Peak Lens Flare: Have We Reached It?

It's the vintage lenses that first introduced the flare. Light intensifies in one section of the image and causing shapes and light diffraction that, back in the old days, were un-usable and discarded. Today it's something many filmmakers strive to add to the look they're going for.

It's either captured in camera or added in post. According to the video it gives a sense of rebelliousness and being rogue and shooting without rules, but for me, it puts the viewer in the head of the person filming the event or story too. It gives the person an idea of what it must be like to experience the sight and therefore makes it more real too. 

It is easier to get lens flares in older lenses. Today the lenses are coated to remove the risk of getting flares. The shape of the lens flare depends on the lens aperture and amount of blades that create the aperture, although you can add these in post or on your iPhone after you've taken the shot. In my opinion, best lens flare app for iPhone is the Lens Distortions app. They also make a Lens Distortion tools for the desktop to be used in Lightroom and Photoshop. 

Do you use lens flares in your footage or still photography? Do you think it's a trend that'll come and go or something that's part of photography and image making? 

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10 Comments

Anonymous's picture

Yes (shake's fist JJ Abrams).

I spent years in film photography getting rid of flare, grain, CA, etc., and now that the technology is so good that we hardly ever get it, peeople think that putting it in their images make them more realistic, organic (what does that even mean), and improved.

Bah, humbug! Adding flare does NOT make us see it the way the viewer saw it unless they have that much flare in their eyeballs. Enough already.

Chris K.'s picture

For my film/video production I always look for an excuse to add flares to my shots, but for my photography I don't. I think it's a preference which has turned into a gimmick. Like gimbals and drones.

I love vintage lenses for the imperfections they create (softness, lower contrast, distortions, CA, etc. all more than flares) which take the edge off the resolution of my RED. If you choose to flare your lens, it should be to enhance your story rather then distracting/taking away then use it. Much like any other tool you choose to use for any shoot.

Anonymous's picture

For me it snaps me out of the momentary suspension of disbelief. It's like seeing a boom mic drop into frame.

Chris K.'s picture

Like I said, it’s a preference. If you flare a lens just to do it, where it isn’t a service to the story then that’s what I can’t stand. Suspension of disbelief unfortunately is dead in this generation-It’s now about visual style.
Maybe once everyone gets over lens flares-which won’t be soon since there’s about to drop sub $10k 2x anamorphics entering the market and everyone is going to jump on those (Atlas Orion, Xelmus, and TLS rehoused Leica R anamorphics are dropping soon)

Anonymous's picture

I don't think I'd agree on suspension of disbelief. The Best Picture this year was a fantasy film. The most popular TV shows are Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and whatever other Marvel Universe crap is being produced. The big blockbusters are almost entirely fantasy/sci-fi.

Chris K.'s picture

I don't see how suspension of disbelief translates to the popularity of fantasy films lately-and just not spectacle, story, action, etc. But then again there were people who thought The Martian was based on a true story.

I've always thought that adding lens flare was stupid. I want the viewer of my images to feel as though they are there, not peering through a camera lens.

Philipp Pley's picture

It's just a question of whether you want to have an accurate documentation of reality or add an artistic element. I don't think this is a question of right or wrong: all comments seem to be so adverse to the flares. Sun flares around sunset/sunrise can help establish the scene and give the viewer a feel of the mood of a scene.

Funny, I have never seen lens flare at a sunrise nor sunset. I have seen “God rays”, but that is a different thing which can add to the mood, but I always find lens flares take from it.

The only time I think flare helps, is when the scene is one through a pane of glass, such as from inside an automobile, through the windshield, where I normally would see flares, anyway. Another (way overdone but) artistic use of flares is CSI Miami, where one gets the feeling of looking through layers of glass windows & doors at a silent scene, and you are drawn into the room & conversation when the flares disappears, putting you on the same side of the glass, as the audio comes up.

Aside from such use, I find it quite unnecessary.