It is possible for light rays from a bright source of illumination (like the sun or artificial light) to bounce and reflect off of the front element of a camera lens, diaphragm, and even the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images.
In other words, “lens flare,” this effect can have a variety of effects on images. For example, it can drastically reduce image contrast by adding different-colored fog, or it can add circular or semicircular halos or “ghosts,” and even odd-shaped semitransparent objects with various color intensities to the image, among other things. However, flare isn’t always a bad thing in photography; it can be used artistically to enhance photos. Film and video game lens flare is frequently included on purpose to enhance the realism and enhance the overall visual effect.
It’s helpful to know why flare occurs before deciding whether or not to use it in your images. Let’s start by looking at what causes flares, and then we’ll talk about how to make use of, mitigate, or even avoid them altogether.
1. What is Lens Flare?
It’s called lens flare when a bright point of light, such as the sun, is much brighter than everything else in the scene, and it’s either in the picture (within the lens’ angle of view) or it just hits the front element of the lens without being in the picture. Orbs and polygon artifacts can appear throughout an image depending on where the bright light source is located, as can semi-round shapes with rainbow colors, or a combination of all of the above. As a result of internal reflections in the lens and even between the imaging sensor and the lens, this happens (more on that below). Here’s an illustration to help you understand:
Ordinary light rays (red) travel in a straight line to the image plane (green), whereas bright light rays (blue) can split and reflect off the lens surfaces, causing them to end up in various parts of the frame throughout the picture (dotted blue). The lens diaphragm can also reflect light while traveling through the lens, making flare even more noticeable if the aperture is closed.
Despite the fact that the above illustration depicts lens flare in general, manufacturers and photographers typically distinguish between veiling flare and ghosting flare. Good lenses with multi-coated lens element surfaces can significantly reduce veiling flare in images, even if they are used in conjunction with each other.
2. Veiling Flare
In most cases, veiling flare occurs when the bright light source is outside the lens’ angle of view, i.e. not visible in the image, but its light rays still reach the lens’ front element. As a result, there’s a distinct haze/lack of contrast throughout the image, making dark areas of the frame appear brighter and washed out. Lenses with multi-coated lens elements, such as those found on professional cameras, can help cut down on veiling flare. When it comes to controlling veiling flare, Nikon’s proprietary Nano Crystal Coat technology, which is found on professional-grade lenses, is invaluable. Take a look at the portrait below, which was shot with the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens. It looks like this:
There is a strong veiling flare in this photo, which is caused by sunlight hitting the lens from above and outside the image area. The veiling flare had an effect on the girl’s hair, face, and clothes in addition to the sun’s surrounding area, reducing contrast. To achieve a moody, bright shot, the veiling flare was intentionally allowed in this instance.
Unfortunately, a number of factors can exacerbate veiling flare, including dust in the lens, a dirty front element, a dirty/low-quality lens filter, and a lack of anti-reflective multi-coating technologies. When rendered as an image, the effect can look downright horrible in some cases.
3. Ghosting Flare
Ghosting flare or simply “ghosting” represents all the artifacts visible in the image, whether they are reflections of the bright source or shapes that resemble the lens diaphragm, as opposed to veiling flare which makes images appear hazy with little contrast. Colorful orbs of various sizes and shapes often appear in a straight line from the light source and can cover the entire image, with dozens of different artifacts. They can appear in any direction.
There are a variety of circular artifacts/orbs visible in each image, as well as the visible veiling flare. These are referred to as “ghosts”. It depends on how many elements there are in each lens how many ghosts there are in total. The more elements in an image, the more likely it is that a ghost will appear.
Lens diaphragms can produce unwanted internal reflections when a lens is stopped down, as I mentioned above. When the lens is stopped down to its minimum aperture, the effect is amplified, which is why aperture ghosting is typically not visible at large apertures like f/1.4, but quite noticeable at f/16. As a result, if you notice ghostly polygon shapes in your images, they are caused by the lens diaphragm.
4. Sensor / Red Dot Flare
There is a term I’ve been using, “red dot flare,” to describe flare that occurs as a result of light bouncing between the imaging sensor and the lens elements. Unlike a lens flare, a red dot flare is a reflection of the imaging sensor’s light, not just light reflected by the lens’s elements and diaphragm. In my “red dot flare issue” article, I go into great detail about how mirrorless cameras with short flange distances are especially prone to this problem. As you can see in the images, the red dot/sensor flare is quite noticeable.
There are microlenses on the digital camera sensor that are amplified in the image, as well as polygon-shaped aperture ghosts and a swarm of red dots surrounding the sun.
