How To: Remove a Lens Flare using Adobe Photoshop
Lens flare is an effect caused by light particles scattering around the lens system of an imaging device (such as a digital camera or video camera). The end result of lens flaring varies from situation and individual hardware, but it often causes hazing across the image (which affects contrast and colour saturation, usually in a negative way) and artifacts such as grain and pixelation. In almost all cases, lens flare is to the detriment of the photograph, (although it is often used to great effect in cinema).
Adobe Photoshop is well known for being able to add an authentic lens flare effect to images, but it is also capable of removing the real thing from digital photographs. This is useful, as sometimes lens flaring can be a distraction from the original purpose of the composition, especially when the resulting artifacts are rendered over key areas.
To learn how to remove lens flaring from any digital photograph using Adobe Photoshop, follow the process laid out in our guide below.
If you do not already have Adobe Photoshop installed on your Windows computer, head over to the download page and acquire the installer. Once this has finished downloading, run it to commence the setup process and follow the onscreen prompts.
After installation, launch Adobe Photoshop using the shortcut on the desktop and open an image containing lens flare by clicking File, then Open. Locate the image file on your hard drive using the Explorer window that appears and double-click it to load it in Photoshop.
To remove lens flaring from sky areas, first select the Patch tool and ensure it is set to New Selection and Patch Source. Draw around the first len flare using the Patch lasso tool, in a complete circular shape.
Click inside the circular selection area, then drag it to a "good" area of the sky which has no lens flaring. Try and match the colour of the sky as closely as you possibly can. Click the selection area to confirm the sampling and Photoshop will automatically transport the specified area and blend it in.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all the lens flaring artifacts that are present in the sky area of your photograph.
Zoom into a structure within the photograph that has been affected by lens flaring, such as a building or tree. Lens flaring over saturates the natural colour of objects. Select the Sponge tool and choose the Desaturate mode, then set the Flow to around 40-60% to soften its effect. Select a brush size that matches the area you will be working with (zoom in closely if the structure is very small).
Using the Sponge tool, paint over the areas that have been affected by the lens flaring. Repeat this action to gradually desaturate the area.
Once the colour has been drained out of the lens flare, and it begins to match the surrounding area, select the Lasso tool and draw a selection around it. Click Select and choose Feather, and choose a Radius of between 5 and 15 pixels (this part will be mostly trial and error). Click OK to apply the Feather effect, then click Edit and Copy and Edit and Paste to reiterate it.
In the Layers panel, set the Blend mode of the current layer to Multiply, then reduce the Opacity using the Opacity slider until the effect looks natural. You should now find that the lens flare has been convincingly removed - or at least, its effect vastly reduced.
Tips & Advice
- Experiment with the various settings detailed in the guide to get the best possible result for your photograph. Lens flaring can be both subtle and extreme, so some playing around may sometimes be necessary before you are able to convincingly remove its effects from your images.
- Once you are satisfied that you have done your best to remove the lens flaring, click Layer and Flatten Image to merge the edit layers with the rest of the photograph. Click File and Save As to store a new version of the image on your hard drive.