Ahhh the dreamy sunflare, it is so beautiful, creamy, dreamy but not always an easy feat. Sometimes instead of dreamy, you get washed out and dull or perhaps just missed it altogether.
Here are 3 quick tips to better sunflare with natural and/or artificial light.
1. Get the sun low in the sky
If the sun is high in the sky, like it is during the mid-day, you will have a hard time getting the angle of the sun into your lens to create the flare. The closer the sun is to the horizon line, the easier it will be to capture it on the edge of your lens when photographing your subject at a normal angle.
This along with other reasons is why I prefer to schedule 90% of my sessions 2 hours before sunset to capture this beautiful light at the end of the day.
2. Don't let the sun overwhelm the picture
If you let in too much sun, it can wash out your image and leave the colors and contrast lack luster. You may need to play around with the exact angle you need to get your desired effect and it will depend on the time of day, your location, the background etc. Basically the moral of the story is do not be afraid to experiment a bit!
Don't get me wrong, this can be done beautifully and artistically but the image on the right (above) is a bit too washed out from the sun on the guy's face for my typical style (making the image B&W helped hide the color issues of the sun overpowering the image), where I much prefer the image on the left and how the light sunflare adds to the romantic feel of the image.
3. Have a small light source like a flash on the dance floor? Try a longer lens to accentuate the flare!
With a 50mm lens shooting into your flash, the flare might be quite small and lackluster, but throw something like the 135mm f/2.0 on at f/2 and check out the beautiful, creamy flare you get!
Same as with the 'real' sun though, be mindful of placement as your flash, like the sun can cause washing out of details and colors on your subjects.
Bonus Tip: Open up your aperture for a larger/smoother flare and close it down for more of a starburst effect. Although it is my typical style to shoot fairly wide open, the image above was taken at f/11 to get that beautiful starburst effect with the sun coming through the trees!
I love using sunflare artistically in my work, but it is not something I use on every shoot and I don't think you should be pressured to feel you should either. Photography is an art, express yourself the way you feel led and take pictures that reflect your unique style and perspective, over time your ideal client will find you because of a natural attraction to your work.