Removing Flare From Your Photographs

March 16, 2016  •  1 Comment

20160216_JMS_ArchesCanyon_0243_367_37120160216_JMS_ArchesCanyon_0243_367_371Mesa Arch at sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah


Have you ever taken a photograph directly into the sun only to get home and notice some weird alien looking globs on your photo?  Well, what you have just experienced is called flare.  Flare is a common phenomonon that happens when icluding a bright point of light, like the sun, in your photograph.  Newer lenses are becoming more and more resistant to flare but I am not aware of any that can stop it completely.  Some people like to leave it in the photograph and that is OK.  Usually, however, I prefer to remove it from my photographs.  Here is a simple technique I use to remove flare from my photographs.  There are other ways to do this but I find this way is easy and produces excellent results with out having to resort to extensive photoshop techniques.  Of course you could just photograph a scene with out a bright light source in it but what fun would that be!


Origianl RAW photo with flare highlighted that I wish to remove

In the image above you can see the colored "Skittles" showing up in my original photo.  They are bright and colorful and really distract the viewer from the beautiful scene. To remove them we need to take one more photo with the same exposure and then use a little photoshop magic to clean things up.  


Origianl RAW file with finger covering the sun.  Notice the absence of flare.

This is the second photo using the same exposure (using any mode other than Manual on your camera may require some adjustment to the exposure) as the original.  The only difference is that I have used my finger to cover the sun.  See any flare?  Nope.  Pretty cool, huh?  The trick is to look at the original file and note where the flare is and try your hardest to place your finger where no flare occurs.  Otherwise you will not be able to blend in the original scene (you would blend in your hand or finger which is not what you want to do).  I think it goes without saying that it is easier done while using a tripod but with a strong hand it can be done without, but I don't recommend it.


Both photos layered in photoshop with a mask on the one with the finger covering the sun.  Notice the small white dots where I have brushed in the areas where the flare occurred

Next you need to bring both photos into photoshop as layers in one document.  Place the photo with your finger in it above the photo that you want to remove the flare from.  Next highlight both layers and click on EDIT - AUTO-ALIGN LAYERS to align the layers.  I am sure you used a tripod but even tripods move a little from frame to frame.  Next add a black layer mask to the photo with the finger in it hidding the photo altogether.  Then set your foreground color to white and select a soft brush about the size of the flare in the oginal picture with an opacity of 100%.  Carefully paint on the layer mask where the flare is located and, presto, watch the flare disappear.  Save your image in the format you like and you now have an image without flare.  


I understand that some people that do not use photoshop often may have a little trouble with some of the instructions such as creating a layer mask or selecting foreground color or using brushes.  If you do, please do not hesitate to email me with questions and I will be happy to assist you in creating the technique as described above.




Tom Cagle(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing Jeff. A simple salutation to getting rid of those pesky flares.
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