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The Truth About Lens Flare

I’m sulens-flare-boy-park-sippo-massillonre that my photo school classmates all remember the explanation by our instructors, “The best way to describe lens flare is….well, lens flare sucks!”  Lens flare is caused by light scattering around after hitting the front element of the lens. Lens flare causes lower contrast, loss of sharpness, and degrades the overall image.  I stuck to this “Flare Sucks” rule most of my 3o+ year career.  I even taught this misconception to my children.  My son asked once after reviewing another photographer’s engagement photos, “Why do some pros shoot towards the sun and get all that flare stuff happening in their shots? It looks so washed out.”  My reply, “Good question! I really don’t know why they shoot like that.”

Today, I have a much better reply: “Because their clients love it!”  I stumbled upon this conclusion while showing clients images in-camera. Inevitably they see that one I tried to skip past with a bunch of flare.  I hear the client say, “Ooh!” so I back up a few frames to see they like the one with flare.  Yes, that flare that is supposed to “suck.”  I try to explain to them that this was a mistake and they don’t really want that shot, then it hits me.  They are the client and the client is always right. Right? I know this is true with my clients. Our mission is to make images that they love, even if we have to break a “photo rule.”

While I remembered for so long to follow the rules, I forgot the old adage: Some rules are meant to be broken. So, now I find myself looking for cool lens flare shots.  I’m no longer concerned with breaking this rule if it creates a great image that makes my clients  say “Ooh!”.  I have to admit, sometimes I say “Ooh!” too!


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