What is "lens flare" and how do I avoid it?

What is "lens flare" and how do I avoid it?

Sometimes taking a picture is as simple as just point and click, requiring very little preparation or thought to frame and shoot a subject. There are other times, however, where simple everyday things can factor in and provide challenges not normally considered. Shooting in bright sunlight is one of those factors. When shooting in bright sunlight, the angle of the sun to the camera is an important factor that should always be considered.

The sun doesn't have to be in the frame, but if the angle is just right, more light than expected can be captured. When intense light enters a camera lens from an angle outside normal field of view, it may be reflected multiple times within the groups of lens elements contained in a typical camera lens. This can cause a variety of effects, sometimes desirable, sometimes not. One of these effects is known as "lens flare".

Lens flare usually occurs when a very bright light source is slightly outside the normal viewing angle for the lens. Light enters in on the side more or less, and internal reflections occur causing a cascading set of colorful circular discs on the final image. Changing the angle of the light source will effectively reduce or increase this effect. We have all seen lens flare in one form or another, as it is very common and almost expected when shooting in bright sunlight. Some image editing applications provide a filter to allow the user to add a lens flare effect to the image to make the image appear more natural.

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The sun is positioned outside the frame at the upper right, and the angle is such that a flare is produced across the frame.Changing the angle slightly changes the shape and density of the flare, greatly reducing the effect. If this were a different angle to the subject, it could have eliminated the flare completely.

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Panning further right, the suns flare effect is reduced until it is no longer a distraction. A sunray is still visible above the sign at the left.Panning further and it is eliminated. The subject has changed, however, so moving yourself and changing the angle to the subject will change the appearance of lens flare in your images.

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Continue panning right with the sun overhead and flaring will gradually appear again from the other side of the lens.And here it is again in the middle of the image.


Many Nikkor lenses have special coatings applied to reduce different effects such as flare, coma or ghosting, which may explain why these samples show very little flare.

A typical camera lens is actually an intricate combination of multiple lenses, different types, thicknesses, shapes and sizes, all coordinated to best direct light to focus on your film or image image sensor. Different lenses are suited for different purposes including wide angle, close-up, or telephoto, or a zoom lens which allows a greater range or combination of these purposes.

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Cross section illustration of an AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED showing many different types of lens elements.


Commonly used to reduce the effect of lens flare is a lens hood. Simply attach the lens hood to reduce the amount of light entering from outside the normal viewing angle, thereby reducing flare and other optical effects.

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Common "Petal" type hood

Traditional style lens hood

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