5. Factors Impacting Lens Flare
Despite the fact that most modern lenses use multi-coating technologies to reduce flare, even the best professional lenses can produce images that have visible ghosting and even veiling flare.. Flare appears in images in varying degrees depending on where it is located in relation to the camera lens and what angle it is coming from (thus affecting the quality of the camera film/sensor). Other factors, such as those I’ve already mentioned, could have a significant impact on images. Let’s take a closer look at these points:
+ Lens Elements : the more lens elements, the more ghosts will show up in images
+ Focal Length : Wide-angle lenses are not only built to handle flare well, but their shorter focal lengths also serve to shrink the perceived size of the light source. telephoto lenses, on the other hand, are significantly worse in terms of performance because they magnify everything.
+ Lens Design : Lens Design In Nikon’s case, lenses with recessed front elements reduce flare and ghosting by a significant margin, all without the use of pricey coating technologies. The following 50mm lens comparison shows that modern 50mm lenses outperform their AF-D counterparts when it comes to handling flares and ghosting: Take a look at the results.
+ Multi-Coatings : multi-coated (MRC) lens elements definitely have a huge impact on flare performance
+ Filters : low-quality filters are known to create more flare and ghosting issues in images
+ Lens Dust : all lenses accumulate dust over time and the internal dust can cause more veiling flare issues
+ Front Element Cleanliness : greasy fingers and other particles on the front element can also create more flare/ghosting issues
6. How to Avoid Lens Flare
There are a few simple steps you can take to avoid having flare appear in your photographs:
Lens flare can be avoided by following the guidelines listed below.
+ Use a lens hood
Lens hoods are there for a reason, you know. They do a great deal to shield the front element from the sun’s harmful rays.
+ Use your hand or another object
You can completely eliminate flares and ghosting by simply placing your hand over the lens to block the sun. It’s a very easy method that actually works.
+ Use high-quality lenses
Even though professional-grade lenses can be pricey, the amazing coating technologies that come with them can help significantly reduce or even eliminate flare issues completely.
+ Use prime lenses instead of zooms
Prime lenses have fewer optical elements and simpler optical formulas than zooms. Flare is less prevalent in images when there are fewer elements to consider.
+ Change perspective/framing
It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to your image when you simply move the light source around.
Unfortunately, while using the lens hood and knowing that you can block out light with your hand or other objects is a good idea, shooting directly into the sun and including it in the image will negate the benefits of those precautions.. Change the perspective/frameing completely or only use high-quality lenses with multi-coated lens elements if necessary.
7. How to Create Artificial Lens Flare While Editing Photos in 5 Easy Steps
If you want an artificial lens flare, you can make one while editing and processing your photo. With Adobe Photoshop, you can do almost anything you can imagine while editing—including adding lens flare. Adobe Lightroom is one of the most comprehensive and powerful editing programs available.
+ Open the Develop Module in Lightroom and select the Brush tool.
+ Set the exposure to about +3, the flow to about 80%, and the feathering to about 15.
+ Click the brush tool where you’d like to create a lens flare on the photo. Keep clicking to make the lens flare stronger.
+ Shrink the size of the brush and add more strokes across the image. Experiment with size and strength until you achieve your desired effect.
+ If any part of the image becomes too blown out, lower the highlights and boost the shadows.
8. Lens Flare FAQ
Lens flare is frequently asked about, so here are some answers:
What Causes Lens Flare ?
A bright light source is frequently the cause of lens flare. Lens flare has a variable effect based on where the light source is located in the frame. It is possible to get lens flare even if the light source is not in the picture if the light rays from the light source are very strong (like the sun’s).
Is Lens Flare Bad ?
Lens flare can degrade your images, especially if it covers a large portion of the frame with it. There are exceptions to this rule: some photographers and videographers purposefully use lens flare to give their work a cinematic feel.
How Do You Get Rid of Lens Flare ?
Lens flare can be completely eliminated by keeping bright sources of light out of your frame and not allowing their light rays to reach your lens. Use your lens hood to keep the sun’s rays from glaring into your lens when taking pictures outside in the daylight.
How Do You Stop Lens Flare at Night ?
Small apertures can increase the effect of lens flare in your images, so avoid using them at night if you want to reduce it. Lens flare can be minimized by using a high-quality prime lens with good coatings. Finally, make certain that your lens is clear of all filters.
Should I Use a Lens Hood at Night to Avoid Lens Flare ?
The purpose of a lens hood is to keep the sun’s rays off your lens’ front element. Lens hoods come in handy when shooting at night with the moon or bright street lights overhead.