Is Flare Always A Problem In A Photograph?

 

The spectacular Alexander Column, illuminated at night, at Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

Flare occurs when non-image forming light reaches the film or sensor via your camera's lens.

The most extreme forms of flare result in strangely, usually polygonal shaped orange/red colored artifacts in your images.

However, less extreme forms of flare can also adversely affect the look and quality of your photographs.

The result, usually considered undesirable, will be images that display lower levels of contrast, sharpness and color saturation.

Lens Flare Is Fleeting, Blissful And Absolutely Spectacular

It was a lovely summer's evening, though a little cool with a breeze coming off the nearby Neva River.

There was some moisture in the air which, when illuminated by one of the nearby artificial light sources, created flare.

The question as to how much flare is required is the trick. I love the atmospheric effect around the street lights on the bottom right hand corner of the frame, but can't make up my mind about the UFO-like flare occurring in the top left of the photo.

 
Couple by the River Neva, St. Petersburg, Russia

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Is Flare Cool In Your Photos? | Yes And No

Back in the day extreme levels of lens flare were usually considered to be the death of a photograph. As a consequence of this belief you did all you could to eliminate the occurrence of flare.

A lens hood or lens shade, which I would normally use ever single time I make a photograph, certainly helps and photographing directly into the light was to be avoided at all costs.

Good advice? Yes! However, it's also just one example of how a so-called rule can be detrimental to the making of emotively powerful and, therefore, successful photographs.

He Has Flair, She Looks Cool In Flares, They Just Dig Flare

Fashions change and rules and approaches need to adopt with the times.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Rather than avoiding flare, at all costs, consider embracing it, when its appropriate to do so, in the pursuit of creativity.

 

A nostalgic view celebrating the glorious Alexander Column at Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

This post is illustrated by two versions of the same original camera generated file made in Palace Square, right in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Known as the Alexander Column, the structure rises an impressive 47.5 meters (i.e., 155 feet and 8 inches) into the sky and is topped by a statue of an angel.

It's quite a sight, particularly at night when illuminated by artificial lighting.

We can refer to the version at the top of this post as the original image. It shows all the flare intact.

The other version, directly above, has been retouched significantly. This is rare for me and you can see just how different the image has become now that I've removed the flare from the top left of the photo.

 
Dome and Statues, St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

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The thing is I like the flare, but feel it might be overpowering in the version at the very top of this post.

However, having the flare on either side of the Alexander Column does add a sense of balance to the image.

It's a conundrum, but one that I'm happy to face. While most tourists to this amazing city were, no doubt, sitting in a restaurant enjoying a meal I can tell you I had the time of my life exploring this part of St. Petersburg at night.

The question is what's the photo about? Is it simply about flare and how we respond to it, on an emotional level, or about the glory of days gone by?

It's important to choose the version that works best visually but, due to the strength of the subject matter, I feel that the look and feel of the image needs to be sympathetic to the underlying theme and narrative associated with the structure.

Which version of the image do you prefer?

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru