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Photography Question 

How to Remove Unwanted Reflections

I recently took some early morning pictures that turned out fantastic, except for one problem: Whenever I shot into the sun, several of the photos had cascading, hexagonal reflections in them. I realize this happens in such a situation, but I like the intense light and the star effect that I am able to achieve when shooting into the sun. I thought that the coating on most lenses decreased this effect. Should I invest in a higher quality lens with a specific type of coating or is there a filter that would help in this situation? I know that a polarizer reduces reflections in water and other such surfaces, but it proves ineffective in cases of shooting into the sun.

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10/30/2004 11:14:45 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  What you're describing is commonly known as "lens flare" ... an unfortunate by-product of shooting directly into a bright light source. The hexagonal shapes are actually light reflections of the aperture blades of your lens. The only way I know to avoid this is to NOT shoot directly into the sun. A lens hood can help to shield stray light from entering the front element but will not eliminate the effect if you're shooting directly at the sun.

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10/30/2004 2:53:33 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  The cascading hexagons is called "ghosting" - internal reflections of the diaphragm off the many lens element surfaces common in zooms. Multicoating does lessen this effect, and flare, but does not necessarily eliminate it.
(a) Using a lens hood can sometimes help.
(b) If you are using an SLR camera, the effect will be visible in the viewfinder. Watch for it, and you can sometimes make small changes in your composition to lessen or eliminate the effect. Try pointing more directly or away from the bright light source. If you have depth of field preview you can see that the ghosting is also affected by the aperture chosen.
(c) Prime lenses with fewer lens elements, and hence fewer internal reflective surfaces, are less prone to this effect.
(d) Use it to artistic effect. Some people like the effect and photo editing software often has a feature to add this ghosting to photos that don't have it.

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10/30/2004 2:59:43 PM

Kerry Drager
BetterPhoto Member
Kerry's Photo Courses:
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  Hi Juanita: Excellent advice from Bob and Jon! I like shooting scenes that include the sun - well, actually, just a piece of the sun peeking out from behind a tree, statue, or other object. With a small aperture, you can then get a nice starburst effect. One other thing that can help in reducing the amount of lens flare in scenes that include the sun is this: Remove any unnecessary filters (including "protective" ones and polarizers) from the front of your lens. Again, you won't eliminate the flare entirely, but the extra glass (filter) could result in extra reflections in the image.
Have fun shooting, Juanita!

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10/31/2004 10:21:00 AM

Charlie    My method for removing flare, provided you are not pointing DIRECTLY at the sun, is to throw a shadow onto the lens. You may be able to do this by getting into the shade of a tree trunk, a car, or another person. Alternatively, you can hold a flat object over the lens - a wide-brimmed hat works but is awkward, a flat sheet of non-reflective cardboard, or a device made for the purpose (e.g. a circle of fabric, rimmed with a flexible material, which can be twisted into a quarter of the area for storage). Such a device is called a French ... something, I forget exactly. I have one with neutral grey on one side (incident light reading) and black on the other - from a good photo store. Others may have a reflective surface - for photofill. Two tools in one! Just make sure it doesn't show in the viewfinder - I have a dozen shots of my hat.

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11/20/2004 4:03:33 PM

Tony Sweet
Tony's Photo Courses:
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  The only times it is photographically practical to point at the fireball, and won't harm your eyes, is when the sun is near the horizon, at sunrise and sunset, especially when there is a haze in the air to soften the light, otherwise DO NOT shoot straight into the sun. It CAN cause eye damage, no kidding. Think about it. Would you look at the sun through a magnifying glass?? Same thing...There is no filter, hood, or magic wand that will make that work. Reposition off to the side a bit and use your hand, hat, or flare buster to hold back the flare. You may get these in your frame, so shoot a few, or remove the "mistakes" in PS.

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11/23/2004 5:49:41 AM

Juanita    Thanks for all your great advice; I'll be sure to try some of your suggestions the next chance that I get.
Just to clarify, in most cases I was not shooting directly into the sun; rather, the sun was either located in the upper right or left of the photo or was not even in the image. However, it did create an intense light source in singular sections of the photographs, which probably created the ghosting effect.
Again, thanks so much!

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11/23/2004 9:11:33 AM

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