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"Create a Starburst Effect"
December 09, 2012

Dear Stay Focussed reader,

Welcome to December's newsletter, and merry Christmas!

I'm one of those individuals that resist bringing out the decorations until the last minute, but this year we were a bit early.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • We have two small children (and if they had it their way we'd be putting up the Christmas decorations as soon as Halloween had been packed away)
  • Grandma and Grandad were staying for the weekend and it was an easy source of entertainment!
So, as we played some festive tunes, knocked back a glass or two of mulled wine, and watched Grandma and Grandad sit and read the papers on the sofa (seriously!!!) I turned my eye to photography.

Christmas lights with starburst effect

Create a starburst effect

A starburst effect is what you can see in the photo of our tree here (not the best photo, I admit, but it does illustrate the starburst effect). It's where points of light appear as little starbursts, adding a feel of specialty to the photo.

Years ago photographers attached filters on their lenses to do this. The filter was plain glass with fine lines etched into it. The fine lines created the starburst effect.

Since digital photography took off, and people decided Photoshop was a better way to do everything that filters used to do, the filters were taken off the shelves, burried in large holes, never to see the light of day again.

But Photoshop can't do everything. And one thing it can't easily recreate is a starburst effect (it can be done by using brushes and painting them on, but it's very fiddly).

How to re-create the starburst effect of old...

So how did I get my starbursts...

First, you'll need a digital SLR, and you need to set the aperture to the smallest setting (which means the highest 'f' number).

You then sit the camera on a tripod (or sit it on a solid surface and use the self timer to trip the shutter) and take the photo.

You'll need to keep the camera still because, with such a small aperture, the shutter will be open for quite a few seconds and everything will look blurry if the camera isn't rock steady.

Once taken - hey presto! Starbursts!
NB: this won't work with most compact cameras because they don't have real apertures, just electronics that mimic the effect of changing the aperture. It's the aperture 'blades' that create the starburst effect, and these are only really used on digital SLR camera lenses.

Find out more about the aperture and how to control it here.

More tips next month, until then let me wish you a very merry Christmas, and if you haven't already, why not join me on Facebook?

Darrell. on Facebook

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