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how to remove flash glare in photoshop

How to Remove Flash Glare in Photoshop

by Benjamin Martorell on Sep 11, 2019

Are you looking to remove flash glare from a picture you took? We have all been there. You take a nice picture of your friends or family only to realize later that there is flash glare in the photo. Luckily, you can remove flash glare in Photoshop!

Flash glare can be incredibly frustrating. There aren’t many things more annoying than, for example, having to remove a big bright spot over an eye, even if it doesn’t fully cover the eye. 

What is flash glare?

Glare is usually visible as either bright spots in people’s glasses, streaks of light, or as circles or polygonal shapes in an image. They aren’t always very bright and can be different colors. Glare is also sometimes not a shape or spot but a hazy glow.

Unfortunately, glare is often unavoidable and difficult to prevent when taking pictures. This is why getting rid of glare is one of the most common tasks in photo editing and probably one of the first Photoshop skills you will learn.

Sunny image of field with 2 trees in the mid ground. Flash glare from the sun shines between them to create a hotspot in the image

Luckily, you’re in the right place. This tutorial will explain:

  • What is flash glare?
  • What causes it?
  • How to remove flash glare in Photoshop

Causes of Flash Glare in a Photograph

Flash glare, also known as lens flare, is scattered light that bounces around in the camera before reaching the camera sensor. In other words, this “non-image forming light” does not follow the intended path of the camera lens (nor is it typically what the photographer wants). 

Lens flare is more of a problem in wide-angle and zoom lenses, which have more lens components than prime camera lenses (i.e. lenses with one focal length). In short, there is simply more opportunity for light to scatter in a wide or zoom lens than in a prime lens.

Unsurprisingly, sunlight is a common source of lens flare. Obviously, glare can occur when the camera is facing the sun directly. But even when the camera is not pointing toward the sun, some sunlight may still enter the camera lens at a sharp angle.

To prevent this, all lenses come with lens hoods, which help block the main light source (using your hand, without getting it into the image, can also work). 

Light sources — ceiling lights, lamps, on-camera flash, strobes, etc. — also cause flash glare. This is often how glare appears in glasses. Reflection from windows, mirrors, and even water can also cause glare.

Fortunately, there are lighting techniques and lens filters that minimize glare and reflection.

Steps to Removing Flash Glare in Photoshop

Photoshop offers many tools and techniques to remove lens flare. Although using them may seem a little confusing at first, they are actually fairly straightforward.

Once you get the hang of them, you will have no problem removing flash glare from your images.

Before we get started, make sure you have Photoshop downloaded on your computer. You can get it for $9.99/month with Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan.

Here are some of the easiest ways to remove flashglare in photoshop:

1. Use the Lasso Tool

Using the lasso tool is perhaps the easiest way to get rid of glare. With the lasso, you can simply draw around a spot you want to remove.

  • Click the Lasso Tool from the left side of the window (or press “L” on the keyboard).
Red arrow pointed at Photoshop's lasso tool
  • Make a circle around the spot.
  • Right-click and select Fill.
Open dialog box in Photoshop with "Fill" option selected
  • In the window that appears, next to “Contents:” select Content-Aware.
  • Repeat these steps for the rest of the spots.
"Fill" dialog box open in Photoshop with red arrow pointed at "Content-Aware" contents option.

Note: This method is mostly suitable for photos with solid colors or repeating patterns. By choosing content aware, you are allowing Photoshop to make the edits automatically.

2. Dehaze Image in Camera Raw

If your photo has areas that look hazy, the dehaze option in Camera Raw will reduce this effect.

  • Click Filter at the top menu and select Camera Raw Filter
"Filter" option of Photoshop toolbar extended and "Camera Raw Filter" option selected
  • In the window that appears, adjust the Dehaze slider to reduce the glare. If it helps, adjust the other sliders as well.
"Camera Raw Filter" dialog box with "Dehaze" option indicated with a red arrow.

This may not get rid of all of the haze. In that case, follow these steps:

  • In the layers panel on the right, right-click the Background layer and select Duplicate Layer. A copy of the background layer now appears above it.
  • At the bottom of the layers panel, click the Mask icon to create a mask. Make sure the copy layer is still selected. 
Gray arrow pointed at Photoshop's Layer Mask icon.
  • Click Image at the top menu, then select Adjustments, then choose Invert (or Cmd/Ctrl + I).
  • Select the Brush tool and brush the hazy areas.
"Invert" option selected from "Adjustments" under Photoshop's "Image" toolbar option

Note: With a mask, you can remove parts of a layer to show the layer beneath it. So, in effect, you are looking through the layer that is on top.

3. Paint Glare Away with the Clone Stamp Tool

The clone stamp tool is your best friend when it comes to removing lens flare because you can “paint” over the glare using source points. Source points are other spots in the image; in this case, those without glare) This is why the clone stamp tool is really effective at riding your image of unwanted bright spots or areas.

