Starburst Effect

Simple straightforward guide to creating the starburst effect in camera.Macarthur-causeway-panorama-miami-florida

Hi there

I have had a few questions recently on how to achieve the ‘starburst’ effect on lights in your photographs. I have been asked whether this is an effect added in through photoshop or postproduction or by adding a filter to add onto your lens. Whilst it is possible to add this effect in this way – in this tutorial I focus solely on creating the effect in-camera.


What is the Starburst Effect?

The Starburst effect adds light beams around bright light sources in your image. It can make an image more dynamic and add an additional focal point of interest to your photographs. This technique works really well at night with street lamps but can also be used during the day with the sunshine or other bright lights.

There are artificial ways to to create the effect in photoshop and there are even filters that you can put onto your lens to accentuate this type of effect, but these are not really necessary and the effect will be much more realistic (as most things) by getting correct in camera.

How to create the effect


The trick to creating starburst effect is actually pretty simple – all you have to do is just to stop down the lens and choose a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) to around f16 or higher. As the effect is created by the light refracting on the aperture blades inside the lens, the number of ‘spikes’ of the starburst effect relates to the number of these blades.

I would recommend not to use too small an aperture (beyond f22) as your image may become less sharp due to lens refraction. Please click here to read my straightforward guide for more information about aperture.

Don’t forget that the full moon is bright enough as a light source to use to create the effect with as well!



I hope you find this tip useful!

Once again please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about this post (or anything else on my website), and to pass this tutorial onto any photographer friends you think may benefit from it.

Until next time!

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