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I have taken a few pictures that show these circles, and I'm getting very annoyed at this problem. Seems most common on sunny days. This particular picture is not my own, but it is a good example of what I'm talking about. I can understand certain situations where I could use this to my advantage, but I am wondering right now, is there any way to reverse or prevent this effect? image showing the circle effect

P.S. As I said before, I have realised that I can sometimes use this to my advantage. In that respect, does anyone know how I can create this effect?

P.P.S Does this effect in any way damage my camera sensor? I know that pointing my camera directly at the sun can hurt it, but will this do any harm?

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See also: What causes lens flare? –  mattdm Mar 18 '12 at 23:09
2  
How do you get rid of this? Stop pointing the camera at the sun! –  Olin Lathrop Mar 18 '12 at 23:33
    
Nickel's worth of free advice: When shooting in the general direction of the sun, hold your hand so it casts a shadow on the lens. Voila, no lens flare and no need to purchase a lens hood. –  Dietrich Epp Mar 19 '12 at 0:46
    
whoa! thats some flare! –  fahad.hasan Mar 19 '12 at 3:47
    
JJ Abrams would pay you good money for that camera. ;) –  Mark Whitaker Jul 3 '12 at 23:22

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

This is lens flare, where reflections within the lens end up showing on your photos.

General guidance to minimise it includes:

  • Avoid getting the sun in shot (and ideally, avoid having it just-out-of-frame too)
  • Use a lens hood to shade the front element
  • Try to use lenses that have anti-reflective coatings
  • Keep the front element clean, but follow the lens manufacturers advice about use of wet cleaners (generally, don't; only use a microfibre cloth)
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1  
Off topic for the question I suppose, but could you provide more detail about the guidance not to use wet cleaners? Like, for example why, what happens if you do, and where the evidence is for this? –  James Youngman Mar 18 '12 at 23:53
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@James Youngman I am guessing that some cleaning products might have solvents that "clean" the lens/filter coatings, as well as the dirt/fingerprints...not a very good idea! –  JoséNunoFerreira Mar 19 '12 at 1:46
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Great list, just one thing missing - remove any protective filter, cheap UV filters flare like crazy. –  Nir Mar 19 '12 at 8:12
    
@JamesYoungman manufacturers will always err on the side of caution, and some cleaning fluids could damage some protective layers on the lens element. –  Rowland Shaw Mar 19 '12 at 8:45
    
In addition to what @Rowland said, I've seen liquid cleaners that ate away at the rubberized weather seals and deteriorated them much faster than you would expect. –  cabbey Mar 19 '12 at 8:50

As has been said this is the result of lens flare. Lens flare is caused by a point source light in the field of view of the camera. In this picture that source is the sun. But you can see this effect with other point sources such as a lamp, flashlight, or headlight.

Another factor in the intensity of lens flare is the aperture. A small aperture (large f number) will make lens flare more obvious. You'll also see more lens flare with wide angle lenses and any lens without a lens hood.

So here are a few simple ways to eliminate lens flare: always use a lens hood, do your best not to have a point source light shining into the lens (like the sun), and be mindful of the aperture you're using.

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The aperture is an important factor. It's especially annoying when you carefully eliminate visible flare in the viewfinder (normally at maximum aperture, unless you activate DoF preview), then take the picture and find that closing the aperture brought the flare back. –  Jerry Coffin Jul 4 '12 at 7:31

Another thing to do to help reduce (but usually not eliminate completely) lens flare is to remove any filters you have on your lens. Each piece of glass between your subject and your camera sensor has the potential to add one (or more) additional circle.

I once noticed some terrible flare taking some photos of candles. When I removed the UV filter I had on the lens, the majority (but not all) of the flare went away.

This is one reason many people swear against lens filters. :)

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That is flare from the light source (sun).

Apart from not including the sun in the frame, you can use a lens hood. That will eliminate a lot of it.

Newer and more expensive lenses have coatings that reduce flare to some extent.

Also a dirty lens will exhibit more flare.

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1  
A dirty lens will cause other parts of the picture to be washed out, out of focus smudges and the like, but not the circles the OP is complaining about. Those are from internal reflections, which are surfaces that should not get dirty unless your lens is broken. –  Olin Lathrop Mar 18 '12 at 23:35

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