  • Select the Zoom Tool (press “Z” on the keyboard) and press Alt/Option on the keyboard to zoom in close to a bright spot or area. Zooming makes it it easier to see what you are doing.
  • Select the Clone Stamp tool (or press the “S” key).
Red arrow pointed to Photoshop's Clone Stamp Tool icon in left-hand panel
  • Press and hold the Alt/Option on your keyboard. This changes the cursor icon indicating that you can choose a spot away from the glare. 
  • Click on a spot and let go of the Alt/Option key.
  • The spot you chose is now visible in the Clone Stamp cursor circle, which makes it easy to see what you are going paint. 
    • If not, click Window from the top menu and select Clone Source.
    • In the window that appears, check Show Overlay.
  • Paint over the glare and readjust where you choose to paint from.

Using the Clone Stamp tool does take some practice. Also, don’t be afraid to zoom in more when you need to. The more you zoom in, the more accurate you can be.

Also, it’s good practice to zoom in and out as you work. Areas you edited might look good up close but not from a regular distance.

Note: Please be aware that the background layer is the original image. If you don’t want to edit it directly, simply add a new or duplicate layer and make the edits on that. The background layer will remain untouched as you work.

4. Add an Adjustment Layer

This technique is effective at reducing lens flare with color, which is often green. 

  • Click the Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the layers panel.
  • Select Hue and Saturation from the menu.
"Hue/Saturation" option selected from Photoshop's Adjustment Layer icon on lower right-hand of the screen.
  • Click the hand symbol next to Master. The cursor becomes the dropper tool.
  • Click the flare spot to select the color.
  • Move the Lightness slider to the left until the color of glare matches the background.
  • Adjust the other sliders to get rid of more color if needed.
Hue, Saturation, and Lightness panels in "Properties" panel on Photoshop's right-hand toolbar above Layers panel.
  • Because the adjustments changed the whole image, select the Mask in the Hue and Saturation layer. Masks show what part of the effect you want to either show or hide; the white brush will show the effect, and the black brush will hide it.
Red arrow pointed at white mask in a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer in the Layers Panel of Photoshop
  • Select the Black Mask and the Brush Tool
  • Brush over the glare spots. You can see the changes you make in the layer mask.
Two red arrows pointed to Photoshop's brush tool icon and the color swatches on the left-hand of the screen.

5. Add a Color Layer

  • Create a New Layer.
  • Set the layer mode to Color
  • Click the Brush Tool (or press “B” on the keyboard).
  • Press Alt/Option to clone a nearby spot and then brush over the glare.

6. Use the Brush Tool

  • Create a New Layer and set the layer blending mode to Color.
Layer blending modes options distended and "Color" option highlighted.
  • Select the Brush Tool (or press “B” on the keyboard) and set it to “normal”.
  • Reduce the Opacity to 50%.
  • Press and hold the Alt/Option key to change the cursor icon to a dropper.
  • With the dropper, click a spot next to the glare and stop pressing the Alt/Option key.
  • Brush over the glare.
Opacity in upper toolbar indicated with a red arrow and set to 50%

Advantages of Flash Glare

While glare has obvious downsides and is usually not what people want, it does have its advantages. For those who want a more artistic or edgier look, lens flare can be that extra element that elevates the picture from a regular one to a more memorable photo.

So in this sense, flash glare has a lot of potential and a great way to attract attention if that is what you are looking for. It can also help you develop a photography style that is unique to you.

For example, if you are out shooting in the woods early in the morning or late in the evening—when the sun is shining low—the light coming through the trees creates a starburst effect. This can add a nice element to the image.

Similarly, capturing rays from the sun as it just starts to rise above the horizon is another great way to make a picture more attractive.

Another example is flash glare in a portrait. Pictures of a couple getting married often have glare (but in a way that doesn’t detract from the overall image).

As the images below demonstrate, glare gives these pictures an artistic feel (it is also possible to add glare in Photoshop). 

Sun glaring over mountains with colorful fabric strung in the foreground
Photo by James Wheeler from Pexel
Skyscrapers of city scene visible through close-up glare of outdoor lights
Photo by Benjamin Cruz from Pexels
sun glaring through burred background. in the foreground is a branch with flowers in clear focus
By Caio Resende from Pexels

So there you have it! You are now familiar with some of the ways you can remove flash glare in Photoshop, whether it from reflection, lights, or the sun.

To be sure, photo editing does take practice and experience, but with the information you learned in this tutorial, you’ll be off to a good start. You will become an efficient photo editor and be able to create the images you want in no time.

If you found this tutorial helpful, you also may be interested in checking out these articles:

17 Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

11 Most Useful Portrait Photography Tips for Beginners

Your Quick Guide to Layers in Photoshop

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