Are you looking to accentuate beautiful lighting in your images? With this tutorial, you will know how to add a light flare overlay in Photoshop!

What is Lens Flare?

Lens flare happens when a bright directional light hits the camera directly or by reflection. The light scatters inside the lens, creating visible marks like-colored circles, haze, or starburst. When you use a zoom, you’ll produce this effect because there are several pieces of glass in the lens.

If you’re shooting into the light, then you’re most likely to create this effect on your photos. It can happen when you’re shooting toward the sun, or even just an artificial light source, such as a flashlight. You can also create it in Photoshop in post-production.

Many photographers actively try to stop it from appearing in their photos using a lens hood or by changing shooting positions. However, you can use it in your photos on purpose to add something special, as long as it matches your style and model.

It also reduces an image’s saturation and contrast, creating a more dramatic or dreamy image. If you want to exaggerate the sun’s rays or hide unwanted clutter, you can use a lens flare in Photoshop to generate a hazy or soft ambiance.

Where to Add a Lens Flare in Photoshop

It’s not advisable to put a lens flare in Photoshop anywhere you like, the position should make sense, or else your photo will look fake or weird. Keep in mind that you’re boosting the brightness coming from the lighting source

You cannot create the lens flare effect if there’s no lighting source such as the sun or lightbulb. Using a dark area with no reflective surface like metal, water, and glass won’t work either 

Add a Lens Flare Effect in Photoshop

There are four types of filters in Photoshop, with each one having simulated effects. You can try them all and see what they look like using the image preview area.

  • 50-300mm Zoom: This is the default filter render lens flare, and also the most popular one.
  • 35mm Prime: This filter can create more rays or starburst flare than the 50-300mm Zoom. 
  • 105mm Prime: This produces a more natural yet bluish tone. 
  • Movie Prime: This gives an image a more futuristic or modern look.   

Why Add an Overlay

Using these overlays can be a great way to accentuate the beautiful lighting that is already in a photo, and can be a simple way to add drama or a dreamy feel to your image. This process is simple and quick – anyone can do it!

How Do I Add This Overlay

In the video below, we will guide you step by step in how to add a overlay in Photoshop. We have also outlined each step below.

With your photo open in Photoshop, you can follow this simple tutorial:

Apply the Lens Flare Filter

Open the image and apply the filter using Filter > Render > Lens Flare in Photoshop. Another option is to press Ctrl + F for Windows or Command + F for Mac OS.

Create a new window where you can choose in Photoshop. For example, use the 50-300mm Zoom if you want to reflect off of water or glass, when you’re done click ok. Make sure you learn how to add the filter directly to the light source for it to look authentic.  

Change Direction (Optional)

To move the position where you want to place the lens flare effect, all you have to do is choose inside the preview area. The spot you select becomes the center which should show a little target symbol. 

Drag the target symbol to move it around. Position the target symbol over the light source to keep the flare effect in Photoshop as realistic as possible. 

Use a soft black brush to remove some of the flares from the parts you want to protect. For instance, people’s faces or animals. Another way is to use a layer mask to eliminate some of the overlay gradually.

Add the Same to a New Layer

  1. Choose Undo Lens Flare in the Edit menu to undo what you’ve applied. Then, click Create New Layer to add a new layer. 
  2. Using the paint bucket tool, fill the new layer with black. This is because you can’t apply a lens flare on a new blank layer. 
  3. Click on Lens Flare at the top of the Filter drop-down menu to apply the same lens as before. It should now appear on the black layer. Click ok when you’re done.

Change the Layer Blend Mode

To remove the black layer and retain the lens flare, the next step is to change the blending mode of the layer. 

Choose the layer and set the layer new blending mode to Screen. The picture should appear again while the black on the layer disappears, transforming the effect to an overlay. 

Since the effect is now on a different layer above the picture, click the layer’s visibility icon to turn it on and off. Only the layer colors of the flare should remain. 

Adjust the Colors 

Adjusting the colors in the lens flare in Photoshop allows you to match the colors of the photo. Make sure to select the Lens Flare layer in the Layers panel before modifying anything. 

  1. Go to the Image menu
  2. Select Adjustments
  3. Choose Hue/Saturation

Moving the Hue slider to the left or right enables you to change the colors in your lens flare based on what you’re picking in the color wheel. If your effect shows oranges and reds, drag the slider towards yellowish tones. 

Modify the Intensity

If you want to increase or decrease brightness, you can do this by managing the lens flare filter’s opacity. You can find the Opacity option in the upper right of the Layers panel. 

The lower the opacity value from the default 100%, the more the lens flare will fade into the photo. Be careful in experimenting with the opacity to achieve the desired effect. 

Add Other Filters to the Lens Flare

It’s possible that the edges of the lens flare appear sharp. Fortunately, you can soften the edges by applying some blur. 

  1. Go to the Filter menu
  2. Select Blur
  3. Choose Gaussian Blur
  4. Drag the Radius slider towards the right

As you move the slider further, the more blurring you can apply. As a result, the edges look softer.  

how to add a light flare overlay

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Things to Consider

A light flare overlay is most believable when you are enhancing light that is already there. The effect will not be believable or realistic if there isn’t already sunlight or a natural light source in your photo.

Be sure that your effect follows the same direction of light as the sunlight already in your photo. Look for the existing rays of sunlight or the patterns of highlights on your subjects to determine where the natural light is coming from, and position your added effet accordingly.

And remember, less is usually more when it comes to light flares. Adding too much can look over done and even detract from your subjects. The goal is to enhance what is already there, so remember that a little goes a long way!

how to add a light flare overlay

Looking for more Photoshop Tutorials? Try these!

How to do a Head Swap in Photoshop
How to Mirror a Background in Photoshop

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