Types of lens flare.
Lens flare often appears in photographs as circles or rings that emanate from the light source. These visible spots, or artifacts, are called ghosting. Don’t confuse this with bokeh, which is a background blur effect created by your lens.
In some cases, a haze of light covers the entire scene, which can result in washed-out, low contrast photos. This all-over haze is called veiling, and it occurs when the light source is out of the frame and to the side of your lens, but the rays still hit the lens’s front element. Veiling can be used intentionally to create a soft, warm mood for your photo. But if you overdo it, your photo could look so washed out that it’s unusable.
A starburst effect happens when you shoot with a smaller aperture, such as f/11 or f/16. Aperture is the adjustable lens opening that controls the amount of light allowed into the camera. At smaller apertures, less light gets through, which makes the sun appear as a small and star-like beam of light.
Anamorphic lens flare
Used in cinematography, anamorphic lenses capture a wider field of view without distortion. This is made possible, in part, by their square shape and horizontal lens elements. This shape is also what produces the distinct horizontal flares these lenses are known for. Director J. J. Abrams is well documented for his use of anamorphic lens flares. Look for them the next time you watch one of his films to see the effect in action.
How to get the lens flare effect.
To get lens flare, shoot directly into the sun or another light source. “The best thing you can do is shoot at a lot of different angles, so that even if some are blown out, you can see what works and what doesn’t work,” says photographer Martha Galvan. It may take some trial and error, since how your flare shows up is dependent on a number of factors. These include:
Camera lens and body
Different equipment produces different results when it comes to lens flare. For example, a Nikon 85mm lens renders lens flare differently than a Canon 16mm–35mm, just as a Sony mirrorless digital camera creates a different effect than a Leica film camera.
Most modern lenses come with an antireflective coating designed to avoid glare. Because of this, you may find more success capturing lens flare when you use an older lens. UV filters, polarizers, or neutral density filters can also reduce the amount of flare you pick up. Similarly, many lenses come with a lens hood (also known as a lens shade) to avoid flaring — so if you want to embrace the flare, you’ll need to lose the hood.