Removing Lens Flare in Photoshop

Also works with Affinity Photo

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at removing lens flare in Photoshop, but you don’t have to use Photoshop with this technique. The method we’ll use only needs an editor that supports layers, allowing you to merge two images. This means it works with Adobe Photoshop Elements, Affinity Photo, On1 Photo RAW and any other layer-based editor.

The Problem of Lens Flare

Lens flare occurs when you shoot towards the sun. It happens because the glass in your filters or lens reflects light. The best approach to removing lens flare is to avoid it in the first place, but this isn’t always possible. But even if you can’t avoid lens flare completely, there are a few steps you can take to reduce or minimise it.

The number one way to reduce lens flare is to keep your lenses and filters clean. Dirt and grease on the surface of filters can easily cause problems. As soon as you point a dirty lens towards the sun you notice the effect. Watch out too for filters that have become scratched over time. Filter surfaces can easily become covered with very fine scratches, increasing the problem with lens flare.

Although filters can cause problems with lens flare, they can sometimes help reduce it. I have noticed that when shooting into the sun if I use one my Kase ND Grads, the flare is often less severe. If you have similar filters, it’s worth experimenting with them.

Example of reduced lens flare

Manually Removing Lens Flare

Avoiding lens flare is always preferable to fix it, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. That’s when you probably need to remove the damaged areas using tools like the Clone Stamp and Healing Brush.

There is though another method that’s often quicker and easier. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Mount your camera on a tripod to compose and take your photo.
  2. Without moving anything or changing any of the camera settings, place your finger in front of the lens to block the sun. When you do this, it hides the lens flare. Now take a second shot with your finger in this position.
  3. Download the two images to your computer for processing. Adjust the images and to match closely in terms of colour and brightness.
  4. Load both adjusted images into Photoshop (or your photo editor), combining them as two layers in the same image.
  5. Arrange the layers so the image with flare is on the bottom and the image without flare (showing your finger) is on top.
  6. Add a mask to the top layer and invert it. This hides the top image layer, revealing the image that has lens flare.
  7. Select a soft white Paint Brush from the Tools Palette and paint on the black mask in the areas affected by the lens flare. This removes the lens flare by revealing part of the top layer.

Video Demonstration

Watch the video to see an example of removing lens flare using this method in Photoshop.

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Next time you find yourself struggling to shoot into the sun because of lens flare, remember to shoot two versions of the scene. The first version shows the lens flare but the second doesn’t because you covered the sun with your finger. You can then combine the two images in Photoshop to remove the lens flare. This method is quicker and usually provides better results than using the Clone Stamp or Healing Brush tool to fix the problem.

​More Photography Tutorials

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More Photoshop Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Photoshop Tutorials page.

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