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How to fix lens flare in the studio

A common question we get here at our studio is how to fix lens flare created by studio lights.

Our first response, a reflexive one, is to use a lens hood. Often the photographer is stepping a bit too far forward on their set and their lens is catching the side of their main light. The light streaks across the front of the lens, causing lens flare.

But today's example is far worse, and pretty common here at our rental studio. Let's take a peek.

The photographer came into the office and showed me this image of his son:

 

 Yup, that is lens flare. I would call this is a level seven lens flare emergency.

Step One: Clean your lens.

In this case, the photographer's front lens element was... dirty. "Filthy" is another word, as would be "well handled". It had more finger prints and smears than the arts and crafts table at the Children's Museum.

I took a moment to clean it thoroughly with a bit of Eclipse cleaning fluid and a PEC pad.

In this next image you can see that we have significantly reduced the lens flare. But it is still unacceptable. What to do?

 

Step Two: Block the light from hitting the lens.

In this case, the photographer has two strip soft boxes (with fabric grid installed) flanking the subject from behind. It is an excellent choice for lighting this sports portrait. But those two lights are pointing directly into the camera's lens. If you can see the white face of the softbox, there is a good chance for lens flare.

Stop staring into the sun! How do you fix it?  V-Flats to the rescue. We are going to use our v-flats as "flags" to block the light from hitting the lens.

What is a v-flat? Typically they are two large pieces of foam core board, usually 4x8 feet, hinged together with tape.  This image was from years ago when we used to make ours by hinging together two hollow core doors - and while this was more durable - they were freaking heavy.  Now we just use foam core.

We use the v-flats like book ends, blocking the light from the edge lights from hitting the lens. They are easy to position. From the photographers position, just hide the lights. In this image you can see them set up.

 

You can see the right rear edge light only because I have side stepped to the left when I made this shot - I did it only for a sense of perspective. You can also see the boom arm stand on the far left - it is holding the main light which is a small soft box centered over head.

Here is the unedited final image - notice the complete lack of lens flare.

 

Now, this image is unedited and not taken from the desired perspective (read: floor level).

If you want to learn more about any of these concepts, it is all covered clearly and in explicit detail in The Master Lighting Course.

The use of strip softboxes and edge lights are covered throughout Module 4 - Accent Lights.  The use of V-Flats are covered in Module 4, Lesson 7 Flags and V-Flats.  And the entire issue of lens flare has its own lesson, Module 4, Lesson 10 Correcting Lens Flare, were we cover this in even more detail!

We hope you find this helpful!

- Bud Thorpe for The Master Lighting Course.

Editor's Note: This article first appears in the SOPHA Blog on January 1, 2013.  It is reproduced here on our sister site because it is that darn useful!

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