If you know my photography at all, you will know how much I love chasing light. I guess many photographers do, light is our friend and learning to use it is a fundamental part of learning photography. Up until the last few months I would never have considered adding sunflare to a photograph in editing. Because it feels a little like cheating.
Then I was trying out the apps you recommended to me here, and I made a bit of a discovery. Editing sunflare can be done in a way that looks pretty natural. Who knew? I came across a set of filters that have effects so similar to the light I capture using the sun that I have lost many a happy moment since experimenting with them to see how natural I can make them look…
I’d love to share a few tips with you for adding sunflare to your photos. It’s actually quite easy to achieve a natural effect, and for the purposes of this post I am using the A Color Story app. There are many apps with sunflare filters though and the same principles will apply whichever your app of light choice is.
All of the photographs in this post have sunflare added in this way, below is an example of before & after to simply show the difference.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a photograph for this kind of edit. It won’t look natural on every photo, so here are my thoughts…
You want to choose a photo that has an element of sunlight already, or at the very least a photo with some contrast and shadow. It also looks most natural with an element of the sky somewhere in the frame but that’s not essential! It can be done when you have trained your eye to the way light behaves in a photograph, and not all sunflare occurs when the sky is in the frame. In the beginning though, if you aren’t sure, the sky helps a little.
Next consider the direction of light entering the frame. You will want to put the sunflare in the right place! In the photo below, the light is entering the frame from the top left. If you are unsure what I mean, an easy way to decide is to look at the light on the subject in the frame. Where does it fall? On the flowers you can see the left side of them is bright while the right is darker. The top of the grass in the centre of the frame is bright while the underside of it is in shadow. So the light source is in the top left corner.
Another way to place the light is to use the shadows, if there are any. Where do they fall? And where would the light source have been to make them fall there…?
Once you have decided from which direction the light is entering the frame, adding sunflare is easy! There are several different effects and, honestly, most of them aren’t very natural in their result. But there are a handful of filters that are very similar to the light I capture with both my camera and phone so I have been mixing them up and experimenting with different combinations. I’ll add a list of the filters I think are the most realistic at the end.
The steps are actually really easy, the trick is getting the position and strength right! (All images on this page can be enlarged for a closer look by clicking on them.) Each of the filters applied can be moved around the frame, either by pinching and repositioning or by using the mirror and flip options.
The screenshots below are a step by step guide to this particular edit. Starting with filters – glow – lumen. This is one of my favourites, it replicates the glow of my flower field so well that I would be inclined to say it is one of the most natural looking filters to use. So I play around with its position in the frame and always turn it down several notches.
Personally, I’m not a fan of a full strength filter for my photos as I like them to stay on the natural side of editing, but if you are looking for an exaggerated result, by all means turn them up!
Next I use filters – flare & bokeh – flare 1. I think this compliments the first filer I used and I like the rays across the corner of the frame. This is followed by flare 7. I’ve added it, turned it down and moved it across the frame to radiate from the position of the light source. For this particular photo I’m not convinced it is right, so after adding it, I deleted it and moved on to one that my surprise you a little.
Flare 8, as you can see, is a little bit colourful. Again it won’t work on every photo, but on this one it adds something to the shadows in the grass so – after turning it way down – I kept it. What do you think, does it work…?
editing sunflare – Filter recommendations
As I mentioned above, I used A Color Story for this post but there are other apps with similar filters so, as always, use the one that works best for you. If you are using A Color Story too, the filters can be found in Effects. I like Flare & Bokeh filters Flare 1, 5, 7, 8 & 10 then Glow filters Lumen & Glow.
So is editing in sunflare cheating? Yes, to certain photographers, probably. But I say no more than any other creative edit.
Does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nope.
It’s all a bit of fun.