I have covered creating a sunburst effect using Photoshop here. Faking is ok, but there’s nothing like doing it in camera.
Some light sources, like street lights, often create a flare effect without any work at all when shooting at night. This is because you are usually metering for a whole scene, which is mainly dark. Consequently, the shutter speed will be slow, causing the street lights to flare.
Creating a Sunburst Effect
Creating a sunburst effect with the sun though requires a bit of extra work.
The steps are as follows:
- Line yourself up so that you can see the sunburst with your naked eye. It is important that the sun is partially obscured. Although a good quality prime lens can be pointed at an unobscured sun to create a flare – the best results will come when the sun is partially covered by an object or even a cloud.
- Once you have lined yourself up, pick up your camera and shoot.
- A tripod is not always necessary. The sun is always on the move so be quick.
- Try to use a prime lens, zoom lenses are ok, but I’ve found the effect to be better using a good quality prime.
- Shoot in either Aperture Priority, or Manual, making sure the lens aperture is f/11, or above. I keep my camera in ISO 100 as if I’m using a tripod. If I’m not using a tripod I will push the ISO up to 640, if I need to. You might get away with a wider aperture, f/8 for instance, but the length of arms of the sunburst will get longer as the aperture narrows.
- Shooting with Exposure Bracketing set at a minimum of 3 shots at 2 EV apart will usually produce an acceptable photo.
- Experiment with different aperture settings.
To summarise here’s my normal on Tripod settings
- Stand where you can see the starburst effect with your naked eye.
- Place your camera preferably on a tripod in the same place.
- Put the camera in Aperture Priority
- Set the aperture to f/11, or higher.
- Set the ISO at 100
- Set up Exposure Bracketing, I use 3 shots, at 2 EV apart, or higher. I sometimes go up to 9 shots at 1 EV apart.
- Always review your shots to see what’s working.
Most of the shots below were taken with prime lenses. The notable exception was my Sony FE 70-300mm, which gave an unusual effect pointed at the sun. Not unpleasant, but not exactly a sunburst effect. And, three of these images were taken handheld.
To summarise. If you can see the sunburst with your naked eye, you’re 90% of the way there. Don’t forget the whole scene should be the subject, not just the sunburst effect – don’t over do it.