How can you eliminate lens flare from your photo?

Eliminating lens flare from your photos

Have you ever taken a photograph against the sun? This might result in lens flare that in some case can add to the atmosphere, but more often than not, you want to avoid. The lens flare is caused by a strong light, like the sun that reflects and scatters within the lens. Zoom lenses often suffer lens flare more as they usually consist of more elements. This is why you often see more than one flare spot. In the photo below you can see the lens flare from the setting sun. In this photo I think the lens flare is a bit disturbing, but taking it out in Photoshop would be almost impossible. What I didn’t thought of then, I tried on another occasion in the Provence.

Lavender field at sunset with evident lens flare (Canon 6D with EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM II @ 80 mm – ISO 100 f/16 1/30 s)

One way to avoid flare is a lens hood, which works great when the strong light source is coming from the side or least does not enter directly in the lens. The hood was present in the photo above, but it wasn’t enough as you can see. In this case however lens flare was unavoidable. We could try to edit the lens flare out of the photo in Photoshop, but this is not a way I prefer. I prefer to get it right in camera as much as possible. So, in a case were I want a certain composition or in certain light conditions, we need a different strategy.

Get it right in camera

The solution is actually quite simple: take one photo with the lens flare. Then take a second photo where you block the light that creates the flare with your lens cap, a piece of thick paper or anything that blocks the light, I sometimes even use my hand. Here you need to be careful to block the least light possible, just enough to avoid the flare. You can then blend them together in Adobe’s Photoshop CC.

This is a lot easier to explain with an example of course…

I had found this beautiful lavender field in the Provence in July and had come back at sunrise to take photos during the golden hour. I took this photo towards the end of the golden hour and the best light was vanishing quickly. There was this tree in the middle of the field which was casting its shadow onto the rows of lavender. I loved the golden light and the purple of the lavender! How could I capture this in a photograph?

Photo with lens flare – no retouching yet (Canon 6D with EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM II @ 170 mm – ISO 100 f/16 1/200 s)

First the photo with the lens flare. As you can see above, the flare is very disturbing in the lower part of the image. It practically removes a lot of detail I want to retain.

Now the second photo. For this photo I used my hand to block the sunlight, and as you can see the flare is gone. Both photos have not yet been retouched, these are just the exported Raw files cropped to a square format.

Photo without lens flare – no retouching yet (Canon 6D with EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS USM II @ 170 mm – ISO 100 f/16 1/200 s

Editing the photos

Now we process both of them in Lightroom CC Classic in such a way that the background is more or less the same. Let’s start with the foreground. I use Lightroom Classic ofr most of my post-processing.

First some general post-processing. Here I have changed the white balance to ‘Shade’ which makes it a lot warmer and added even more magenta because of the lavender. I added contrast with the tone curve and Vibrance to make the colours pop. Of course I did some sharpening in the end. Here’s the intermediate result, you can find the changes I made in the general Development panel of Lightroom. These changes act globally, i.e. on the entire photo.

Intermediate result after general retouching

The lavender is too yellow now. I remember it was much more purple.The sky is ok though, the warm yellow will look great with the purple lavender. So now we create a Gradient and with the brush we de-select the trees at the end of the field. We change the white balance once again and add more magenta and blue. We also create more contrast and sharpness. The selection in red, where the adjustments will be made, now looks like this:

Selection made with the Gradient tool. The adjustments will make the lavender more purple

I have added two more Gradients which Lightroom indicates with the gray dots which only lower exposure in the foreground and in the sky. The first photo is now ready.

The second photo I merely set the same white balance as for the first photo and lowered exposure in the sky a little bit just to match the sky of the first photo. Here are the two photos side by side.

After processing the two photos separately

Putting the pieces together

When we’re satisfied we open them both in Photoshop CC. We create two layers with the photos and add a mask to the top layer. Now selecting the layer mask, we paint out my hand with a black brush. This will reveal the layer below with the sky. Be careful with the trees as they are not exactly the same in the two photos, but with a little patience we can now save the photo and voilà… Strong low light in the top left part of the photo with all the details without lens flare in the lower part!
I hope I didn’t go too fast, but if I did please let me know.

The final result. This is what it looked like!

This is my way of dealing with these situations. There are probably many others and I would love to hear what your favourite method is to take lens flare out of your photo. Write us a comment below.

As you have seen in the photos above, the Provence is beautiful when the lavender blooms. You can really experience summer here. There’s lavender, sunflowers, wheat, vineyards, picturesque little towns, just to name a few. Our 2020 Provence Photo Tour will be on this website soon. During all our tours there will be time to give you an introduction to Adobe’s Lightroom, so you learn how to bring your photos alive. Post-processing brings the best out of your photos and you can unleash your creativity. Our Tours will guide you from start to finish, from taking the photo to editing the photo.

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