How to Add a Lens Flare to an Image in Adobe Photoshop

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May 10, 2021
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When it comes to photography, I love lens flares. Well, that is, if they’re properly placed. If they are, they add a really cool effect that makes a photo look ultra realistic and sort of nostalgic. They can add mood, if that makes any sense.

In today’s post, I’ll be demonstrating how to go about adding a lens flare filter to a photo. In the sample image, there’s already an abundance of sunshine, which will work perfectly with what I’d like to do with it. As it stands, a young girl is sitting in a field facing the sun. There is very little flare. When I’m finished, the lighting will be different and the photo will have more emotion attached to it. Instead of a regular photo taken in the afternoon, it’ll be transformed to a photo taken on a Sunday afternoon, as the sun is setting and school is just a few hours away. You know the feeling. The weekend is coming to a close.

The Original Image​

Below is the original image that I’ll be using for this post. Notice the wonderful lighting combined with a powerful silhouette look.


Copy the Layer​

Since the Lens Flare filter is applied directly to the image layer itself, it’s important to copy the layer to avoid losing the original. If you apply the filter and work on the original image and then decide you don’t want the flare anymore, you’re going to be out of luck. If you copy the layer and apply the filter to the copy, all you’ll need to do is delete that one layer. You’ll still have the original.

To copy the layer, I’ll simply drag it down to the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and let go.


Once I let go, I’ll be left with the original background layer as well as a copy of it that sits above.

Apply the Lens Flare Filter​

The next thing I’m going to do is to head up to the Filter > Render > Lens Flare menu item and click.


This will open the Lens Flare dialog box.


If you take a look inside this dialog box, you’ll find that it’s not very complex. There is a Brightness slider that affects the actual light source brightness and size. There are also a few different choices for Lens Type that the flare originates from. I suggest you experiment with these two areas to see what looks best with your particular photo. I couldn’t possibly go through everything here – I’d be writing all day.

If you look closely at the small sample image that’s contained inside the Lens Flare dialog box, you’ll see a small cross-hairs that’s centered in the light source for the flare. If you click on that cross-hairs, you’ll have the ability to drag the light source around so it best fits your specific photo. Many folks choose to use the light source as the sun itself, but with the image I’m using, I decided to hide the source behind the model’s hair because that area was already bright. I just brightened it up some more and situated it so the flares were very prevalent.

When I’m happy with the look of the flare, I’ll click OK so it’s applied to the layer copy.

Editing the Look​

Let’s say that I really like the look of the light halos, but am not very fond of the light source in the girl’s hair. The good news is, I’m not stuck with what I just did with the filter. Since I initially made a copy of the original layer and applied the filter to the copy, I can easily use a Layer Mask to erase or lighten some of the effect.

To create a Layer Mask, I’ll click on the layer I want to apply the mask to and then head down to the bottom of the Layers panel. Once there, I’ll just click the Add Layer Mask icon, which will apply a mask to the layer in question.

What’s a layer mask? Glad you asked. If you’re not familiar with these powerful Photoshop features, please take a look at this post:

What are Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop?

Once I complete this step, my Layers panel will look like this:


If you’ll notice the screenshot above, you’ll see that the mask is white. This means that the entire layer is still visible. To hide or reduce parts of the layer, I’ll need to use my Brush Tool with the Color Picker set to black. In the options menu at the top of the workspace, I’ll change the brush Opacity to 50%, so my changes aren’t so drastic.


At this point, I can size my brush accordingly and begin painting away some of the light source effect. As I do this, I’ll see parts of the mask over in the Layers panel begin to turn gray. Those are the areas I partially erased. Take a look at what I’ve done.


The Final Image​

When my masking edits are finished, I can save the file. Here’s what I have:


Notice how the light source is no longer visible in the model’s hair.

When applying these types of filters, you have a lot of flexibility. You just need to remember to use some creativity when working inside of Photoshop. It’s my guess that a beginner would open an image and quickly apply the Lens Flare filter without thinking about the effects. A more advanced user would consider the future and create a duplicate layer to work with to avoid issues down the road. That same more advanced user might also edit the duplicate layer after applying the filter for a more customized look.


May 10, 2021
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Using Masks & Blending Modes to Control Lens Flare in Adobe Photoshop​

If you’ve ever worked with the Lens Flare filter in Adobe Photoshop and wish you could make things easier, this post is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to manipulate the outcome of your lens flare, make your result more flexible, move things around or change its color, this post is really for you. What I’m about to demonstrate down below will knock your socks off. Believe me, the little tricks I’m going to reveal will change the way you create lens flares with this filter forever.

