For this week’s 1 Kit, 4 Ways, we used MaryAnn Wise’s Sunflare Photo Overlays. This is one of my all-time favorite kits here at Design House Digital, so I was surprised to hear a bit of grumbling from the Decorators. (That’s a big lie. The DHD Decorators are a classy bunch, and would never grumble. It adds to the story, though, don’t you think?)
There were, however, a few of them that expressed concern. They didn’t know what they were. They didn’t know how to use them. So, along with this week’s 1 Kit, 4 Ways, you get a bonus blog post from me. Try not to get too excited.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional. Keep in mind that this is just what I have learned, and what my experience has been. Don’t take anything I say here as gospel truth, and (by all means) if you’re a professional and what I’m doing is totally messed up, let me live in my ignorant bliss.
So, what is sun flare? Basically, it’s the effect that happens when direct light reflects off of the many pieces of glass in your camera lens. It is caused by a very bright light source (typically the sun), either in the image (which produces visible rays) or shining into the lens but not actually in the image (which produces a haze.) It can give a great effect with photos, like in these that I found on Flikr:
How do you create sun flare? By having a smaller aperture on your camera (which means a higher f-stop) and shooting directly into light. Without making your subject backlit and underexposed.
Wait. You’re like me? A busy on-the-go person, who rarely, and I mean rarely takes your camera off of automatic? And you still want that cool effect? Enter the Sunflare Overlay, and a photo processing program.
See, much like the ‘grumbling Decorator’ comment added to my story above, overlays can really add something to your photos. It’s fun. It’s unique. And, let’s face it, if you’re reading this you probably like playing in Photoshop anyway! So, let’s get to it!
I’m going to show you a few examples, using one photo. This is my husband and I, straight out of the camera:
You’ll notice there’s already a bit of sun flare in it, in the form of a ring cutting across the photo. Since pictures of my husband and I together are pretty rare, and I need to take advantage of every single one, I’m going to try to make this look intentional.
(Silly reminder here, but always remember to work on a duplicate photo when you’re messing around with different textures and overlays. Trust me on this, folks.)
So, here’s the six overlays that come in the kit, exactly as they come. Just opened, and plopped on top of my photo with the top and side edges lined up:
Some are just fine as-is with this photo, but others, not so much. You have to just keep trying until you get one that works with your particular photo. Remember, though, this is an overlay. Just like a brush, it is a tool, and while you can certainly use it as-is, you can also use it to build something more.
So, if you’re feeling adventurous, let’s keep going. (Just don’t blame me when your photos take on a new level of awesomeness.) Let’s see what a bit of playing around produces, shall we? I usually start by changing the blending mode, and I find that I use screen, lighten, and overlay the most. But, what else can you do?
- Rotate, resize, and flip the overlays.
- Move the overlays around on your photo.
- Layer two or more overlays together.
- Add a colored layer mask.
- Change the opacity level.
- Change the fill level.
- Use it to disguise a busy background.
- Erase parts of the overlay (using a soft brush) that are covering the subject, or aren’t in the line of light. If the light source would be blocked in part of your photo, there wouldn’t be sun flares.
As you can see, you can create a lot of different effects, pretty simply. Some are subtle, some are obvious. It all comes down to a matter of personal taste, and what you want your finished photo to look like!
After playing around with things, I’ve found the combination I like. Here’s the Before and After, with all of my editing done:
(To get this effect, I used the 5×7 hex 2 overlay, twice – once in the upper left corner, which is set to lighten mode at 64% opacity, and flipped horizontally for the upper right corner, set to screen mode. I also did a mild cross processing, warmed my photo significantly, faded the colors, and added a slight haze.)
I hope you won’t hesitate to use overlays in your photo processing, and, above all, have fun!