How to Deal with Light and Sun Flare in an Image

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This article deals with photographing and subsequently correcting an image subject to light flare. The technique requires a minimum of two images.

Sometimes when photographing a backlit subject or other strong sources of light visible in the scene light bouncing around in the lens and camera can result in flares that are distracting in the final image. In some instances the flare can be fixed with a simple clone or healing brush, but this is not always the case. It is better if we can deal with flares in the field. The more you can do to correct problems while taking a photograph the less there is to do in post production.

In the following image a church was backlit by the sun. The sun was shining through the steeple, which made for a compelling shot. We can see there are a couple of light flares that would be difficult to remove in post production. 

We can see this flare before taking the photo. Sometimes it can be screened out with our hand or other object that isn't visible in the photo. In this case I wasn't able to block the sun without getting something else in the photo. When I extended my hand and thumb I was able to cover the sun and the light flares disappeared. Of course I now have another problem, a very bad photo of my thumb.

Open both images as layers in Photoshop. Put the image with the flares on the top layer.

Click on Image > Auto Align Layers > Auto Align

Once the images are aligned add a mask to the top layer.

Use a soft black brush, making sure you are painting on the mask and not the image, gradually mask out the light flares.

The light flares will disappear, revealing the image in the bottom layer.

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