Let me describe the issue (and trust me, I’ve run into this a thousand times). You open a photo into Photoshop, decide that it would look great with some lighting effects, apply the Lens Flare filter and realize that once the filter is applied, you’re stuck with it. In “stuck with it,” I mean that once it’s in the photo layer, you can’t do anything to it – resize, move, change the opacity or anything else.

When I first discovered this pitfall, I thought that I would outsmart Photoshop. I created a new layer and attempted to apply a lens flare to it. The only problem with that was lens flares can’t be created in empty layers. Photoshop pops up a small warning message that tells you so. It’s really a sorry state when there isn’t a good way to create a filter such as this and have some flexibility with how it appears. It sort of reminds me of a decade ago. So much of Photoshop was like this.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you a workaround for this little issue. I’ll use a few methods I described in my many Photoshop posts right here on this blog to create a lens flare in its own layer. By doing this, you’ll have the opportunity to manipulate this new filter layer almost any way you wish. You’re going to love it.

Original Photo​

For this post, I’ll be using a nice sunset over the water shot. The reason I chose this one is because it’s got perfect lighting and a lens flare will be clear and realistic (and very visible). At the bottom of this post, as usual, I’ll display the finished product.


First Steps For Creating a Lens Flare​

Now, if you aren’t sure how to actually create a lens flare, I encourage you to read this post I wrote a while ago. It’ll walk you through all the steps you need to take.

How to Add a Lens Flare to an Image in Adobe Photoshop

From this point on, I’m going to pretend that I already tried the method described in the previous post and decided that I need something more flexible.

The very first thing I’m going to do, after launching the photo into Photoshop, is to create a new layer right above the image layer.


From here, if I went up to the Filter > Render > Lens Flare menu item…


…and clicked, as I described above, while this new empty layer is selected, I’d get this error message:


If you can’t read it clearly, it says Could Not Complete the Lens Flare Command Because the Selected Area is Empty. Okay, fine. Photoshop wants something in the layer? I can do that. I’ll fill it with black.

Filling the Layer​

To fill the layer, I’ll head up to the Edit > Fill menu item and click.


Once I do that, the Fill dialog box will appear. I’ll click the drop-down box and select Black.


Then, I’ll click the OK button, which will create a black layer that completely hides the image layer.

Really Applying the Lens Flare This Time​

At this point, it’s safe to go back the Filter menu and create a lens flare in this freshly filled layer. So, I’ll go back up to the Filter > Render > Lens Flare menu item and click.


Inside of the Lens Flare dialog box, I’ll set things the way I want to see them in the final image (described in my previous post). Then, I’ll click OK to apply this new lens flare to the black layer.


Choosing a Blending Mode​

By now, you’re probably scratching your head wondering what in the heck I’m doing. Well, I basically created a lens flare on top of the image the way I want. The only thing that’s in the way is the black. If you remember back to a few different posts I wrote about blending modes, you surely know what I’m about to do. If you haven’t read those posts, here are the links to them:

What are Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop?

Learning the Difference Between Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop

Exploring Layer Order with Blend Modes in Adobe Photoshop

Quick Keyboard Shortcut Guide For Blending Modes in Adobe Photoshop

There are a few more, but I don’t think they would be helpful in this case.

Anyway, my goal is to make the black disappear. Which blend mode removes black from a layer? Well, I’ll tell you – the Screen blend mode. With this in mind, I’ll go over to the blending mode drop-down and select Screen.


The moment I select that blending mode, all the black in the layer disappears, leaving only the lens flare behind. It’s a beautiful thing.


You have to admit, that’s a pretty cool trick. What’s really nice is that I could now select the layer that the lens flare is in and change the opacity, add another filter to it, transform it – whatever. I could never do these things to the flare if I had applied it the traditional way.

Removing Part of the Lens Flare​

Oftentimes, editors will apply filters like this to their photos, but don’t want all of the filter to be visible. In my case, sure, I want to see the entire lens flare, but if the photo were in a forest or something, I’d perhaps want to erase some of the lighting so it looks like it’s hidden behind the trees. The question is, how can we remove part of a lens flare? The answer is, just as we’d remove anything else in Photoshop. By using a mask.

Let’s say I would like to get rid of the lower flare circle that’s on the left side. To do this, I’d select the layer the flare is on and then click on the Add a Layer Mask button that’s down at the bottom of the Layers panel.


If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see that the layer mask was added to the lens flare layer. Also, you’ll notice that the mask is white. That means everything behind it is showing, or is revealed. To hide something, I’ll need to use the Brush Tool to paint part of the mask black. I’ll select the Brush Tool, change the Color Picker color to black and paint over the lower circle of the flare. It’s that easy. And what’s good is that I can adjust the opacity, size and flow of the brush tool, which gives me tons of flexibility.

