How to Add Intentional Lens Flare to Your Photos

To create lens flare, you need to do the exact opposite of what you would normally do with a key light—aim it straight toward the camera. Mark Wallace from Adorama demonstrates how he does it:

For this shoot Wallace uses a 50mm f/1.4 lens wide open. His shutter speed is set at 1/160 of a second. He places the key light, a Profoto B2 head, directly behind the model and aims it straight at the camera. The wall behind the camera is pure white, which throws back some light onto the subject. At f/1.4 and 1/160 of a second the exposure should be correct for the subject’s face.

Angelic lens flare

The key light set up behind the subject is set to a brightness that meters f/6.3 on the handheld light meter. This is significantly brighter than what is required for the exposure and is intentional. At that brightness setting Wallace is going to get the angelic lens flare that he’s looking for.

Important note before you begin shooting. Make sure that you turn on the modelling light. This will enable you to set up the light so that you can catch the light coming straight down on the lens. Otherwise this is going to be a trial and error sort of thing as you fine tune the composition. By altering the position of the camera or the light, you can adjust how much of that light you can catch with your lens.

Modelling light, key light

These kind of images warrant some amount of post-processing. You’ll need to increase the contrast, adjust white balance, and do a bit of this and that to really make the image pop.

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