23. 6 Techniques for Capturing Sunbeams and Flare in Your Photos

Techniques that help capture the rays of the sun or flare. Read about them below, or register for your free photography journey here for access.

Photographs with sunbeams or flare are funny – some photographers consider them a mistake, others consider them art.  I fall into the latter camp!  I love the effect, and often enhance the sunbeams or flare that I capture in post processing.

To capture sunbeams, or rays from any light for that matter, use a small aperture – the higher the number, the more beams.  This is a great technique for capturing twinkling holiday lights. With a small aperture, of course, you’re going to have to trade off  with a long shutter speed or an underexposed subject.  You can use a tripod to minimize blur, silhouette your subject, or use an off camera flash to expose the subject.  (This picture is straight out of camera – the edited version is here.)

    1. You know how sometimes you can see sunbeams shining down through breaks in clouds on an overcast day?  Duplicate that effect with trees, a fence, or anything else that will filter the light unevenly.
    2. To get the polygon-shaped flare spots in the image, put yourself and the sun at a diagonal to the subject.  Tilt your camera until you find the most flare.  You should be able to see it through your viewfinder.
    3. Capturing this kind of light often reduces the contrast in your images and makes them look washed out.  Try increasing blacks in Lightroom or Camera Raw.
    4. Take off your lens hood, if you use one.


  1. Angie Says :
    Posted on November 30, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I went to an outdoor wedding in October, as a guest, and everyone keeps telling me that my photo of the bride and groom’s kiss was better than the paid wedding photographer’s because I caught it with the sun behind them. Hello! I added the flare! lol!!

    • admin
      Posted on December 1, 2010 at 9:01 am

      That is an awesome story, Angie. I’d love to see that pic!

  2. Glenda Says :
    Posted on December 29, 2010 at 12:55 am

    I wish I found this website a long time ago !!! I hope they offer this coupon again real soon :)

    • MaryEllen
      Posted on January 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      I Facebooked Patti Brown Photography and asked about her discounts. She said she will be having more right after the new year so I am keeping an eye out for it! Gotta have them!

  3. Karen Says :
    Posted on December 15, 2012 at 3:34 am

    I love sunstars, flare, bokeh. Must have those Kaleidoscope overlays soon!

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