Create lens flare effects in-camera using any lens

Watch the video: create lens flare in-camera

Many modern lenses are so well designed that they all but eliminate lens flare. Specially coated glass elements stand up against even the brightest, harshest sunlight – and for everyday use, this is a good thing. 

Unwanted flare, caused by light bouncing off lens elements, is unpredictable, not to mention a pain to remove in post-processing. However, what if you could make and control lens flare on command, with the ability to move and shape it to suit your subject? Well, you can, and we’ll show you how.

• More tutorial videos: Photography tips

Shooting through a piece of metal pipe in direct light – sunlight is ideal – creates instant in-camera flare. The pipe shape, color, position and texture will all affect how your flare looks, and every result will be unique.

This creative effect is best used in moderation, but play around, and with a little practice you’ll soon get the hang of it. Read on for our take on introducing deliberate lens flare… 

01 What you’ll need

The best lens to use here is a prime with a focal length of 50-100mm and a wide maximum aperture, such as f/1.8. You’ll also need a piece of metal pipe that’s around an inch in length and diameter. Cut it to size with a pipe cutter if you need to.

02 Subject choice

03 Camera settings

There’s not an ideal setting for all scenarios, but we used Aperture Priority mode so we didn’t have to worry about constantly changing the exposure at the same time as moving the pipe. Most of our shots were taken at ISO100 and around f/2.8. 

04 See the light

You can employ any light source for this, including the sun, street lamps, bulbs or flash. Bright sunlight is easy, effective, and free to boot. It also creates particularly good-looking flare when low in the sky, during the afternoon and early evening.

05 Use live view

Switch to Live View so that you can easily assess how your shots and the flare will look. Rotate the pipe back and forth in front of the lens, and move around your subject to reposition yourself in relation to the light source. Fire the shutter when you’re ready. 

06 Pipe dreams need practice

You won’t magically get a flare as soon as you hold the ring in front of your lens; consider where the sun is in the sky, and the position of your subject in relation to it. Practice makes perfect, so keep tweaking until all the elements line up! 

More videos: 

Photography tips and techniques videos
Pinhole photography: make your own pinhole camera using a body cap
Free lensing: get the Lensbaby look and take macro shots with a standard lens

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Lauren Scott
Freelance contributor/former Managing Editor

Lauren is a writer, reviewer, and photographer with ten years of experience in the camera industry. She's the former Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, and previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, Technique editor for PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, and Deputy Editor of our sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine. An experienced journalist and freelance photographer, Lauren also has bylines at Tech Radar,, Canon Europe, PCGamesN, T3, Stuff, and British Airways' in-flight magazine (among others). When she's not testing gear for DCW, she's probably in the kitchen testing yet another new curry recipe or walking in the Cotswolds with her Flat-coated Retriever.