How to Add Interesting Light Flares to Your Images

How to Add Interesting Light Flares to Your Images

I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to add visual interest to my images. I’m a big fan of the effects you can get with prisms and the like, but it’s always nice to find something a little less used. Last year I went to a Katy Perry concert and they were handing out pairs of 3D glasses, which cause rainbow light streaks to appear all around you. I later found out that the glasses were made from diffraction paper.

When I first received these glasses, I tried holding them up to my camera lens and saw that the the camera was able to capture the rainbow light streaks. After taking a series of images with these glasses at the concert, I decided that I wanted to try and incorporate this effect in some of my wedding work. I then proceeded to grab about 20 pairs of glasses that were scattered across the floor from people discarding them after the concert.

After doing some more experimenting, I found that the best way to get this effect was to utilize some type of back lighting. When there wasn't any back lighting, either nothing would show up, or there would be just a rainbow haze that didn't really add to the image. Also, I noticed the frames of the glasses would sometimes show up in the image.  When I removed the diffraction paper from the glasses, I wasn't left with a big enough piece to hold onto. Searching around I was able to find a decently sized sheet that could be cut down to whatever size I want.

When using diffraction paper, the trick is to not let the paper cover the entire image. When I use this, I only cover parts of the frame that I want the streaks to show and I try and stay away from where the subject is. That way, the rest of the image doesn’t degrade in quality from that rainbow haze.  

Like any effect, use it sparingly and enjoy!

If you have tried this before or if you try it in the future, share your images and experiences to the comments.

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Lauchlan Toal's picture

Very cool, only time I've ever used diffraction gratings was for physics - never thought of using it for photography. Thanks for sharing this, a very unique trick for those times when you need a little extra something in an image!

Subhankar Barai's picture

Thanks for sharing. I'm a big fan of trying new items in front of the lens to create interesting perspective and this is a new one. Will try it out for sure.

Eric Reichbaum's picture

You lost me at "Last year I went to a Katy Perry concert"

Jason Vinson's picture

haha was waiting for that one!

geoffreybadner's picture

1980 called. It wants its stock photos back.

Deleted Account's picture

I completely agree. I had all these prism and starburst filters et al circa 1985.

I enjoyed my time there, but would hate to return ;-)

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Yikes. The words of one of my college professors is comming back. "Don't 'decorate' your work unless your change majors to interior design"