Knowing when and where to add some lens flair to your images can make the difference between having them look dramatic or fake. This post will go into retouching in a realistic lens flair, even though this image was shot during mid-morning, with the sun already high.
What you’ll need:
- Lens flair kit, available here: Lens Flair
- Adobe Photoshop
- Eye balls
Lighting and realism
Before we even pull up Photoshop, I want to point out correct lighting. If you’re shooting in a natural environment, like we are here, then you must match the lighting the shot has. In this case, it’s coming from the open garage doors, and the side of the 911 facing us is in shadow. Perfect for adding in some flair. If you had a car outside and you shot with your back facing the sun, then you would not add flair to that shot – the section of car facing you car would be lit, so adding a flair behind the car would not be realistic.
To add your flair, drag the image to your canvas and turn the blending mode to “Screen”, then position where you like. That’s all there is to it.
That Heavenly look
Imagine yourself standing in a dark tunnel with a bright light in the distance. You might find that you can’t look directly at it – your eyes can’t adjust with such high contrast. You find yourself squinting, that in turn causes your vision to blur, and you see a white “halo” around the light spot.
Modern camera are good enough to not usually have this issue, but it can be a desired effect when adding a lens flair. A photograph isn’t what the camera sees, but what you want the viewers eyes to see as if they were really there.
To add the halo, add a new layer, then choose your air brush and make the circumference large enough to cover the area you want to paint, in this case, the garage door. Make the foreground color white, then tap the brush just once for a large white circle. Now, reduce the opacity to about 30-40% – now you have that hazy blurred effect. Since we have multiple doors, I made a new layer for each white circle – sometimes different areas need different opacity, and you want the ability to move each individually, so avoid painting all on the same layer.
On occasion, I will add a haze to the image by duplicating my layers and combining them into one flat layer. Then, I will go to FILTER > BLUR > Gaussian Blur, and make the value around 7.0 or so. The image will look pretty blurry. Reduce the opacity to around 20% so the layer underneath comes through. This is useful for a “misty” look – perhaps by a body of water.
Where to put the flair
Lens flare is caused by a bright light source shining into the lens that has its light reflected and scattered inside the lens causing a wash out or a flare artifact. Could be the sun, an overhead light, or even a car headlight. Flairs are usually even more dramatic when something is partially blocking them, like a cloud, or in this case, the car itself.
It could go anywhere – on the top of the open door, or perhaps the rear door by the BMW – but placing it here makes it a focal point of the image, and draws your eye to the car itself.
Wash the sky
Finally, take a look at the sky here – it’s totally blown out, with no definition. No clouds, blue sky, or anything to give away the time of day. If you’re adding flair to an image, and the flair is supposed to replicate the sun, make sure you can’t tell what time of day it is (unless the image is the appropriate sunset time). Even the BMW and tent are washed out (Looking back, I should have removed the tent with the patch tool).
Bonus Level: Add a hot spot
Cars are shiny – you may have noticed this. Often times, shooting a car produces something called a “Hot Spot”, or an area of intense light reflecting off the metal. Sometimes they can be a distraction and should be removed, but they can also be a good spot to add a flair. Below is an example of a BMW M2 shot at about high noon. The front fender had a hot spot on it, and since the car was already so reflective, I opted to emphasize the spot with the same flair used on the 911 image.
Subtle drama added.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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