I recently shared this photo on Facebook, Google+, and Flickr, with a quick tip on how to create a starburst effect. In this article, I’d like to share the thought process behind the image, and a few of the less successful images that led up to this final shot.

Final photo of the tree with a small starburst for creative effect

Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, 1/320, f/14, ISO 100

Here’s the first shot of the tree:

First Image

I shot this photo as soon as I saw the tree. It’s a fascinating tree, but not a very interesting photo. There’s just too much happening here. So I moved behind and tried a silhouette against the sky:

First silhouette

Sometimes your first few shots will not be the best, take your time to work the scene. Think about how you can best use the elements in the scene to create an interesting photo. There are 4 elements in this image:

1. The sun
2. The tree
3. The deep blue sky
4. The rocks

I liked the tree, and I wanted to shoot it as a silhouette against the blue sky. I also thought that I could use the sun to create a starburst and add a sense of drama. But after my first silhouette attempt, I realized the sun was just to big and bright to use as a separate visual element. It was upstaging my tree. Not cool. I also didn’t like all the rocks and fuzzy vegetation at the bottom of the frame. Too many distracting elements competing for the viewer’s attention.

So I moved closer, tilted the camera 45 degrees counterclockwise to eliminate some of the foreground, and put the sun behind the tree:

Intermediate image

Then came the decisive moment. I realized that if I allowed just a bit of sun to shine through the ‘V’ formed by two branches, I could bring back a little of that starburst, while preventing it from overpowering the image.

All in all, I shot 12 photos in two minutes to arrive at the photo that I felt was the strongest, the image at the top of this post. The key is work the scene and make small changes until you arrive at the shot you want.

I hope this behinds the scenes look at been helpful. Many of the amazing photos you see have several less interesting shots leading up to them. Next time something catches your eye as interesting, but your first few shots don’t capture that feeling, slow down and work the scene.

I appreciate feedback, please comment below or feel free to connect with me through Facebook or Google+. I’ll do my best to answer questions and reply to comments.