Sun stars can be a great addition to your landscape and wildlife images – adding that extra sparkle and flare creates great impact in a photo. A sun star is that typical “sun burst” you might see breaking over a hilltop. Most photographers enjoy shooting in the golden hour of the day, when the sun is low in the sky, producing stunning conditions. By adding a sun star, however, you can put a metaphorical cherry on the top of your photo. When shooting outside of the golden hour, such as around midday, placing a well executed sun star into the frame can completely transform your images from a generic daytime shot into something much more interesting! As with anything like this, use it in moderation and only add them when they’re needed rather than making a habit of it, as they can become a bit ‘marmite’ or overpowering in some scenes.
Here’s a list of 6 things you need to be aware of when creating sun stars in landscape scenes with your camera.
1. Choose the right aperture
The biggest factor in the ability to create good sun stars is choosing the right aperture; generally speaking smaller is better here. This is where having a camera that lets you adjust the aperture value is vital, and something around the f/16 – f/22 mark is perfect for making large, crisp looking stars. For me, I find f/16 a good balance between depth of field, image sharpness, and sun star size with my lenses. Smaller apertures will also let less light in, prolonging the shutter speed, so make sure to use a tripod to combat any camera shake. Also, keep your ISO nice and low for maximum image quality and reduced visible noise.
This comparison shows f/10 and f/13, at similar focal lengths, on the same lens:
Whilst there are still sun stars in the puffin image, you can see how much more pronounced the stars are with the slightly smaller aperture of f/13.