I've been doing a lot of late afternoon photography and the weather has been pretty clear so the sunset has been a large influence over the pictures I've been taking. One problem I've been having is that when I want to include the sun in the image, I get a horrible rainbow coloured reflection on my images. The same goes for night photography and trying to shoot street lights etc.

I am using a lens hood and I'm not using any filters on my lens. My camera is a Nikon D5100 and I've been using the kit 18-55 lens and prime 35mm 1.8 lens.

any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

This is around sunset unedited

This is at night, look to the middle left


Lens hoods are used only to keep out light from outside the field of view, so they're not relevant when the light source is part of the image.

Generally, lens flares are unwanted artifacts of the lens, so to eliminate them you just have to get a better lens - or filter, if you use any, since filters can also cause them.

However, your description "horrible rainbow coloured reflection" sounds like a diffraction artifact:

One form of flare is specific to digital cameras. With the sun shining on an unprotected lens, a group of small rainbows appears. This artifact is formed by internal diffraction on the image sensor, which acts like a diffraction grating. Unlike true lens flare, this artifact is not visible in the eyepiece of a digital SLR camera, making it more difficult to avoid.

If that is what you're encountering (can you post an example image?), I'm not sure what can be done against it other than getting a different camera - a full frame sensor should be much less susceptible to this effect, but I can't imagine it to be normal the way you describe, so maybe there is some other factor.

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    If the OP is using a filter he should definitely remove it when shooting into the sun like this, never mind its quality. It can do no good whatsoever to have it there, and it can very well be detrimental. – Staale S Mar 19 '14 at 10:41
  • Michael, I've added two images showing the issue. Thank you for your detailed answer. I've been assuming there's no way around it other than angles and timing, it just would be nice not to see it! :) – DanSmedley Mar 19 '14 at 13:13
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    @DanSmedley: that looks a lot less serious than you made it sound. The first shows ghosting, against which only a better lens or a different angle would help. The second however, is showing aperture diffraction - you reduce that by using a larger aperture (smaller f number). See examples here of the effect: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/29599/… – Michael Borgwardt Mar 19 '14 at 14:20
  • Thanks a lot for your advice, I'll be going out again this week and I'll be sure to apply it. One of the links you sent suggested just working it into the shot, so I think I'll try my best to make it look like a part of the scene :) – DanSmedley Mar 19 '14 at 15:48

Unfortunately there is no better option than removing any filters you have on the lens, making sure the lens is clean and getting a better lens. Most of those kind of artifacts come from reflections within the lens and are an actual characteristic of the lens.

Removing filters reduces the number of layers of glass it can reflect of of. Cleaning the lens removes any contaminants on the lens it could reflect off of and getting a better lens gets improved optics that are less susceptible to internal reflections.

  • Thanks AJ, I'll try giving my lens a clean and like I said yo Michael, I think it may be best to work with it instead of against it for the time being :) – DanSmedley Mar 19 '14 at 15:48

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