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How to Remove Flare from Photos Without Cloning


To shoot directly into the sun is both challenging and fun. Challenging because it can be difficult to control the light and, not least, our images are very often marred by sun flare. One simple way of avoiding flare is to shoot an extra exposure with one finger or more obscuring the sun.

Admittedly, it happens that I forget to follow that simple step, or I am too lazy or I believe that clouds or mist sufficiently diffuse the light so that the lens won’t produce any flare. In the example below I believed that mist would prevent any flare. I was wrong — something which became very evident when examining the raw file in Lightroom.

The image is from Romsdalen — a late July evening in 2018. I set my Pentax 645Z to 12 secs and ran into the frame.

Red and magenta color casts are unfortunately ruining the image. Let us have a look at how I fixed that in Photoshop without for instance using the clone stamp tool. The advantage with the method I am about to outline is that I preserve textures, avoid repetition or any soft edges which may or may not be left by the clone stamp tool depending on how careful we are.

The first step is to grab a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. In this instance, I desaturated the reds and the magentas. Next, I invert the layer (CTRL+i). With white selected as my foreground color, I paint over the affected areas.

This resulted in a rather pronounced improvement.

The final step is to add a blank layer set to the blend mode Color. Now I use the color picker to sample colors from around the areas affected by flare. With a soft brush at a low opacity, I gently brush in the sampled colors. If the applied color comes across as too bright I just paint with black upon the color at a very low opacity until I find the result acceptable. I find that desaturating before I add the blank layer makes it easier to achieve a good color match.

After painting with colors:

About the author: Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a landscape photographer and math teacher from Norway. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Skjelstad’s work on his Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.