I've attached a picture I saw on England's Telegraph newspaper website.

In the photo, nice linear streaks protrude from the streetlights.

How is this effect achieved? I'd prefer a technique that takes place when shooting, but I'd appreciate any suggestion that also involves Photoshop.

Additionally, if I want to take a similar photo indoors (i.e. with more ambient light), is it the same process?

EQUIPMENT: I shoot with a Nikon D7000

Singapore Race

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    Huh. I have looked all over that photo, and while there are a few light streak, I don't see any "nice" ones. Feb 10 '13 at 23:17
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    lol but I beg to differ, I think the streaks on the lighting adds a nice effect Feb 11 '13 at 4:04
  • I got some pictures like that once, but then I cleaned my lens. Feb 11 '13 at 13:53

This doesn't look like diffraction starbursts. You can create stars by sing a very small aperture (F/11-F/22 - the lower the stronger star effect) and the number of "rays" are linked to how many aperture blades you have. Even number results in the same number of rays. Odd numbers result in twice the blades at half strength. (Or rather, the even number of blades have double the strength of the odd ones). Another control factor you have is that straight blades make stronger stars, and curved blades make them weaker.

Since you will close the lens so much you most likely need a tripod.

See examples here:


The lowest count of blades I know off is 5, so I doubt there's one with 4? Thus, it must be a filter.


This shot has been taken with star 4 filter. You could simulate it with photoshop, but I prefer to put a filter and have that effect while shooting.

There are multiple different start filters: star 4, star 6, star 8 - number tells how many streaks from each strong light point you will get.

As for the second part, it does not matter outdoors or indoors, as long as you have strong light sources (small light sources, like lamps, not blown-out windows or any other big surfaces).

  • If there's a light filter on the camera, why isn't the rest of it slightly distorted? I'm thinking of the paper glasses they give out at Disneyworld sometimes, where all lights appear streaky, but so does everything else. Feb 11 '13 at 4:21
  • @Imray, distortions are not there, because filter is made from glass. It degrades the quality a bit, in similar manner like UV filters. But in addition to that star filters have a tiny grid which makes bright light sources to have light streaks. Feb 11 '13 at 7:47

I can't say how this was achieved but here is one way to replicate it:

Use a tripod. Set your camera to aperture priority and set the aperture to something high (like f/22). Point light sources will produce this starburst effect due to diffraction.

Play around and try different apertures.

There are also special filters that do this but I have no experience with them.

This image has a few components that make it unlikely that it was shot like this: It was shot just after dusk (because the sky is blue) but the car has now motion blur so a reasonably short shutter speed must have been used.


This could be an effect of diffraction that occurs when aperture is set high. I would expect that this picture was taken at dusk, not night as it looks like, combined with high aperture and fast shutter to capture what I assume is moving car, you could get dark image with flares.

Other thing that I would note is that lenses are specially constructed and coated to avoid flares, but not all can be eliminated in all circumstances, or if lens doesn't make a flare, you could put a glass in front of it that would.


This is easy to do in-camera, but there is a plugin available to do a variety of effects in post-processing: Topaz Star Effects. With the plugin you can adjust the number of points, the brightness, size, glow, colour and other variables.

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