Creating creative lens flare with your iPhone

iPhone Photography Series

Welcome back to iDownloadBlog’s lessons in iPhone photography. The last couple of lessons we have been exploring a the basics of photography (iPhone or otherwise). We learned about exposure, white balance, and white balance locking. Because we have covered the basics, I thought it would be fun to explore a more radical facets of iPhone photography: lens flare!

For years, photographers have come up with all sorts of ingenious ways to reduce that distracting little ball of light that appears in your photos when you point your camera at something bright. Very expensive lenses are measured by their ability to combat against this. You can easily pay $2,000 or more for glass that is lens flare resistant. Personally, it has never really bothered me. I kind of dig it. So much so, I seek it out. So in today’s lesson I thought it would be fun to show you how to achieve it as well as enhance it using the new app Light Camera App – Mark I…

What is it?

This is lens flare. I’m no physicist, but I understand that it is created by bright light entering the lens at an angle and bounces around.

How do you use it to our advantage?

Here is the scene we are working with. At first glance, it’s not all that interesting. Actually, pretty boring. However, that tree there with the sun behind will be the perfect candidate for some good old fashioned flare!

The key to creating and controlling lens flare with your iPhone is twofold. First, it’s always good to have a subject between you and the sun. Second, small movements make a huge difference. In this image, I moved closer and framed the tree so the sun was directly behind it.

Here are a few examples of just how different lens flare can be with only a few small movements. You really need to pay attention to the light. I was able to achieve this variety of effects by simply moving my iPhone a few inches up and down to control how much sun was visible to it.

Enhancing Lens Flare

You will find lens flare is a slippery little creature and very hard to control. It reminds me a bit of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Something I have recently discovered is the Light Camera – Mark I. It provides a lot of unique effects, but one effect that is does great is lens flare. Here’s a quick video tutorial I did about how to use Light Camera – Mark I.

For this image, I performed two simple adjustments.

1) I applied the ‘Moonlight Kiss’ filter.

2) I applied the ‘Supernova’ filter and swiped it into position.

Here’s final image compliments of Light Camera – Mark I!



I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit about lens flare and how to control it. I’m looking forward to seeing how you use this technique in your own images so make sure to tag your Instagram photos with #iDBLensFlare.

Book News

I recently published my new coffee table iBook ‘Big World Little Lens – Postcards 2012‘ to the iTunes Book store. It features 50 of my favorite iPhone images from 2012 annotated with the apps I used to craft them. It’s only $1.99. If you are looking for some inspiration to fuel your own creative adventure, grab a copy. You will also receive 10 free high-resolution iPad wallpapers. I hope you like it!

Justin Balog is an award winning photographer and film maker. You can follow is daily creative adventures at or learn more about iPhone Photography in his iBook ‘Big World Little Lens‘. Click Here for the iPad Version. To find out more about Justin, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.