How to create realistic DIY sunstar overlays for landscape photos

Aug 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to create realistic DIY sunstar overlays for landscape photos

Aug 21, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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When you’re shooting landscapes in bright sunlight, a sunstar can be a really neat addition to your images. You won’t always capture it in-camera, and in this case, you can add a sunstar in post. Christian Möhrle of The Phlog Photography has created custom sunstar overlays which he can later add to images. In this video, he’ll show you how you can make your own with practically no budget.

YouTube video

Sunstars occur when you use a small aperture of around f/16-f/22 and shoot into the sun. To create them, Christian used different lenses (11 up to around 30 mm focal length). You’ll also need a piece of thin plywood, a drill, and two tripods: one to place your camera, and the other to place the plywood.

You will need to drill a small hole in the plywood and then attach it to the tripod. Of course, you can improvise and fix the plywood somewhere else, but it’s important that it doesn’t move. Christian suggests that you also paint the surface black because it will make it easier to add the overlays later.

Before you start shooting, remove any filters from the lenses because they could create refractions. Then, use a microfiber cloth to carefully clean the lenses to get a really clean looking sunstar later. With your plywood fixed, align the camera with it so that the sun shines right through the hole into the center of the frame. If you align everything right, you’ll see the sunstar effect on your camera display.

As I mentioned, use a small aperture, somewhere between f/16 and /f22. You want to try and make everything around the sunstar black, so use a high shutter speed (Christian used 1/250 sec). Different lenses will result in different looking sunstars, but in Christian’s opinion, the best ones came out after using wider angle lenses. He suggests that you don’t use a telephoto lens for shooting into the sun this way, since this can kill the sensor.

Now that you have the photos, it’s time for some editing. You want everything but the sunstar to be black, so you can add contrast, adjust blacks and sometimes also exposure. Christian notes that you can also add some texture to make the stars look sharper, which also kind of increases the length of “star lines.” By changing the color temperature you can also make the sunstar warmer or colder.

Finally, you can add one of these sunstar overlays to one of your images. Just place it above the photo in Photoshop, change the blending mode from Normal to Screen, and you’re done!

This can be a cool little project for boring days, as it was in Christian’s case. Considering that it’s 37° C here where I live right now, I guess this could also be a great project if it’s too hot to spend the entire day outside shooting landscapes.

[DIY Sunstar Overlays for your Landscape Photos (with Files!) |The Phlog Photography]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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2 responses to “How to create realistic DIY sunstar overlays for landscape photos”

  1. Steven Burton Avatar
    Steven Burton

    How to fake something you should have been able to do when you took the photo originally.
    Fake.
    Fake.
    Fake.
    Have we really sank so low?

    1. dwest Avatar
      dwest

      Douchebag comment.