Photoshop's Lens Flare filter is a wonderful way to add hazy light to your images, and also a great way to brighten an underexposed image. In this tutorial, I will show you a couple of tricks to get the most out of the Lens Flare filters.
First, duplicate your background.
With your duplicated layer selected, add your lens flare by selecting Filter>Render>Lens Flare:
Photoshop has four lens flare filters. I tend to use the 35mm and 100mm prime almost exclusively because I feel as though they are the closest to mimicking an actual lens flare that would occur if you were shooting into the sun. I have selected the 35mm prime for this example, with the Brightness at 195%. This value will vary from image to image, so be sure to experiment. I am starting off with a very bright flare to figure out the placement, but I am going to reduce the effect in my next steps. You can move the flare by clicking on it in the preview box:
IMPORTANT NOTE: to get the most natural looking lens flares, always place your filter in the spot where the natural light is coming into the original image
I have reduced the opacity of my Background copy to 61%, which softens the effect to make it appear more natural:
Making a quick levels adjustment will add even more haze to the image to blend the lens flare more seamlessly. Here, I created a new Levels Layer, and moved the left Output Levels slider (the arrow in the blacks) towards the right/whites - this creates a hazy effect in your image.
Now, I am going to go back and click on my Background copy in my Layers panel because I would like to add one more lens flare. If you find that your flare is too heavy on one side of your image, you can go back and add more flares in order to balance out the light. In this case, I am adding a new flare to the top/center of my frame.
Also, you will see that I am using the 105mm prime. The 105mm has a slightly cooler tone to it than the 35mm, so by layering the 105mm on top, I am preventing my lens flares from becoming too warm right out of the gate. This is something that can easily be corrected if you do accidentally make your flares to warm or cool, but I generally like to tackle color correction at the source rather than creating extra steps for myself:
Finally, I am going to make a slight curves adjustment to reduce the overall exposure and contrast of the image. Sometimes, you may find that the Lens Flare filters will overexpose your image too drastically, so a Curves bump will help bring things back to a nice range of tonality.
As you experiment with lens flares, you will definitely find that these filters work better on some images than on others. Here are a few examples where lens flares work really well:
- backlit images
- images with windows visible
- images where the window is just barely out of the frame and the subject is lit by the window
- outdoor images with even light light (morning and evening light work really well with the hazy quality of the lens flare filters)
Check out our Sun Flare Light Overlays for a wide variety of Sun Flares and Hazes that will add beautiful light and color to your images.