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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 69 of 107

Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 69 of 107

Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light


Lesson Info

Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light

So one of the other things that you can do at sunrise and sunset, especially with that twilight background, is doing silhouette shots. And these are really good shots in my mind because they're simple. They're easy to understand. They're sometimes very graphic and visual. They work well in small sizes. And so anytime you have something with significant shapes with that color in the background, whether it's twilight or ranging to the oranges and the reds, it's gonna look really, really good. And so this will work in natural environments. In our city environments as well. It typically for a fairly brief time as to when you get that right mix of that twilight color. And you do need to be in that open terrain so that you can see the sky. And so just look for your distinctive shapes. And you want as distinctive shape as you can. And the best color you can. And you will need to underexpose. And this is one of those areas where you need to underexpose by at least 2/3rds of a stop. Usually, mi...

nus one is where you're gonna need to be on these. Sometimes minus two depending on how dark it is. And so this is, I think if I remember it, this is in Mali. Camel train moving salt back and forth. Gasworks park in Seattle. Great sunset. I was in a, I was in, where was I in? Colorado in this case. And I was looking for a viewpoint where I could see where the sun was. And I was kind of stuck in this burned out forest. But then I realized, oh wait, the forest actually makes for a really nice silhouette against these colors. The Saint Charles Bridge in Prague. Those shapes. That nice blue in the background. Now one of the things you might have noticed from that last shot is the starburst from the lights there. And so a lot of people have been kind of wondering well is that natural and what's going on? And it's kind of artificial. It's added by the camera. And the aperture and the lens in the camera. And so it adds a nice little just extra flair, sparkle to the photograph. And so if you do wanna get this starburst in your photographs there is a couple of ways that you can make some adjustments in your camera to really make it show up. First up, it's gonna happen when you stop your aperture down farther in the f 11 to f 22 range. Typically the more you stop it down, the more significant that starburst is going to be. Now you'll notice in this photograph very easily that you can see the starburst on the bottom half and not on the top half. And that's because you have a dark background. Lights are gonna show up very, more easily in front of a dark background than lights on a light background. And so you need that light in front of something dark. And so you need to find dark objects that you can put around the sun so it's kind of peeking out around it. You can't just get it with the sun high up in the sky. And it tends to work better with wide angle lenses as well. And so it just, adds a nice little extra element in a photograph. And so it's something that it can be overused I guess. You know, it can become a clique. But it's a nice little extra element that I like to have. And will cause me to sometimes stop down a little bit further than I need for other reasons in depth of field. I'm just trying to go for more of a starburst on it. What's interesting is that the starburst that you get can look quite different from one lens to the next to the next. And this has to do with how the lens is built and what's going on in the lens. 'Cause this is a direct relationship to the apertures. And where they are and what they're doing in the lens. And so some lenses have five, six, or seven blades. Some have more. Some have less. But what's gonna happen is where those intersections are is causing those bursts of lines or the concentration of lines. And so what's happening is that with five blades you're gonna get these five rays coming out. But, funny thing about the way lenses work is that you're also gonna get light rays coming out the opposite of those directions as well. And so with five blades you're actually going to get 10 points to your star. Now with six, when they go in the opposite direction, they're going the exact direction of another blade there. So with six, and an even number, it's six again. And so it always ends up being in an even number of star points. But it may vary depending on how many blades you have in your camera. So seven then becomes 14 points. And so it always ends up in an even number of points. And so here's examples from those types of lenses right there. And so that's why you'll get a different look to the starburst. And so once again, let's see, in this case we were shooting at f 11. It's with a 50 millimeter lens. You don't have to have a wide angle lens. But it could become a little bit more easily seen there. And once again, you're not seeing it on the top half because light against light just isn't very easy to see. But light against dark can be much more easily seen. So if you do wanna see this, the idea is to kind of obscure the sun into this little tiny point that you can get it to kind of come through. And so if you