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Unwanted lens flare can be the bane of an outdoor photographer's life. Yet on a sunny or glary day, it can be very difficult to eliminate and can ruin otherwise great photos. And while lens flare can also be a pretty cool effect, let's take a look at a few of the ways that a photographer can reduce or eliminate it altogether.
Use a Hood – The easiest way to eliminate lens flare is to stop the light source (usually the sun) from directly hitting the front of your lens. And the easiest way to do that is with a lens hood. Most lens manufacturers include a lens hood with every lens they ship, but they are also cheap and easy to buy online and can save you a lot of headaches. Get one to match your specific lens and it will be covered (literally and figuratively).
Filters – Filters are a hugely important tool for most outdoor photographers and can add a lot of control to the end look of an image while you're still shooting. But sometimes, extra glass can increase the chances of lens flare. If you're getting lens flare and you don't strictly need any or all of the filters you are using then simply take them off. It's one less chance for the flare gremlins to ruin your shot.
It's So Dirty – Dirty lenses increase the chances of lens flare. Shooting outdoors (especially in certain situations where there is dust like in the desert or salt film like in coastal landscape photography) increases the likelihood that your lenses are getting dirty enough to cause flare. Keep them clean with a micro-fiber cloth or by whatever means you can think of.
Lens Quality – While ebay is a great place to get cheap filters and cheap lenses (I am guilty on both counts) the fact is that poorly coated lenses flare more than good quality lenses. There is a reason that the old adage is to spend your money on glass before anything else – good quality glass makes your job of capturing good quality images far more easy. One of the benefits (among many) is that good quality optics don't suffer from the imperfections that can lead to lens flare as much as cheaper optics.
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Now sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take, you're going to have a shot ruined by lens flare. It happens to everyone. So keep shooting, keep taking precautions and minimise the chances that a little lens flare can ruin your best image.