Prescriptions for Better Photos
Are you mystified by light spots in your photos like the one here? They're not ghostly spirits or film flaws, they're flare: unwanted light bouncing through the lens onto the film or digital sensor from a bright source, such as the sun, streetlights at night, or lamps indoors. The spots are visual echoes of the source. Here's how to beat flare:
• Shade the lens. As long as the bright object is outside the image frame, the trick is to keep its light from hitting the front of your lens. A lenshood should suffice. If it needs help, try an umbrella, a hat, or your hand. The FlareBuster, a clever flare-blocking card on an adjustable arm that connects to your camera via the hot-shoe ($30 direct, www.flarebuster.com), performs the same task.
• Move to the shadow. If possible, move your camera so that something blocks the bright light. If the flare source is actually in the frame, you may be stuck, but here are two hopes:
• Clean up. Remove all filters and clean the lens glass to eliminate reflection sites, which are a cause of flare.
• Recompose. Sometimes the slightest camera shift removes the flare. As a last resort, recompose to remove the bright source from the frame.
Less filling looks great: You know that adding flash to outdoor portraits helps fill in shadows, especially in bright sunlight. But do your shots now look artificially lit? Use the flash exposure compensation on your built-in or accessory unit to reduce the flash output.
Prescription: -1 EV to start, up to -2 EV.
THE BETTER WAY
An OK Way: Zoom in close to a person, landscape feature, interesting object, whatever, to make it big in the frame. But…If the background provides context, or is full of interesting stuff on its own.
The Better Way: Move in close with your feet, not your lens, then zoom out to a wide angle to fit the subject of interest in the frame. Add some camera tilt and you'll really get a different look!
Bonus tip: Try a vertical while you're at it.