31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Sun Stars

Yesterday’s Post was Take A Portrait.

We are at the halfway point in 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments!

Today we will cover sun stars. This one is actually pretty simple and can be a lot of fun. First, tell me what the main difference is between these two photos of the Treasury at Petra in Jordan:

The answer is, the sun in the second shot has far more ‘rays’ coming out of it. This is because I used different aperture settings between the two shots.

In the first photo, the f-stop is f/10 and in the second photo the f-stop is f/22. When the aperture of a lens is closed down further, the light coming in around those aperture blades shapes differently when it comes from a strong source, like the sun (or light bulbs).

That’s not to say you don’t get any star effect when the aperture is open further, it is simply more pronounced the further you stop down the aperture. You can use this at night to great affect when there are multiple light sources. In these two examples of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru, the first is shot at f/5.6 and the second at f/22.

Some star in the lights. But we can do better.


Here’s the experiment you can run:

1) Set your camera to Aperture priority or Manual.

2) Jack up your aperture to the highest number it will accomplish.

3) Find yourself a light source. The sun works, but so do candles.

4) Frame your image (from this point forward, no excuse for boring composition!!).

5) Take a shot!


This technique can be a lot of fun but it can also become overused. The normal habit for most starting out in photography is to play around excessively with a new technique until they settle in to not wanting to use it all the time. That’s normal, so go play!

Things To Consider:

  • Your shutter speed will slow down when using this technique. Keep that in mind if shooting at night (the second shot of Cusco was a 2 second exposure with the camera held against a column).
  • You might need to increase your ISO to compensate.
  • Play around with your exposure as metering can be freaked out by pointing your camera near the sun.
  • If there is dust on your sensor, a smaller aperture (higher number) will show it. Be prepared to clean things in the computer if this is the case.
  • Increasing Contrast and/or Clarity in your post processing software to make the rays of the light show more.

Tomorrow’s topic will be Let’s See If The AC Guys Fix The Air Conditioning In The House Or If Dissolve Into A Puddle First. Or maybe it’ll be Panning Blur.

31+ Days Of Photography Experiments is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures through practical experiments on the material found in 31+ Days To Better Photography. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

2 Replies to “31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Sun Stars”

  1. Pingback: 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Take A Portrait | The Carey Adventures

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