mountains with flares above Photo by Stephen Cook on Unsplash

Newbie Friendly Guide to Lens Flare: What Causes | How to Avoid or Create Artistic Ones

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Lens flare can be a beautiful thing. It can add some extra pizzazz to an image and make it look more interesting. But if you are not used to working with it, lens flare can also be tricky.

In this post, we'll cover how lens flare occurs, the different types of flare, and how to produce it yourself. We'll also look at some tips for avoiding the most common mistakes.

What is Lens Flare?

Lens flare occurs when light from the sun, studio lights, off-camera flashes, or other sources is reflected off the surfaces of your camera lens's optical elements.

It usually appears as bright circles or rays radiating outward from a light source or bright highlight.

photo of sunlights in forest with lens flare

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash

When you see the effect in photos, it often looks like a halo around highlights and can be either appealing or distracting depending on your vision for the shot.

The main types of lens flare include the following:

  • Veiling
  • Sensor
  • Ghosting

Veiling Flare

Veiling flare, also referred to as a veil or haze, is a foglike effect that reduces overall contrast and detail in an image. It occurs when there is a light source outside the actual image, yet it's still bright.

Veiling typically appears on the whole frame as opposed to ghosting, which only happens around highlights.

Sensor Flare

Sensor flare is caused by light bouncing off the sensor and then into the lens.

The phenomenon is popularly known as 'red dot flare' due to the red dots that appear to emanate from the light source.

Sensor flare is most commonly seen in mirrorless cameras with a short flange distance. This means that the light from the lens is closer to the sensor, which causes more light to bounce off and create the flare.

Ghosting Flare

sunlight through the leaves with flares

Photo by Cyrus Crossan on Unsplash

Ghosting flares are caused by light reflecting off elements inside the lens, usually around highlights in an image. They appear as multiple circles or rays radiating from the light source.

The exact shape will depend on what kind and size lens you have, but they usually range from 5 - 8 sides in straight lines coming out toward the light source. They will appear more often if you have multiple elements in your lens.

What Causes Lens Flare?

Having known the basics of lens flare, it is important to understand what causes it. Let's take a look at the main contributing factors.

  • Filter quality:Filters can affect the amount of flare a lens produces, depending on their type and quality. A low-quality filter can cause more flare than a high-quality one.
  • Multi-coatings:Lens coatings help reduce internal reflections and thus reduce lens flare.
  • Lens elements:This refers to the elements that make up the lens. More lens elements can cause more reflection, resulting in an increased flare.

len flare of sun rising behind mountains

Photo by Nexus 6 on Unsplash

  • Front element cleanliness:The front element of your lens should be kept clean to reduce unwanted flare and reflections as much as possible. A smudged or dirty element will reflect more light, causing more flare.
  • Focal length:The longer the focal length of your lens, the more susceptible it is to flare due to its ability to collect more light from off-axis sources. This is because the longer the focal length, the more it magnifies off-axis light sources.
  • Dust:Any dust or dirt on the lens elements can cause additional reflections and thus increase flares.
  • Lens design:Different lens designs have different levels of flare resistance. For example, prime lenses tend to have less flare than zoom lenses due to their simpler construction and fewer elements.

How to Avoid Lens Flare?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when avoiding lens flare. Each situation requires its approach, and experimentation is key. With patience and creativity, you can find ways to minimize or avoid lens flare altogether.

female portrait with sunlight behind

Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

Let's look at some ways to avoid it.

1. Use a lens hood: The most important and effective way to reduce lens flare is to use a good quality lens hood. This will help block light from off-axis sources, reducing the amount of light reflected onto your sensor.

2. Avoid strong backlighting: If you can, try to avoid shooting in conditions with strong backlighting. The angle of the light source is a major factor in creating lens flare.

3. Use post-processing techniques: While not ideal, you can use some post-processing techniques to reduce the effects of lens flare if it does occur. You can also add a gradient or vignette effect to help obscure the flares.

4. Change your shooting angle: If you are having trouble avoiding lens flare, try changing the angle of your camera so that the light source is no longer in the frame. This will take some creative thinking and experimentation but can be a great way to avoid lens flare without using post-processing techniques.

clouds on the mountains with lens flares

Photo by Patrick Wittke on Unsplash

5. Invest in high-quality lenses: High-quality lenses are designed to be more resistant to lens flare, so investing in a good-quality lens may help reduce the issue altogether. Always remember to keep your lenses clean, as dirt and dust can also cause lens flare.

6. Go prime: Prime lenses have a smaller maximum aperture, creating less lens flare than zoom lenses. This is because the wider apertures of zooms can let in more light, thus creating more reflection within the lens.

7. Invest in filters: Neutral density or polarizing filters can also help reduce lens flare, as they reduce the amount of light that enters the lens. Although quality matters here, so ensure you invest in a good filter.

Creative Ways to Add Artistic Flare to Photos

As a digital photographer, look for ways to add artistic flare to your photos. With the help of technology, you can easily achieve the look and feel you desire for your images.

photo of a girl looking at the sunlight with beautiful flares

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash

Here are some creative ways to add a touch of artistic flare to your photos:

1. Explore the Right Angle

An excellent way to add artistic flare to your photos is by exploring the right angle. By changing your shooting angle, you can capture a different perspective and create a new look for your photo.

2. Use a Wide-Angle Lens

Adding a wide-angle lens to your kit can give you more flexibility when capturing images with a greater depth of field. This will allow you to capture more detail and create interesting shapes in your composition.

3. Try Aperture Priority Mode

sunset above sunflower field

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

By setting the camera to aperture priority mode, you can experiment with different depths of field. The wider the aperture is, the less depth of field and the more creative look you can achieve with your photos.

4. Make the Most of the Filters

Filters are an easy way to transform your images with a single click. They can blur parts of the scene, enhance colors or even give your photos a creative lens flare effect. For example, there are three types of filters you can try out: polarizing filters, neutral density filters, and UV filters.

5. Shoot in Golden Hour

Taking advantage of natural light is among the best ways to add a unique look to your photos. Shooting around sunrise and sunset, known as the golden hour, will give you beautiful lighting to make your images stand out.

a girl sitting at grassland and looking at the sunset

 Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

6. Add One in Photoshop

If you have access to Adobe Photoshop, you can use the various tools available to create artistic effects for your photos. From adding textures and blur effects to color grading and more, there are endless possibilities when it comes to post-processing your images.


By understanding what causes lens flares and how to minimize them, you can create amazing photos that stand out from the crowd. With practice and a bit of creative experimentation, you will be able to master the art of lens flares in no time.

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