Learn how to easily create the starburst (sunburst) effect 

What is a Starburst?

The Starburst effect (it’s also referred to as the Sunstar or Sunburst effect) is about capturing the sun or external light and causing a Starburst effect within your image. You can use street lights at night or place a dark object partially blocking the sun to achieve the star pattern.

Why create with a Starburst?

It’s a terrific way to create magical points of interest in your images. It is also a really fun way to shoot into the sun or an external light source.

Tips for capturing the Starburst effect.

Try using only a wide-angle lens (or equivalent on a cropped sensor i.e. 10 – 20mm), to create amazing starburst effects.

Rocky Starburst

I specifically photographed this image for my monthly BootCamp Challenge which has pushed my photography to new levels.
What I love about this image is the starburst effect of that early morning sun above those epic cliffs as well as the purple and green lens flare. The vertical cracks in the rocks as well as the diagonal lens flare and cliff tops make leading lines – leading the viewer to the starburst sunrise.
SETTINGS: Aperture priority mode f/22 on 24mm lens. Multiple exposures to capture details in the highlights and shadows.

  • Try shooting in Aperture Priority mode and shoot with a closed down aperture, try f/11 to f/22 to create a larger depth of field.
  • You may need to put your Aperture Exposure Compensation on -1ev to -3ev to properly light and focus on your main subject, without the sun being overexposed.
  • Put your shutter speed and ISO in auto mode and free your mind from all the technical settings and concentrate on your composition.
  • Often clear weather and early in the day is best for this type of image, perhaps try sunrise.
  • Use a small intense light source, such as the sun or streetlights.
  • Try putting a dark object partially blocking the sun, to highlight the starburst effect.
  • Consider your main Point of Interest, what is the ONE thing you wish to focus on with the supporting element of the starburst? Perhaps the starburst is your main focal area? Try to keep things simple, don’t overload your image.
  • Don’t forget to check out what else is in your frame, you want to remove any distractions.
  • Move around within your scene and capture your subject from the best possible angle or vantage point.
  • Remember to HAVE FUN while you are creating – be present and un-rushed!

WARNING – Staring into the sun for long periods of time can be dangerous, so try blocking the sun as much as possible with your subject while looking into the viewfinder. So be careful and don’t look for too long.

How can you make your images more artistic?

Start with f/16 and possibly 2 stops (minus) exposure compensation to achieve a good starburst effect. Focus on your subject and then try moving your camera around to get your main focal point directly in front of the sun.

Experiment with different subjects, from nature to portraits. You can create some very artistic silhouette style portraits using a Starburst effect behind your subject. By using a flash you can light your portrait and capture the starburst behind them.

Go out into nature and capture starbursts through the trees, or foliage. Use mountains and rock formations to partially block the sun. Go out at dusk or at night and use the street lights to create fascinating starburst effects in combination with other lighting elements like car light trails.

Slow down and enjoy the creative process. Decide on your main point of interest and shoot intentionally.

Photo BootCamp Magazine

Let’s have a look at what our BootCamp members have created with their Starburst effect in their images.

And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!

Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…

Creating Triptych

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Inside BootCamp Magazine

Featured Artist

Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Here is our featured artist of the month and also our featured cover image, Kathleen Muhle, from the United States.

This is the only image for this month and she was not happy with anything she had taken lately so she sorted through some of her old images to find one to post. This is the Landscape Arch in Arches National Park in Moab UT. Late afternoon so the sun is diagonal and she moved around until she was able to get the starburst under the arch. This was in spring so the walk was not too hot. Hope you enjoy the photo.

Comment: Peter Brody“Hi, Kathleen. I like this photo better, as it uses the shrubbery to frame and balance the arch above. Also, my eyes start in the lower left corner and then curve up along the rocks to the star burst. With the upper photo, the fence leads me out of the picture. Great scenery! Thanks for sharing.”

Creating Triptych

Active Members

Let’s take a look at some of awesome Starburst images our BootCamp members have created.

We’ll start with Rachel Gilmour from Australia. The lockdown is starting to ease, however, the case numbers are up in their area, so she will stick with the yards for now. This was taken one morning in their front patio. ( Located in the Wollongong, NSW area ) Jade, plus raindrops = Diamonds! :o) Shot with her 7 blades “nifty fifty”.

long exposure

Comment: Sara O”Brien“Beautiful image Rachel. It’s too bad the bottom leaf appears not to have any water on it. Regardless, this is a stunning image and a perfect starburst with a touch of spider web in the background. Well done.”

Next, we have Kerrie Clarke from Australia. She’s been absent for the past week. kind of hit rock bottom. Still under Melbourne’s hard lockdown. Both of her sons and one grandson have coronavirus. Her youngest was taken to hospital. They haven’t had much in the way of sun lately, but she shot this one morning in her garden. It is a small, unopened side bud on a bearded Iris plant, strongly backlit with a rather poor starburst. Kerrie know it’s technically not great, but it reflects how she’s feeling. She took 3 shots in manual mode, using the histogram to determine each shot. She ended up using just two of those which gave her the darkest, most uncluttered background with the brightest area on the flower bud. Merged and edited in LR.

Comment: Ruth Lopez“Kerrie I am so sorry to hear all that you’re going through. I feel you’ve captured your emotions in this shot very well. Despite the darkness the sun still breaks through, lighting up the flower in a way that we rarely see. To me, it represents hope and resilience, and it’s quite beautiful. May you and your family be well soon.”

Creating Triptych

Lynton Stacey from Australia is next. Taken at Christie’s Beach, Adelaide, near his house. He wanted to have this shot as a full silhouette, but that didn’t work as well as the partial silhouette.

Comment: Richard Hutson“Lynton, Yes, this is excellent! Now you have a much stronger image with the roof structure attached to the upper left corner supported with three posts sheltering the couple and their dog in the left third of the frame and the beautiful starburst as the main attraction. Rule of threes! Well done!”

Then we have Romy Villanueva from the Philippines. This one is from the archive. The last starburst through the coconut trees just before the sun vanished on the horizon.

Comment: Lynton Stacey“Beautiful colours Romy, with the clouds and the reflection in the water. The starburst effect doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the photo. Well done.”

And next we have Ruth Lopez from the United States. The prior residents of their new home left this statue behind. She likes to imagine there is an interesting story about this character. She’s taken shots of her dancing beneath the full moon. Now the statue gets to dance on the balcony at sunrise. Ruth tried using a reflector to lighten up the side facing the camera to no avail, so she ended up just setting the statue on top of it!

Comment: Jenny Reid“Ruth, What a lovely starburst, my quick initial glance at the image, I thought it was a real person until you mentioned a statue.”

And finally, we have Phill Bird from the United States. He was admiring the incredible autumn colours in their Ash tree and noticed the sun peaking through between the leaves and branches and thought of this challenge. He loves the pairing of the yellow leaves with the patch of blue sky and the starburst in the middle. Now everywhere he look he see starburst opportunities.

Comment: Kerrie Clarke“Hi Phill, you’ve captured a great starburst, and some really beautiful light through the canopy of the Ash tree. I really like the form and lines created by the dark branches , and I feel that they add extra interest to this image. Well done.”


  • Starburst, also known as Sunstar or Sunburst effect.
  • The Starburst effect is about capturing the sun or external light and causing a Starburst effect within your image.
  • You can use street lights at night or place a dark object partially blocking the sun to achieve the star pattern.
  • It’s a terrific way to create magical points of interest in your images.
  • It is also a really fun way to shoot into the sun or an external light source.
  • By using a wide-angle lens and a closed down aperture, like f/11 to f/22 to create a larger depth of field.

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