Add Lens Flare To Your Image The Right Way
I’m sure most of you have taken one look at the lens flare filter in Photoshop and decided to quickly over look it. Well I am here to say that you might want to reconsider and give it a chance. With the right steps and processing one can actually make it look decent. Now I’m sure there will be a few people that will still think adding flare is asinine, and to that I say to each their own.
Before you start this process you should shoot or choose an image that would already look believable having had flare. Make sure there is a directional light source that you can exaggerate with the flare. I see a lot of lens flare that is irrationally added and the image will tend to be very “cheesy” for lack of a better word.
Once in Photoshop always make a duplicate layer. Then go to Filter-Render-Lens Flare. Choose The 105 Prime. I feel that the 105 prime is the best choice of the lens flare filters due to the lack of cheesy orbs the other ones add. I usually have the brightness between 140 and 170. Place the lens flare in accordance to the light that is already hitting the subject. Now create a layer mask for that layer and use a large super soft black brush at a low opacity between 1 and 10% to erase the orbs. You can change the brush size to erase some of the flare off the subject to make them pop out.
So now you have this flare but it is a blueish light that probably does not match your subject. Open up the color balance adjustment layer and under shadows, midtones, and highlights add a bit of yellow and red on each slider. Don’t go over board, you should not be + or – more than 10 to 20, especially on the highlight sliders. The image’s color balance will still not match up at this point. Take a large super soft black brush at a low opacity around 15% to gradually erase the colors around the lens flare so its mainly just the flare that is being effected by the color balance adjustment layer. Open the levels adjustments, change the RGB to Blue and move the output slider to the left. (Its the bottom slider that starts off at 255, move down to around 245). Follow the same masking process as the color balance adjustment. Remember White reveals, black conceals for layer masks.
It is now where i do all my dodging and burning and selective sharpening.
Depending on what sort of processed look you want you can add a Black and White layer and change the blending mode to “soft light” or hard light”.
This will add a bit of contrast while being able to control the luminosity of each color. After that I will open another color balance and levels adjustment layer and fine tune the tones of the entire image. I sometimes have several color adjustment layers effecting different parts of the image. The final step for me is adding several hue/saturation adjustment layers. With these I will fine tune the skin tone, color of the clothes, background, and anything that needs to be corrected. In my Opinion the hue/sat slider are one of Photoshop’s most useful tools. This is how you can get better skin tones, change clothes colors to match the photos color pallet, ect… Remember to always play around with the opacity of each layer. I rarely leave it at 100%.
Here are some more before and afters. All images on this page were shot in natural light except the very last before and after. Hope I was able to teach you something and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I am more than willing to help.