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Admittedly in most case you're likely trying to avoid the appearance of lens flare in your images. However, at times you might actually want to add lens flare to accentuate dramatic lighting. My preference is to add lens flare that only exhibits a lighting variation, not a color variation. In fact when I capture a photo that actually contains lens flare which often happens when the sun is included in the frame for example. I often remove only the color effect, and not the actual flare effect. Let's take a look at how we can add a lens flare effect to a photo. In this case, I'm going to use a separate layer, so that I protect my original pixels.
So I'm going to add a new layer, but one with special properties. So instead of simply clicking on the Create New Layer button. I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking on the Create a New Layer button. That blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of Layers panel. Doing so will cause the New Layer dialog to appear. I'll give this new layer a name, I'll call it lens flare since I'm using it to create a lens flare effect, and I'm going to change the blend mode to the Hard Light Blend mode. This is a contrast blend mode which will increase contrast in the underlying image, but it will do so with a very strong effect. I'll then turn on the Fill With Hard Light Neutral Color check box so that this layer will be filled with 50% grey.
Now when I click Okay you'll notice that that 50% grey does not appear in the image. And that's because with the hard light blend mode, middle grey is effectively invisible. Now I'm ready to apply the actual lens flare effect. I'll chose the Filter menu and then go to Render and choose Lense Flare. This will bring up the lens flare dialog which is relatively straightforward.I can choose the particular type of lens. Each lens will produce a different type of flare. And in this case I think I'll go with the 35 millimeter prime option. And I can also adjust the brightness, the overall intensity of the effect. I'll keep it a little bit strong so we can see a little more exactly what's going on here.
I'll click Okay to apply the effect and you can see I now have a lens flare effect within the image. Of course you can also see that I have some color effect here. I've got a green element in this foreground bit of lens flare and in the background, a little bit of magenta and some other colors going on there. I'd like the lens flare to only affect the luminosity, the overall tonality of my image, so I'm going to add an adjustemnt that will cause this lens flare layer to be gray scale only. In this case, I'll use a hue saturation adjustment for the effect.
I'll click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button, the half black, half white circle at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then choose Hue Saturation from the pop up list. I'll reduce the saturation completely, but you'll notice that this is causing the entire image to be converted to grayscale. I don't want the overall image to be grayscale; I only want my lens flare layer to be in grayscale. So now, with the hue saturation adjustment layer active, I'll choose Layer, Create Clipping Mask from the menu. This will place the hue saturation adjustment into a clipping mask with my lens-flared layer so that only the lens-flared layer is affected.
In other words, the lens-flared layer and no other layers in the image is being converted to black and white. Or more specifically is just having the color saturation completely reduced. As you can see, I've applied a relatively strong lens flare effect. I can tone that down by choosing the lens flare layer. Simply clicking on it on the layers panel. And then reducing the opacity control at the top right of the layers panel. I'll reduce that a bit more. That looks to be a pretty good effect. I can also choose the Move tool from the top of the tool box and then click and drag in the image to move the actual lens flare effect.
In this case, for example, I would like to have it lined up with the sun and overlapping a bit more with this foreground rock. And that looks to be a pretty good position for my lens flare. And of course, I can continue fine-tuning the opacity to adjust the strength of the lens flare within the image, but I think a nice subtle effect here is going to work out pretty well. By adding the small step of working on a separate layer and utilizing a blend mode, it's possible to add a lens flare effect that preserves the original pixel values in an image.
We can also use a hue saturation adjustment layer, put into a clipping group with our lens flare layer, in order to only alter the luminents component of the image. In other words, to apply a lens flare. That effects the overall tonality of specific areas of the image without causing any color changes at all in your photo.
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