CREATING STARBURST EFFECTS IN-CAMERA
Forget the cynics who insist that ‘these days it’s all done with Photoshop.’ Most of the best effects in our photography are still achieved with old-fashioned camera technique. One popular effect (and one that I used several times in Africa) is the ‘star’ or ‘starburst’ effect and it is very simple to do.
At sunrise and sunset, many of our photos are taken looking directly into the sun. The sun will often appear as a featureless white ‘blob’ in the sky. But if you take your photos with a very small aperture (I tend to go with F-22) it can transform into a sharply-pointed star effect.
By closing down your aperture, of course that also means you will be using a slower shutter speed. This may require a tripod depending on how dark it is, so keep an eye on what is happening with the shutter speed when you choose your F-stop.
The effect is not just for landscapes. Any small, sharp point of light can be shot this way, so buildings/streetscapes at night can also be transformed using the starburst effect.
There are two other factors that I find go into making this work.
- It shouldn’t be too hazy. If the sun is heavily filtered by a lot of smoke/smog/dust in the air, it is harder to get a clear starburst effect.
- The sun should be slightly obscured. If you are looking directly at the unfiltered sun, it is hard to make this work. But if the sun is peeking out from behind a solid object (tree, building, horizon) then you have the best chance of a great result.