving power of the lens.  So usually, you would want to either use your hand or a flare card (a piece of black matte board or foamcore is fine) when your lens shade does not do enough to eliminate light hitting the lens.

But rules are made to be broken, and sometimes allowing flare into the picture adds an interesting element visually or in feel.  Just compare these two images, one where I blocked the sun from hitting the lens (below), and one where I feathered the flare card to allow some light to hit the lens.

First exposure using a flare card

Personally I like the one with flare.  In a real world situation where I had to look into the sun to talk with someone, I would probably be squinting, and psychologically, I might feel at a disadvantage. To my way of thinking, it makes Josh seem more powerful, and intimidating.

Intentionally using flare has been a tool in fashion as well, where the resulting image has a more candid, open, and fresh feel.  Try playing with it by feathering your flare card to allow more or less light to hit the lens.  A little or a lot may add just the extra impact you are looking for.

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