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How to add lens flare in Photoshop the right way

Adding a lens flare can make or break a certain image. The best kind of lens flare is the natural one taken through the actual lens of a camera, but if we do it the right way, we can recreate it using Photoshop just as good.

  Author: mat | Version: CS5 | 26th February 2013 |  

First of all find a picture where a lens flare would suit in and look believable.

I'm going to add it to the upper left corner of the image featuring a wakeboarder in action.


Press Ctrl + J to duplicate the layer.


In the menu click Filter, Render and choose Lens Flare.

In the Lense Flare settings window set the Brightness to about 165% (+/- 10) and choose the 105mm Prime for the Lens Type.


Now position the Lens Flare with your mouse so it will fit your photo's mood. Like I said I'm placing it in the upper left corner.

Click OK.


Here is my Lens Flare. It's still a bit blue and weird looking. Let's make it more realistic.


Click Add vector mask button (see picture).


Choose the Brush Tool (B for a keyboard shorcut).


Right click the document, choose a soft brush, set a large size and reduce hardness to 0%.


In the toolbar, set the Opacity of the brush to about 2%.


The black foreground color should be set.

If it's not press D to set the white foreground color.


No carefully remove the blue circle parts that are visible at the edge of the flare by clicking it once or twice.

You can set the size of the brush bigger then the actual flare and simply click on it once or twice.


Like that.


You can now reduce the size of the brush (see Step 8) and increase the Opacity of the brush (see Step 9) to about 35%.

Carefully paint over the main subject of your Photo to uncover it from the flare which will make it stand out more.


Let's now add a new adjustment layer to bring some of that warm sunny color in our lens flare.

In the menu click Layer, New Adjustment Layer and choose Color Balance...


Choose the Shadows tone first.

Push the first slider a bit towards Red and the third slider a bit towards the Yellow (see picture).

Do the same thing for the Midtones and Highlights Tone as well. Observe your image as you slide towards the red and yellow. Don't over do it and don't go over + or - 20.


Close the Adjustments when done.


This is how my sunny lens flare looks like at this point.


It's still a bit blueish, let's make it disappear for good.


Choose the duplicated layer (see picture).


Press Ctrl + L to open Levels.

In the Levels settings window, choose the Blue channel.


And push the right Output Levels slider a bit to the left, to about 245.


You are done! It takes a bit of practice and it really depends of the image you choose to add the lens flare too as it can quickly look forced and unnatural.

This tutorial was inspired by fstoppers.com.

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