Lens flares sometimes appear in the photos we take, and if you don’t like the look of one, you can easily remove a lens flare in Photoshop.
A lens flare is a non-image-forming source of light that enters the camera, scatters, and causes an artifact. Since this element is often used creatively, some photographers intentionally add a flare while shooting or even create one during editing. However, it’s not always suitable for your photos.
Sometimes, lens flares take away from your subject and overall composition and are unwanted. If you have accidentally captured a lens flare in your image, you can easily remove it to clean up your photo using one of these three best methods.
Note: It’s always best to avoid lens flares when shooting (by using better angles or a lens hood) if you don’t intend to include one in the final image, as it can be tricky to remove these artifacts, depending on how prominent and scattered the lens flare is.
Option 1: Using The Healing Brush To Remove Lens Flare In Photoshop
If you can’t avoid capturing a lens flare, you can use the Healing Brush Tool to remove it. This method works best when the background isn’t too complex, and the lens flare is relatively subtle.
The Healing Brush uses AI to replace the pixels with the best match, so it can sometimes cause unwanted blurs or spots on your photo, and you may need to attempt the process a few times to fix your image correctly.
Step 1: Locate The Harsh Sun Flare Areas
You should use this method on harsh sun flares that are covering your image and distracting from the main subject. These spots are usually over a person’s face, hair, or on top of buildings, which makes them tricky to remove because of the complex background.
If the sun flare is prominent in the photo, you may need to use the third method, although you need to start that process while shooting.
The smaller but harsh sun flares will look similar to the ones in this example image.
You will notice that the middle flare on the woman’s hair (shown by the arrow) is more subtle, and if your sun flares look like that, you can remove them using the second method.
I won’t worry about the sun flare near the bottom of the photo, as it doesn’t take away from the image. However, I want to remove the two harsh ones (shown by the circles) in the hair.
Step 2: Add A New Layer Above The Image Layer
To begin the process, add a new blank layer above your image or background layer by clicking the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. You can rename the layer if you’d like to keep the panel organized.
Step 3: Activate The Healing Brush Tool
Then, locate the Healing Brush Tool (J) in the Toolbar and click it to activate it. You may need to click and hold on the Spot Healing Brush Tool to open the fly-out menu and find the tool.
While the Spot healing Brush Tool works similarly, and you may think it will be quicker, it won’t be able to match the texture as accurately as the Healing Brush Tool. This tool allows you to sample the exact area you want the AI to use when replacing the pixels, giving a more accurate fix.
You can generally leave the settings as they are in the Options Bar. Just be sure to set the Sample to All Layers or Current and Below, so the tool will sample the area from the image layer and paint the new pixels onto the new layer you created.
Step 4: Sample An Area And Paint Over The Sun Flare
First, zoom in on the sun flare area to see the pixels clearly so you know what to sample. You can zoom in using the shortcut Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac).
Sample an area you want to use as the reference point to replace the sun flare pixels. The sample point should be close to the pixels you are covering, and try to get similar colors and textures.
Since I am using the tool on hair, I will look for areas close to where the hair points in the same direction.
Hold in Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) to sample an area, and the pointer will turn into a target icon. Then, click on the area you want to sample.
Set the brush size using the size setting in the Options Bar or by pressing [ to decrease the brush size or ] to increase it.
Once the size is correct (you must determine the size based on how complex the background is), then click and drag over the area to cover the pixels. The circle will show where the brush adds the new pixels, and the plus icon shows where the new pixels are sampled.
Keep sampling new areas around the spot to keep the replacement pixels as accurate as possible.
Then, brush over the areas until the entire sun flare has been removed.
Step 5: Repeat The Steps On Any Other Harsh Sun Flares
You can now repeat those steps on any other harsh sun flares in your image. I will remove the bottom sun flare in the hair. You can see this sun flare is harsher and needs more patience.
Sample an area close to the spot, and note the hair’s direction.
Size the brush so that you are adding the new pixels where they look accurate. For instance, I am following the path of the hair, so I am only making the brush as large as the strands above. When you hover the brush over the area, you will see a preview of how the new pixels will look.
Once I brush over the area while sampling as I go, you will see the hair follows the right path. It may not look perfect the first time, but keep sampling and brushing until you have replaced the pixels and the hair seems accurate.
Once you have the area covered as best as possible, you can zoom out using Control + – (Win) or Command + – (Mac) and see how the sun flares are covered and not distracting your eye from the subject anymore.
Option 2: Using The Brush Tool To Remove Lens Flare
If the sun flare is relatively faded and not too prominent in the photo, you can use a much quicker way to remove it from the image. You can use the Brush Tool to cover it with a different color and blend the color into the background in only a few simple steps.
Step 1: Create A New Blank Layer
On the same image, I will fix up the more subtle sun flare. To do this, create a new layer by clicking the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. You can rename the layer.
Step 2: Activate The Brush Tool (B)
Next, activate the Brush Tool from the Toolbar or press B. You will use this to brush a new color over the sun flare.
Then, select a Soft Round Brush from the brush preset picker in the Options Bar and set the Hardness to 0% to allow the new color to blend into the image.
