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Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...

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5 Tips for Combating Red-Eye

Red-eye doesn't have to ruin your photos. Learn 5 simple tricks to avoid and eliminate this undesirable photographic effect.


starburst effect

Kira Greene , Dec 14, 2008; 07:03 p.m.

Is it true that without a special starburst effect filter one can use a small aperture (f/16 and down) and get that cool starburst-y look to lights in their photos?
How come this never works for me? I have a D80 and currently am spending quaility time with my prime lens (50mm 1.4 D) but I have an 18-135mm and a 75-300mm zoom. :) Christmas came early this year.
I would like to get a photo of the lights on our tree and have the lights have that effect. The lights are the normal little ones, but I want to be able to do this on lots of lights, including the sun. Thanks!

Responses

Nic Coury , Dec 14, 2008; 07:17 p.m.

Fast aperture is good. Something like f/2 and you need just the right shutter speed, too fast won't show any light and too slow will blow them out.

Lex Jenkins , Dec 14, 2008; 07:35 p.m.

Cokin and other filter manufacturers offer specialty filters that will produce this effect.

Otherwise, with a "naked" lens (no special effect filters), you'll need the opposite of shooting wide open. Stop down to the minimum or near minimum aperture, f/16-f/32. This will produce starburst flare effects with point light sources, such as small bright decorative lights, street lights, etc. You'll lose some apparent sharpness due to diffraction, but the effect is seldom as bad as it's made out to be in technical discussions. And the starburst effect is usually minimal and noticeable only with the brightest of tiny point light sources.

If you prefer shallow depth of field, with only the subject in focus and everything else softly out of focus, you'll need a special effect filter. Cokin's are cheap and fun to play with.

Dave Wyman , Dec 14, 2008; 07:49 p.m.

>I would like to get a photo of the lights on our tree and have the lights have that effect.<
>How come this never works for me?<
To help you out, Kira - post, or at least explain, what you are getting when you make a photograph using the technique under discussion. We'll have a better chance of helping you.
Come back and show us an example of a photo that's not worked the way you want it to.
I'm going to guess that one problem is exposure latitude. If you can see the star burst effect, everything around it, particularly indoors, will simply be too dark. This effect works outdoors with the sun, but you'll have to put the sun behind something - a boulder, a person's head, a tree, etc., so that just a tiny portion of the sun itself shows (and be careful, you can easily and irreparably damage your eyes).
Cokin filters and the like allow you to aim your camera directly at the light source, without worry about exposure latitude.



Starburst effect - Yosemite

Tommy Lee , Dec 14, 2008; 09:34 p.m.

Beside stopping down the lens, to help the point light(s) to burst, you also need aperture blades that form sharp edges. The two lens you have, 18-135mm (rounded aperture blades) and 75-300 (nine blades) are not good in the bursting department. You want an older Nikkor that look something like this. The burst like rays comes from the edges of these aperture blades. No edges = No burst :-)


6 edges (even) form 12 burst rays

Kira Greene , Dec 15, 2008; 12:26 a.m.

Ok, I think I am trying it with too much background light. I deleted all my attempts, and as I was posting, I realized I should have saved some to show what I was doing. I tend to just get blur, from slower shutter speeds and trying to do that without a tripod. And now I don't think my light source is bright enough.
Now that it was pointed out, when I see sun photos, the sun usually is peeking out from behind an object, I haven't messed around much with sun portraits, for fear of damaging my eyes.
I also think that a very good point was made about the aperture blades. Can I get this effect sans filter with my 50mm? Perhaps I should just get the filter, especially because I want the shallow depth of field with only the subject in focus.
I will try again, and post what I get, I always have to crop the photo so small to get it to upload, I just started shooting RAW - boy do I feel cool about that - but I am not familar with View NX and to upload photos I have to convert to JPG files.
Thank You all for your advice and information. Photo attempts coming soon...

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