Monday, May 20, 2024

Comparison of flares with different lenses

cover photo with 2 photos of lens flare examples

Lens flare occurs when stray light enters the camera lens and produces artifacts in the image. It’s often seen as something to avoid, but it can also be a creative tool when used intentionally (and I’m personally obsessed with it!). However, not all lenses produce the same type of lens flare, and understanding the characteristics of each can help you make more informed decisions about which lenses to use for different types of photography.

In this article, I will talk about different types of lenses and how they deal with flash. Then, I will tell a tone examples of lens flares organized by brand of lens used. This will be collaborative part of this blog post where I asked hordes of photographers to submit their images using all different brands and lens. I hope this helps you decide what lens to use the next time you shoot with a backlight!

This blog is part of a collaborative blog series! Check out my other blog where I asked a ton of photographers what their biggest mistakes were last year. Come learn from our mistakes!

taken with Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii

How your glass quality will affect lens flare

When I first started in photography, I would use the cheapest lenses because they were… well, cheap. And I couldn’t afford anything else. Which is totally fine, except when you’re shooting backlit like I like to do, the lens flare can take over the photo. Sometimes this looks really cool, but when you’re trying to get that perfect shot to go over the chimney of everyone looking at the camera, your client doesn’t want a big old lens flare on their faces.

And that’s why spending more money on good glass is such a great idea. Better glass equals less intense lens flare (and usually sharper, higher quality photos). But sometimes I miss my old lenses because they would give me such creative lens flares. So it’s a trade off for sure!

For example, on my Canon RF 85mm 1.2 lens, it has such amazing glass that flare is usually minimal and on the edge. Something I like to do is use a copper tube to create a ring of fire and I have a really hard time making a full circle with this lens! It is of such quality that it resists flashing!

The coating on your lens glass can also make a difference in your amount of lens flare. Really expensive lenses have higher quality coatings that can help reduce lens flare. Which sometimes you might want, but other times not so much!

How to create lens flare on purpose

Start with a sunny day and position yourself so that the sun shines directly into the lens. But the trick to getting a nice flame is having the sun partially blocked by something like a tree or mountain, or even your subject. Play around with how much sun you let in and see what gives you the best flare. If the sun is blocked too much, you won’t get a flare. I also try to have a darker background over the area where the flare will be so it’s easier to see.

taken with Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii

I personally use Canon cameras and have faced many different lens flares. So let me break it down for you first before I share about the other brands later!

My Canon lens travel lineup

At the beginning of my photography journey, I used the nifty 50, which is super cheap Canon 50mm 1.8. This lens is seriously a lifesaver when you’re just starting out in photography and can’t afford anything more than that. But you have to be careful, because the lens flare can definitely take the image if you’re trying to shoot with backlight. But it can produce some super cool rainbows, because cheaper glass equals more artifacts. If you use it with purpose, you can create amazing art with it! Seeing this is making me want to go get another one of these just so I can make some rainbow flashes!

two photos taken with the Canon 50mm 1.8, also known as the Nifty %0, showing different lens flares
Some of my old work, taken with the Canon 50mm 1.8 – Settings: F1.8, 1/640

Another cheaper lens I had in the early days of my photography career was that Canon 35mm 2.0. When shooting with backlighting, it can definitely overpower your photo if you’re not careful. The photos below use this lens. I actually like this a lot because it goes with the vibe I wanted, but if I tried to get everyone to look at the camera, I’d have a really hard time getting a nice backlit image. This was taken in 2019 when I had sold one lens but was waiting for another, so I used this for the first time in a while and had a goal in mind to do interesting things with the lens flare. 🙌

examples of lens flares using a 35mm 2.0 canon
Taken with Canon 35mm 2.0 – Settings: F2, 1/1000

I was faced with a strange green lens flare (you can see it in the pictures below) on Sigma art 35mm 1.4 lens so I quickly sold that lens for something else. Because this green flame (pictured below) just wasn’t the look I was going for, even though it can be cute sometimes.

comparing photos taken with sigma 35mm 1.4 art and showing green lens flare
Taken with Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art – Second photo: F2.5, 1/800

Then I spent more money to get Canon 35mm 1.4L ii (the one I currently shoot with) and still sometimes ends up with a lens flare right in the middle of the shot where people’s faces are. Other than that, it’s a super amazing lens, but the lens flare sometimes bothers me. Below is a backlit photo using this lens and you can see that the lens flare is nice when you’re shooting lifestyle images, but you have to be very careful with backlit photos of everyone watching the camera.

abdominal closure birth photo shoot
It was shot with Canon 35mm 1.4L ii
Canon 35mm 1.4L ii

I also have the RF 85mm 1.2 lens and the flash is always in the corner and so soft and beautiful. Absolutely amazing and yes, these RF lenses are a lot more expensive than lenses I’ve used in the past, but I think they’re 100% worth it.

A couple embracing in a field with the sun shining through them
Taken with Canon RF 85mm 1.2

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Canon RF 50mm 1.2 lens and it absolutely blew my mind. The lens flare was so nice and minimal and usually at the edge of the image rather than towards the middle of it. You can see in the images below what the lens flare looks like on this lens.

Family by a pool with the sun making a flare

A shared collection of lens flare examples!

Below are images submitted by other photographers, along with what lens they used. This is to help you see what lens does what kind of flash. I hope it is useful for you!

Ball lenses and lens flares

Canon EF lens

Posted by Ashley Kaplan:

Canon EF 35mm 1.4 – iso: 320 aperture: 3.5 shutter speed: 1/180

Posted by Amy Holcombe Photography:

Canon 35mm EF f1.4L – F 3.5, ISO 200, SS 1/1000

Taken by Jaime Bugbee Photography:

Couple with forehead together
Canon EF 35mm 1.4L ii on Canon 6D mark ii

Posted by Christel Tran:

Canon 35mm 1.4L ii – ISO 320, SS 1/1250, F Stop: 2.8

Taken by Aly with Wild Winds Photography:

Canon 50mm 1.8, iso 200, f4.0

Taken from Brooke Holliday Photography:

EF 50mm 1.8, taken on a film camera – ISO 160, SS 350, f2.8

Posted by Meliza Orellana Photography:

EF 24-70mm on a Canon R6

Posted by Christina Chacharon:

The woman looking to the right
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – ISO 200, 1/4000

Taken from Kim Beebe Photography:

Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM lens. Settings are usually SS 250, ISO 100-300, F2.8

Canon RF lens

Taken from Story Lens Photography:

RF 50mm 1.8 on a Canon R6 – f1.8, 1/2000, iso100

Posted by Erin Link:

RF 50mm 1.8 – 1/1250 3.2 ISO 400 lens

Posted by Michelle Deppe Photography:

Taken with a Canon RF 50mm 1.2 lens at about f2.

Taken by Tristin Tracy Photography:

parents facing each other with the baby on the fathers back
RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Lens (43mm) on Canon R5 Body – 1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

Taken from Apollo & Ivy Photography:

Children hug their mother
RF 28-70 2.0L USM on Canon R6

Nikon lenses and the lens flashes they make

Posted by Sara Maida Photography:

Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S – ISO 320, f2, 1/3200

Posted by Sarah Harrison Photography:

Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED – ISO: 200, f/2.5, 1/250 second

Submitted by Tilly Lane Photography:

Nikon Z6ii with 24-70 F4 Z mount lens

Submitted by Gillian McColl Photography:

Nikon Z 85 1.8

Posted by Raven’s Nest Photography:

Nikon 85 1.8

Taken from Jo Bryan Photography:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Sigma lenses and flares

Taken from Naomi Boyer Photography:

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art Lens on Canon EOS R – F2.5, 1/400, ISO 250

Posted by Krista Buresh Photography:

Canon 6DMII, Sigma 35mm f5.6 ISO 200, 1/125

Posted by Elizabeth Anderson Photography:

Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 on Nikon z6ii – ISO 200, f2.0

Posted by Cassy Cole Photography:

Sigma art 35mm1.4 on Nikon D750 – 1/640, f/6.3, iso640

Sony lenses plus lens flashes

Posted by Jennifer Young:

little girl looking at the camera seriously
Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA

Submitted by Bailey Jack Photography:

little boy walking with intense lens flare
Sony 50mm 1.8 – ISO 100, f 2.0, 1/125

Submitted by Bailey Jack Photography:

close-up of pregnant belly in green dress
Sony 50mm 1.8 – ISO 100, f 2.8, 1/125

Posted by Jennifer Young:

little girl dancing in the sunset
Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA

Tamron lens and flares

Taken by Evelynne Gomes Greenberg Photography:

Tamron 35mm 1.4 – 2.2 1/250 iso 250

Posted by Becky Langseth Photography:

little girl hanging on the pole
Tamron 18-270 mm (f/3.5-6.3) – ISO 200, f3.5, 1/50 sec

Fuji lenses and flames

Posted by Michelle Deppe Photography:

black and white of the coliseum in Rome
18-55 Fuji xt3 lens kit

Posted by The Enloe Creative:

the family is leaving for the forest
Fuji XF23mm R WR – 1/500 F4 ISO640

Posted by The Enloe Creative:

Father and daughter near a tree
Fuji XF50mm R WR – 1/500 F2 ISO1600

Lumix lenses and sun flares

Posted by Becky Langseth Photography:

little girl standing under the tree
Lumix 25mm (f1.7) (this is for M4/3 and acts as a 50mm lens) shot on Olympus camera – Settings: ISO 640, f 2.8, 1/400 sec

Olympus lenses and the lens flashes they produce

Posted by Becky Langseth Photography:

pregnant mother
Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm (f1.8) (This lens is for M4/3) which is similar to a standard 90mm or 85mm lens, ISO 100, f 2.5, 1/250 sec

Special lenses and their lens flares

Posted by Ashley Kaplan:

lens flare
lensbaby 35mm – iso: 320 aperture: 3.5 shutter speed: 1/1000

Interested in learning more about how to use light?

You can book an online Zoom mentoring session with me and ask me all your questions! I learn about all things easy, family photography and how to run a successful business. I look forward to being your biggest cheerleader!

You can also view items in my photographer shop as well as purchase the presets I use in all my photos.

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