When isolating objects into their own layers in Adobe Photoshop, you open up new worlds of opportunity. When things are crammed into the same layer, you’re really shooting yourself in the foot. If you ever want to go back and change something, it’s nearly impossible. With the techniques I showed in this post today, I think you’ll have the ability to move forward with some other types of customizations with similar types of things in the future. Much of this stuff is the same. You just need to know that it’s possible.

Well, I hope I clearly explained how to create a lens flare in its own layer and how you can then modify that layer later on. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!


May 10, 2021
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How to Change the Color of a Lens Flare in Adobe Photoshop​

In my last post, I wrote about how we can create a new layer in order to manipulate and gain greater control over using the Lens Flare filter in Adobe Photoshop. If you haven’t read that post, you really should. I shared some pretty awesome tips in it that you’ll surely want to tuck away for the next time you use this filter.

Using Masks & Blending Modes to Control Lens Flare in Adobe Photoshop

In today’s post, I want to take things a step further. I’d like to discuss how we can use an adjustment layer and a layer mask to change the color of parts of a lens flare using Adobe Photoshop. These two posts, combined, will give you enough ammo to go out there and apply lens flares to your photos with the best of them.

Example Photo​

For today’s post, I’ll be using a photo of two elephants. I chose this photo because it’s in black and white. Any lens flare I add will have its color clearly visible, which is going to make my demonstration all that much easier to see and understand.


Applying the Lens Flare​

In this section, I’ll follow the instructions I shared in my previous post. I’ll get the new layer set up, fill it with black, apply the lens flare and then change the blending option so we can see it over the actual image.


Okay, that’s done. As you can see, the reddish part of the flare is in the upper right corner and the greenish part of the flare is in the lower left corner.

Changing the Color of Part of the Lens Flare​

I’m going to pretend that I want to modify this photo so it looks more cool than realistic. To do this, I need to change the color of the part of the flare in the upper corner from red to bluish glow with an orange ring at the center. The thing is, I don’t want to alter any other colors in the flare. I’d like to keep them the way they currently are.

To accomplish my task, I’m going to create a Color Balance adjustment layer. I’ll also remove the Screen blending option on the lens flare layer for the time being, so I can see the color change more accurately.


Before I go any further though, let’s take a quick look at the current lens flare colors.


It’s the large lower part of the flare that I’d like to keep just as it is.

Now, I’ll push the top slider in the Color Balance Properties tab all the way to the left.


Now, let’s take a look at the colors of the entire lens flare once again.


Uh oh. We’ve got problems. By me pushing that top slider, I not only changed the color of the top half of the flare, but I also changed the color of the bottom one. Well, I should say that I changed the color slightly and made it much brighter. Not cool. I need to change that. I want it to stay sort of subdued in the background and certainly not so bright.

Since adjustment layers come with built in masks, all I need to do is use the Brush Tool to paint whatever the area is I’d like to preserve, black. Painting an area of a mask black will hide that part of the layer. I’ll do that right now.


Ah, that’s better. Now, if you compare the previous image with the one directly above it, you should see that the lower circle is back to it’s dull self.

Okay, I made the necessary changes to the color of the flare. I wonder if that’s all I need to do. I’ll change the blending mode on the lens flare layer back to Screen so we can get a look at the entire image with the altered lens flare applied.


Oh wow. This is definitely not what I had envisioned at all. It appears that by using the Color Balance adjustment layer over both the lens flare layer and the original image, I colored everything blue, except for that one part I hid by painting it black. If we were in person, I’d be asking you what you think I should do. Since we’re not in person, I’ll just have to tell you. This is a great trick too, so write it down.

To have the adjustment layer mask only affect the layer that’s immediately below it, I’ll need to apply what’s referred to as a Layer Clipping Mask. These are handy tools that let you clearly define what you’d like altered in Photoshop. Luckily, they’re simple to apply and take advantage of. Now, don’t get too crazy about Layer Clipping Masks. I’ll be writing a lot more about them in the future because you can get very creative with their uses. For now, I’m going to simply activate the option.

Do do this, I’ll head back into the Color Balance Properties panel and click on the small clipping mask button at the bottom part of it.


If you look at the above screenshot, you’ll see that I circled the clipping mask button as well as the small arrow that indicates its identity in the Layers panel.

To be more clear, the button I clicked on in the Properties panel says This Adjustment Clips to the Layer (Click to Affect All Layers Below) when I hover over it.

Now, let’s see if my image looks the way I want it to.


Yes, that’s perfect. Now, instead of the top corner glowing red, it glows blue. That’s just what I wanted.

That’s pretty much all you need to know if you’d like to change the color of part of a lens flare in Adobe Photoshop. It’s really easy and the best part is, you can apply the same principles to different types of projects. You can use adjustment layers, masks and clipping masks for a variety of things. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!