can find a little pinpoint for the sun to shine through, you're gonna get a more distinctive starburst. And you can get starbursts obviously with other light sources as well. And each lens will have its own starburst quality. I haven't seen too many lens reviews that rate lenses on their starburst quality. But I think if they wanna, if those lens reviewers out there wanna add another category I think that'd be a good category. I'd like to know how well that does. Kena? John, I do have a starburst question. So before we get too far past that. This is from Karon, who said, is there is a way to avoid the lens flair when capturing the starburst? So, you know that you normally do get. Is there a way to avoid that? So if you don't want this, you could shoot wide open. Because, especially, you know, if you shoot wide open there's gonna be no aperture there. And so wide open will completely avoid it. Sorry, I meant like the extra lens flair. Oh, the extra lens flair. Not when you are going for the starburst. Right. And so, so you are shooting at something bright. And, no. (laughing) There really is no way of avoiding that. If it's something, if you're shooting a starburst of this light but there's another light that's causing the problem a lens hood, or putting your hand up, or something to block that would block that. But if it's in the frame, it's in the frame. And I notice this on movies that I watch. And, you know, they're panning along and there's the sun. And there is this lens flair that happens opposite the center point. So if the sun's up here, and this is the middle of the frame, you're gonna see this point. And as it moves, it's exactly opposite the center point. And, you could spend a lot of money digitally to take it out in a movie or you could spend a lot of time photo shopping to try to reduce it. But that's just part of the inherent qualities of a lens. Some lenses are better at reducing those. And there's a lot of interesting things that they do in lenses. They put this, a black flocking material around the edges, so that light doesn't bounce off the edges of the frame. Leica goes to great strengths to advertise the fact that they paint the edges of their elements so that it doesn't reflect light off the edge of the element as it's going through the lens so that you don't have as many lens problems. So, typically higher quality lenses will have less problems than lower quality ones.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Photographic Characteristics
  3. Camera Types
  4. Viewing System
  5. Lens System
  6. Shutter System
  7. Shutter Speed Basics
  8. Shutter Speed Effects
  9. Camera & Lens Stabilization
  10. Quiz: Shutter Speeds
  11. Camera Settings Overview
  12. Drive Mode & Buffer
  13. Camera Settings - Details
  14. Sensor Size: Basics
  15. Sensor Sizes: Compared
  16. The Sensor - Pixels
  17. Sensor Size - ISO
  18. Focal Length
  19. Angle of View
  20. Practicing Angle of View
  21. Quiz: Focal Length
  22. Fisheye Lens
  23. Tilt & Shift Lens
  24. Subject Zone
  25. Lens Speed
  26. Aperture
  27. Depth of Field (DOF)
  28. Quiz: Apertures
  29. Lens Quality
  30. Light Meter Basics
  31. Histogram
  32. Quiz: Histogram
  33. Dynamic Range
  34. Exposure Modes
  35. Sunny 16 Rule
  36. Exposure Bracketing
  37. Exposure Values
  38. Quiz: Exposure
  39. Focusing Basics
  40. Auto Focus (AF)
  41. Focus Points
  42. Focus Tracking
  43. Focusing Q&A
  44. Manual Focus
  45. Digital Focus Assistance
  46. Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF)
  47. Quiz: Depth of Field
  48. DOF Preview & Focusing Screens
  49. Lens Sharpness
  50. Camera Movement
  51. Advanced Techniques
  52. Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance
  53. Auto Focus Calibration
  54. Focus Stacking
  55. Quiz: Focus Problems
  56. Camera Accessories
  57. Lens Accessories
  58. Lens Adaptors & Cleaning
  59. Macro
  60. Flash & Lighting
  61. Tripods
  62. Cases
  63. Being a Photographer
  64. Natural Light: Direct Sunlight
  65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight
  66. Natural Light: Mixed
  67. Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  68. Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  69. Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  70. Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light
  71. Quiz: Lighting
  72. Light Management
  73. Flash Fundamentals
  74. Speedlights
  75. Built-In & Add-On Flash
  76. Off-Camera Flash
  77. Off-Camera Flash For Portraits
  78. Advanced Flash Techniques
  79. Editing Assessments & Goals
  80. Editing Set-Up
  81. Importing Images
  82. Organizing Your Images
  83. Culling Images
  84. Categories of Development
  85. Adjusting Exposure
  86. Remove Distractions
  87. Cropping Your Images
  88. Composition Basics
  89. Point of View
  90. Angle of View
  91. Subject Placement
  92. Framing Your Shot
  93. Foreground & Background & Scale
  94. Rule of Odds
  95. Bad Composition
  96. Multi-Shot Techniques
  97. Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction
  98. Human Vision vs The Camera
  99. Visual Perception
  100. Quiz: Visual Balance
  101. Visual Drama
  102. Elements of Design
  103. Texture & Negative Space
  104. Black & White & Color
  105. The Photographic Process
  106. Working the Shot
  107. What Makes a Great Photograph?


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan