3 techniques for utilizing lens flares

3 Techniques For Utilizing Lens Flares

3 Techniques For Utilizing Lens Flares

Lens flares can up the value of your scene when used correctly. Here are 3 excellent techniques!

Lens flares can add a touch of polish to any shot, increasing the production value and adding an extra element that can make an otherwise uninteresting shot look exciting (provided it’s implemented well).

If you don’t want to spend time or money on dealing with specialized lenses or filters (and want even more control over your shot), here are a few great alternatives that can yield some fantastic lens flare results for your scene.

Use Lens Flare Overlays (or Make Your Own)

You can find thousands of lens flare/light leak clips online, and they’re all dead-simple to implement in your shot. Simply drag and drop the desired clip, and adjust blending modes until you’re satisfied. We covered how blending modes work in After Effects, so that article may be helpful in getting the precise look you’re going for. Typically, Add or Screen are probably going to give you the best results.

Additionally, you may want to stack lens flares if you need more punch, or reduce the opacity of the lens flare layer if you need something more subtle.  

You can also pair your lens flare clip with our completely free Lens Dirt Overlay Collection for some intense and creative shots that have a nice, gritty feel to them. You can animate the opacity of the dirt overlay layer to coincide with the lens flare/light leak swells to enhance the realism of the shot.
It’s a good idea to be selective when choosing lens flare overlays so that you can ensure a seamless fit within your shot. Some considerations are the color of the lens flares, motion, and shape of the flare. If you’d like to have a more customized lens flare, a cheap and very creative way to bring lens flare overlays into your post-production shot is to film your own.

You can check out the video below for some quick tips on how to shoot your own lens flares and light leaks. Just be careful not to damage your camera’s sensor!

Hack an Anamorphic Look In-Camera

Your shot may work well with lens flare overlays, but if you have a lot of prominent set lighting you want to accentuate, you would be better off doing as much as you can in-camera. The cool thing about this technique is that you don’t have to track light locations as you would in post. All your set lighting will respond appropriately to this method.

While there are a ton of videos out there showcasing how to achieve this look, the video below does a great job of quickly explaining the hack with some great results. 
The Run N Gun YouTube channel advises in the description and comments to use a lens with a focal length 50mm or above, with a 6 or 8 lb. fishing line for similar results.  

This video showcased using a fishing line positioned vertically on the lens to achieve horizontal lens flares, but the technique also works inversely, as well! So positioning the fishing line horizontally yields vertical lens flares.

Use a Plugin

Using third-party plugins can be a great way to incorporate lens flares into your shot, and you’ll have the added flexibility of fully customizing them to suit your needs. Two of the best plugins for generating lens flares are Red Giant’s Knoll Light Factory and Video Copilot’s Optical Flares.

Optical Flares is compatible only with After Effects, while Knoll Light Factory is compatible with both AE and Premiere Pro.

Both plugins offer a tremendous amount of presets for a simplified workflow, but they both also give you the ability to design your own custom lens flares from scratch, which is incredibly helpful in generating lens flares that match the look of your scene.

Red Giant just released version 3.1 of Knoll Light Factory as part of its awesome new VFX Suite, so you can get it bundled with other great plugins as well. Check it out below!
While you probably don’t want a lens flare overkill on every VFX shot, any of these techniques can be used with a little finesse to make your scene look awesome!

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