photoshop creative

Understand how the Lens Flare filter works in Photoshop

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Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
May 11, 2012

Learn how the Lens Flare filter in Photoshop works for different types of images, and how to apply it to a sunset


Lensf flare effect


Lens flare

Step 1 – Create new layer and fill

Add a new layer above the Background first of all. Then go to the Edit>Fill menu and set Contents to Black.

Step 2 – Change blend mode

Hit OK in the Fill menu and set the layer to Screen blend mode. The Opacity can be left at 100%. There will be no visible differences to your image as of yet.

Step 3 – Render filter

Find the Lens Flare filter under the Render options in the Filter menu. The preview represents the image and it’s a case of moving the lens flare inside this to fit over the sun, or main area of light in your image.

Step 4 – Flare settings

The Brightness of the Lens Flare depends on how bright your image is. This may take a few attempts to get right. If you don’t hit it right first time round after pressing OK, press Ctrl/Cmd+Z to undo the effect and then go back into the filter. Whenever you go back into the filter, previous settings are remembered.

Step 5 – Set Lens Type

The Lens Type decides on the style of flare, depending on what camera lens was used at the time. Here are some tips:

50-300mm Zoom – Describes a lens that zooms anywhere between the focal lengths 50mm and 300mm. A versatile option, great for landscapes and street photograhy where the main subject isn’t too close to the camera.

35mm Prime and 105mm Prime – The word ‘Prime’ describes a lens of a single, fixed focal length such as these.

105mm Prime is great for landscapes, such as the main image we used for this tutorial, because of its very soft and large glow, making a sunset seem dream-like.

The 35mm Prime option is ideal for subjects that are closer in the foreground, such as a portrait image. Notice how the first circle in this flare is the most distinct one of all.

Movie Prime – Movie Prime creates sharp horizontal and diagonal lines across the image. This is not suited for normal photos, but has a cinematic appeal that would work well with 16:9 widescreen, stills, taking from a HD movie recording, for example.

Here’s our chosen setting for the final effect here:

Hope you enjoy trying this out on your images!

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  • Pingback: Photoshop Tip: Reposition a Lens Flare | Photoshop Creative()

  • Why does it not allow me to use the lens flare?

  • Personally, as a professional CG artist, I always found the built-in Photoshop plugin to be pretty terrible. As a result, I dedicated over a year of research and development and created my own. For some stunning lens flares created right within Photoshop with a dedicated plugin, check out Ultraflares: