PHOTO 101: Creating light (or sun) stars

josh fassbind | photography 101

In this second lesson, I will teach you how to create a light (or sun) star. It's actually really easy!

When taking photos at night it's sometimes nice to have street lights forming beautiful stars. Or, during the day, having the sun do the exact same thing.

This technique is really easy and you don't need any expensive equipment. Again, for this lesson, I tought Anka the technique and she went out to try it with her Nikon D5000 and 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

To create a star with a bright light source you need to set your aperture to the smallest setting possible. Remember, your aperture is the the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken and is determined by an f-number. The higher the f-number, the smaller the opening. So in this case, you need to set your aperture at least at f/16 but if you can go to f/22 or f/32, that's even better!

Obviously, if you are shooting at night, you will need to compensate for that small aperture with a longer shutter speed to allow more light to pour in on the sensor.

So here are Anka's attempts at creating light stars (these shots are straight out of the camera, no retouching at all):

Light stars in Geneva

Wysteria Lane by night

And here is an example of a sun star I shot this past fall for my Project Geneva:

Woman throwing leaves

Notice that in the first picture, the light sources are much harder than in the second picture. The harder the light source, the nicer the star.

There, now you have it! Just remember that sometimes light stars are nice and add value to your picture and sometimes they don't. It's up to you to decide whether or not they are worth it for the shot you are about to take.

Now go out there and try it! And if you feel like it, come back here and post your results.