Landscape photography: starburst effect


I love shooting into the with the lens pointed AT the sun. More often than not.. the sun wins.
So, the starburst effect is exactly as it sounds.. diffracting a light source so that it looks like a star we drew in pre-school. You can create those with the sun, night lights or even stars I guess.

There are a lot of ways to achieve the effect in photos, simplest ones are using special filters or Photoshop.
Being a snob and a purist, I don’t like Photoshop.. plus I get bored with it easily. So, I wanted to try and use the camera and the available lens at hand.
And again I don’t want to make it complicated by adding that the number of streaks in the starburst is equal to number of blades in the lens, since the diffraction occurs at each point where two blades overlap and spreads in both directions from the center of the lens outwards. See.. I knew I’d lose you.

So anyways, a couple of simple tips for the sun:
1. Get the sun at a lower intensity (mornings , late afternoons, sunset) and hide about 2/3rds of the sun. This wont apply if you are trying to achieve the same effect with a light bulb since the available brightness would be way lower.
2. stop down the aperture as much as possible without losing sharpness and required exposure. f18 with a normal lens works great. For a telephoto you may need to go lower and a wide angle will achieve the best results due to the small focal length.


late afternoon

the sun was still too bright but I had a small time window before mr.bright disappeared behind the hill. At f/18.



This was the mid-day sun.. I wasted 20 minutes and about 25 photos.
At f/20. In any case, bad idea.


3 thoughts on “Landscape photography: starburst effect

    1. Hi Mike! Thanks for visiting. I’m glad you found something useful here 🙂 I’m learning too and document any new tips I learn in an effort to remember. Loved your photos btw.

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