Creating A Starburst With The Sun

One of my friends recently asked me how to make the sun “spikey” in a photograph.

It took me a minute to understand the question.

She wanted to know how to create a “starburst” effect.

Creating a starburst from the sun is very simple.

First, here’s a look at a photo with a “regular” sun:

The sun is a little bit “spikey” all on its own, but it isn’t a starburst.

Here’s an example of a sun that IS a starburst:

It’s pretty easy to see the difference.

To get the starburst effect, put your camera in Aperture Priority Mode.  (Av for Canon and A for Nikon)

Simply change your aperture (f-stop) to the highest number you can.  For many of you, this will be somewhere in the range of f/16 to f/22.

It really is THAT simple.

Learning this easy “technique” will help you in other situations too.

The light you decide to “sunburst” doesn’t have to be the sun.

For instance, I thought the lines of the architecture at the Hyatt in San Francisco were stunning.

Lines alone might not make a very exciting photo.

By switching to a higher aperture, I was able to make the interior hotel lights into starbursts.

I think it made for a more interesting, visually appealing, photo.

You can also use the starburst effect with street lights at night –

Or for that matter, with any light source.

As a reminder, if you’re shooting at night and you want to use a high aperture, you’ll need a tripod to avoid blurry photos.

(A high aperture lets in less light and results in the shutter being open longer.)

You can practice creating starbursts pretty easily.

Try a “test” shot at f/11.  Then try one at f/16.  Then try one at f/22.

Which one do you like best?

Your results can vary depending on the light, the lens you’re using, and your aperture.

It’s easy to learn, it’s simple to do –

And it can be a lot of fun!

One Response to “Creating A Starburst With The Sun”

  1. Jan's Sushi Bar

    Suzanne – excellent “tutorial”! Thank you very much; who would have thought that closing the aperture to it’s smallest (why DO f-stops have bigger numbers for smaller apertures, anyway??) would create such a stunning affect.


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