You can set the rest of the brush settings as the defaults: Mode to Normal, Opacity and Flow at 100%, and Smoothing at 0%.
Step 3: Sample A Color Using Alt / Option And Paint Over The Sun Flare
Once you have set up the Brush Tool, you can sample a color from the image to use when painting over the sun flare. Sample a color close to the area you will paint over without sampling the color of the sun flare.
To sample a color while the Brush Tool is active, hold in Alt (Win) or Option (Mac) until you see the eyedropper icon appear, then click to select the color.
Your foreground color in the Toolbar will change to the new color you have sampled from the image.
Now, you can use the brush to paint over the sun flare with the new color. You will notice that the color doesn’t look realistic at this stage, but you can fix that in the next step.
Step 4: Change The Layer’s Blend Mode To Color
You must change the Blending Mode to blend the harsh color into the image. To change the blend mode, ensure the brush layer is selected and find the drop-down menu in the Layers Panel that says Normal, as that is the default blend mode for every layer.
Click on the drop-down menu and select Color. This mode only keeps the color from the layer while using the texture and luminance from the layers below.
You will notice in your image that the sun flare is gone as the new color has covered it.
These methods should have removed the harsh and subtle sun flares on your image.
Option 3: Combining Images To Remove Major Lens Flare In Photoshop
If you are shooting in harsh sun conditions, you may have a situation where it’s impossible to capture the photo without a large sun flare washing out or creating a haze over elements of the image unless you have a lens hood. This usually happens when shooting landscapes during the day.
For instance, when taking this landscape picture, I couldn’t angle the camera or do anything else to prevent the lens flare at the top left. You also won’t be able to remove this using the two previous methods because there aren’t enough accurate sample points to replace the pixels.
In these cases, you must start the technique while shooting to capture a second image hiding the lens flare to merge later in Photoshop.
Step 1: Capture The First Image With The Sun Flare
When you are out shooting, set up your composition and ensure you have everything you want in the frame. You can use a tripod to get the two images lined up, but this isn’t always necessary if you don’t have your tripod.
Set your exposure correctly to light up the scene, and don’t worry about the sun flare, as the second image will hide this. Your image should look something like this.
Step 2: Capture The Second Image While Blocking The Light Source With Your Hand
Immediately after taking the first image, keep your composition and don’t move the camera. Place your other hand over the sun in the image to prevent the sun flare from spilling into your picture. This is where using a tripod comes in handy, but you can do this handheld.
You should keep all the settings the same, and your photo should look something like this. Be careful to prevent your hand from covering any important areas, such as the mountain in my example.
Step 3: Open Both Images In Photoshop On Separate Layers
Once you are ready to edit your images, open them both in Photoshop and place them on the same document. You can drag one image layer from its tab, hover over the other image tab, and drop it onto the canvas to place the two layers together.
You want the photo with the hand to be at the top of the layer stack.
Step 4: Align The Two Image Layers
Once you have the two images in the same document, you can align the layers so the content matches up on both layers. To align the layers, select the layers in the Layers Panel.
Then, go to Edit > Auto-Align Layers.
When the Auto-Align Layers window opens, select the Auto option, leave the rest of the settings as they are, and click OK.
Once Photoshop aligns the layers, you will notice the content is matched up if you hide and unhide layers, but there also may be transparent edges around the image. I will show you how to fix this in step 9.
Step 5: Add A Layer Mask To The Hand Layer
Next, add a layer mask to the Hand image layer by selecting the hand layer, then click the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. The mask will appear next to the thumbnail and be entirely white.
Invert the layer mask to hide everything on the hand layer by pressing Control + I (Win) or Command + I (Mac). The layer mask will turn black, and the mask will hide the hand layer.
Step 6: Select The Brush Tool And Set The Color To White
Select the Brush Tool (B) and set the foreground color to white.
Use the brush preset picker to adjust the brush’s hardness and size. You want a large brush to paint over the sun flare areas and a hard brush for the edges to prevent bringing the hand back into the photo. A hardness of about 80% will work.
Step 7: Brush Over The Areas With The Sun Flare
Then, brush over the edges of the area where the sun flare starts, which in my case, is the mountain. Brush along the entire horizon line to blend the images.
Change the brush hardness to 0% and continue brushing over the mountain (or area where the sun flare covers).
Continue brushing until you find a texture edge, rather than stopping on objects that have hard edges. This will help blend the images. I will paint up to the flower line for my photo to make the blend seamless.
Step 8: Check The Edges And Make Corrections
You can now check the edges and make any corrections. As you can see, I added a part of the hand back in.
To remove any unwanted areas, switch the foreground color to black and paint over the areas to hide them with the layer mask.
You can also look along the edges for any ghosting, which is when parts of both layers are visible.
You can use the brush with the foreground color set to white to fix up these areas.
Step 9: Crop The Photo To Remove Transparent Edges
Next, you can crop the image by selecting the Crop Tool (C) and clicking on the canvas to set the crop handles.
Pull the handles in to remove the transparent edges.
Press Enter to confirm the crop. You have now successfully removed the large sun flare from your image.