HOW TO RETOUCH Pt. 11: Lens Flare & Digital Re-Lighting

We’re almost finished! It’s part 11 of 12 in this retouching tutorial series and I want to take some time to talk about how I create color haze and lens flares to practically re-light an image digitally and just how it can change the overall look of your image. We already did our color grading so this probably wouldn’t be something I would do to this image if it was for a client, but it’s a great technique that can be very helpful to have and use in your own images.

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Download: Check out and download a free action that will allow you to create your own lens flare with one click!

1. Creating the First Part of Lens Flare

how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-01 To create this lens flare, we want to create a new layer and grab the Brush tool (B). For my image, I need to set the size of the brush tip to 1500px and 0% for the hardness. Set your foreground color to white and click one time in the middle of the document to place a dab of white onto our new layer.

2. Duplicate for Second Part of Lens Flare

how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-02 Duplicate that layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J and set the name for this new layer to “white-flare” and set the name of the lower white blob layer to “colored-flare”.

3. Colorizing the Lens Flare

how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-03 We want to colorize the lower white blob, not the top one. Select the “colored-flare” and go Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation and use the hotkey Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Opt + G to clip this Hue/Saturation layer to the layer beneath. Next, tick on the “Colorize” option and set the Lightness slider to “-50” and boost the Saturation to “+100” and then use the Hue slider to choose the color of the flare. I set my Hue to “30” which gives me a bit of an orange flare.

4. Blend Modes & Blending the Flare

how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-04a how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-04b Next, set the “white-flare” layer to the blend mode of Linear Dodge(Add) and set the “colored-flare” layer to the blend mode of Screen. After that, reduce the opacity of “colored-flare until it starts looking blended and also reduce the fill opacity to something around 35% to really pull back on the brightness and allow that Linear Dodge(Add) blend mode really work its magic.

5. Resizing the Lens Flare

how-to-retouch-lens-flare-digital-light-05 To resize the lens flare we simply need to select all three of these layers by clicking the top layer and holding down the shift key and selecting the bottom layer and then go Edit>Transform and we can scale this up a bit larger to make it fade in exactly how we want it to fade into our image. Make sure you check out the entire video above to see exactly how I built this and some other tips and tricks along the way that I used to make it better and cooler and everything that is good and well with the lens flare world.