Of all the filters in Photoshop maybe the most infamous is the “Lens Flare” filter which has typically been difficult to use and control to get any kind of effective results. In this tutorial we’ll learn about the best way to create lens flare and blend it into a photo. Let’s get started now!
Watch the full tutorial here
Follow along with this tutorial using this exact stock photography from Unsplash. Download it right here.
1. The Base Flare
Create a new layer and name it “Flare” and then grab the Brush tool (B) and make sure you have a large, soft-edged brush and also set your foreground color to white and then click once in the center of your document.
2. Add Noise
To add additional realism to our flare we must have some grain in it. Grain will also help reduce any kind of banding effects that may begin to appear depending on how the lens flare interacts with your image. Go Filter>Noise>Add Noise and I added “8%” noise for the size of my image. TIP: Zoom in and see how the grain looks, if it’s too noticeable, just back it off a bit.
3. Duplicate the Flare Layer
Hit Cmd/Ctrl + J to duplicate that flare layer to double up our white flare effect.
4. Add Some Color
Select the lower “Flare” layer in the layers panel and go Image>Adjustments>Hue & Saturation. I adjusted my settings to convert the white color to an orange color by setting “Hue” to 40, “Saturation” to 100, and “Lightness” to -50. This will give us a soft orange color.
5. Blend Modes, Blend Modes, Blend Modes!
Next set the orange flare layer to a blend more of “Screen” to help it interact with the photo beneath it. Set the white flare to a blend mode of Linear Dodge (Add). You won’t see a ton of change, but we’re going to play with the opacity to really dial in the effect.
6. Opacity & Fill to Blend
Using the opacity and fill sliders in the layers panel, we can really dial in this lens flare effect. I’ve set the opacity of the orange flare to “65%” and I changed the fill of the white flare to “35%”. TIP: I changed the fill opacity of the white layer, NOT the regular opacity because using the Linear Dodge (Add) blend mode and pairing it with a reduced fill opacity tends to produce a more realistic sun-like effect. (I learned that trick from a guy named Calvin Hollywood)
7. Move & Transform the Flare
Select both layers and grab the Move tool (V) and drag the flare where you’d like it to be. TIP: You can even transform and make the flare larger or distort it (Edit>Transform>Distort) and it will still look great because of the grain and blurring.