Friday, October 19, 2018


You don't have to buy or download an app or purchase software to create starbursts or sunbursts. I am going to add a photography skill to your repertoire this month. You will be able to say, "Yes, I did this using my photographic skills." So, here we go.

I have enjoyed doing this for many years. It adds more interest to my photos and enhances my compositions. I have added "bursts" to street/road/highway lights, car lights, light bulbs, etc. I can even get a sunburst from the sun. 

The solution lies in f/stops, yes, it's that simple. The larger the f/stop (i.e., the smaller the aperture in your lens), like f/10 or higher, the greater the starburst. Also, larger light sources, like the sun, require a larger f/stop. In other words, you don't want to use f/stops like f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6. Your particular lens make & model and focal length may make a difference as well. All this to say, you will need to bracket your f/stops until you get the amount of "burst" you want. Experiment. This is more art than science.

With that introduction, here are some examples. I will also share some "behind the camera" explanations on some of these examples.

For this early morning downtown scene, with a focal length of 25 mm, I used f/11 to get this nice starburst from the street light.

I don't have the data on this one, but I'm guessing I used a focal length of 17 mm and an f/stop of f/11-f/16.

With a 10 mm lens, I only needed an f/stop of f/8 to get these nice starbursts on the hotel.

With a huge light source, the sun itself, I had to go with f/32, with a focal length of 48 mm.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not, in Branson, Missouri. With a focal length of 24 mm, I used an f/stop of f/16, which added a nice touch to the side of the building. Oh, and that left side of the building that looks like it's about to fall off--it's actually built like that!

I included this image to show that when you don't use a small aperture (high number f/stop), you don't get starbursts. I used an f/6.3 and a focal length of 48 mm. 

On this Titanic-shaped building, which is actually a museum, I used f/16, with a 25 mm lens.

The Denver Art Museum is one of the most uniquely designed museum buildings I've seen.
It's a big building, so I had to use a 17 mm lens, set at f/18.

I'll leave you with one more sunburst. Again, it's not a small street light or light on a building--it's the almighty sun. In order to get a 'burst,' I used an f/25 with a focal length of 36 mm.

Yes, a pattern does develop when you see these examples. The two key points are:

1) The larger the light source, like the sun, the more f/stop we need to get a 'burst.'
2) The smaller the focal length of the lens the less f/stop we need to get a 'burst.' For example, the aperture size in a 10 mm lens, like f/8 used on the hotel above, is smaller than f/8 on a 70 mm lens. It's not the f/stop, per se, but the size of the aperture that makes the difference. 

Sometimes I will use more f/stop than needed, just to make sure. An example would be the Denver Art Museum above. I could probably have used f/14 or f/16 (with a 17 mm focal length), but, since nothing was moving, I opted for f/18.  

I hope this encouraged you to go out get some 'bursts.' Experiment with different focal lengths, different f/stops, and different light sources--the three key factors. Have fun.