Lens flare is a common problem caused by lens elements creating an internal reflection when the light hits the lens at a particular angle. Sometimes it can be a desired effect, but often it can distract from the subject in your image. Using a lens hood will help, you can further reduce lens flare by getting more expensive lenses, but the chances are you will not be able to avoid it entirely. Luckily, there are a few Photoshop tools that can fix it. This tutorial will show you how to remove lens flare in Photoshop.
The example image used in this tutorial is a shot of a singer Emiliana Torrini. It demonstrates strong lens flare that presents itself in a number of places in the image (highlighted in red). Although sometime lens flare can be desirable, in this case it is distracting from the subject rather than adding a creative touch to the image. There are three main tools that we can use to remove those flairs; each tool can help clean a specific part of the images better than other. Following list will explain how.
Content Aware Fill
This is great method to use if you have lens flare obstructing an area of the image that is uniform in color and texture. In the example image the black speaker blocking the singer slightly is a good area to use the content aware fill method for. Simply select the section that you need cleaned, make sure that it is the bottom layer you are selecting, and use the ‘Delete’ key. A dialog box will appear. From the drop down menu that lists the fill options select Content Aware Fill and click ‘Ok’. You might have to try selecting a number of alternate areas for the content aware fill to work effectively, most likely the end result will not be perfect and you will need to adjust it further with the Clone Stamp tool.
Clone Stamp Tool
This is perhaps the tool that will be utilized the most to remove lens flare. You can access it through the keyboard shortcut ‘S’. There are a number of options to consider for the Clone Stamp tool. The most important feature of the tool is the ‘Opacity’ and ‘Flow’ levels. Opacity will control the level of the transparency of the clone stamp tool and Flow will control how quickly it will be painted on top of the selected layer. Further, similar to the brush tool, you can also pick a different brush tip for your Clone Stamp tool. Most of the time, the default brush with the softer corner will be your go to choice for the stamp tool for blending in the cloned image area seamlessly.
Start to sample parts of the image that are not damaged by the lens flare. Usually the surrounding area directly will be the best source to clone from. Use a lower opacity to smooth the transition between the colors; however, if the area you are working on is high in texture and grain the more you use the Clone Stamp tool in that area the more of that texture and grain you will be loosing. Experiment with different levels of Opacity and flow to find a balance that will let you preserve the image texture and remove lens flare.
The patch tool is found under the Healing Brush tool. Scroll through the healing brush option using the shortcut ‘Shift + J’ to find the patch tool. This tool works similar to the Clone Stamp tool, the difference is in the fact that you define the area you will be changing before you sample your area instead of using a brush. This can be useful in removing items from the image that are complex in shape.
For the specific green spot created by lens flare in the example image a healing brush or a Clone Stamp Tool could have also worked effectively. To remove lens flare well it is key to make the cleaned image areas bend into its surrounding pixels as seamlessly as possible – different tools will have different results depending on the properties of the lens flare affected area.
Did you find this tutorial useful? If you are looking for the opposite effect and want to create sun flares – have a look at our tutorial here.