Natural Light Photography: Beware of Lens Flare!

by Kerry Drager

Lens flare occurs when sunlight strikes the front glass and causes light spots, colored hexagonal reflections, or light streaks to appear on the image. Flare can also cause a general washed-out or hazy look. You can actually see this in the viewfinder as you shoot, as well as afterward in the finished image. Occasionally it can be an artistic effect, but most times itís an annoyance.

A lens hood works most of the time for blocking the sun from the lens glass, but if the sun is barely outside the picture area, you may need to shade your lens with your hand or a hat to obstruct the sun. This is yet another worthwhile motivation to use a tripod whenever possible, since itís not easy to hold the camera steady with one hand while blocking out the sunlight with the other. Double-check the results on the back of the camera.

NOTE: If you can see even a portion of the sun in the viewfinder as you are composing your picture, then itís impossible to eliminate the flare completely. Some unsightly spots can be cloned out in post-processing, though not all - another good reason to pay attention to flare during the shooting process. Avoid using more than one filter at a time, since extra glass can mean extra flare.

Like These Ideas?

- Kerry Drager teamed up with Jim Miotke to write two how-to books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light and The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography.

- Also check out this excellent online course at BetterPhoto: Understanding Lighting and Exposure

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website -

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.