How to Add a Sun Flare to Your Images Using Photoshop

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If you read my previous article where I give you some tips for doing more spectacular sunset photography, you’ll understand that I love taking photos during the magic hour. For my portraits, I also book my sessions during that time because the light is very soft and flattering. There is one thing I particularly like to do when I process my images and that’s adding a sun flare to my portraits and landscapes. I love to use Photoshop to recreating a scene that would have ideally been there in real life.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

I added sun flares to this portrait to add depth.

It’s difficult to not underestimate the effect of a sun flare but it really does make a big difference, especially if you like cinematic results to your images. They’re a great way to add color and depth to your images.

Analyze your image first

The process of adding sun flares is actually quite easy, it only takes two steps and a few minutes. The most difficult thing however is to get a realistic result. You need to analyze your image before doing anything. Start by looking at the position of the sun, how the shadows and highlights are wrapping around your subject.

In the image below, I added a sun flare on the left, but before doing that I noticed that the highlights were hitting the Taj Mahal from the left and the shadows were in the right side of the monument. If I were to position the sun flare on the right side of the image, the results wouldn’t be realistic because the highlights and the shadows wouldn’t correspond to the direction of the light of my sun flare. Try to consider the position, direction and intensity of the light.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop - Taj Mahal

This is another example of a GoPro image I took. I added a sun flare on the right side of the image because the sun was positioned there in real life. We’re not trying to create another sun, we’re just enhancing it with more colors and more intensity.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

In this portrait, I added a sun flare to the left of the model. The result looks realistic because you can see the orange flair spreading and lightning the hair of the model but her face isn’t affected.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

How to create and add a sun flare in Photoshop

It’s actually quite easy to add a sun flare in Photoshop. Start by opening your file in Photoshop and creating a new empty layer. The next step is to analyze where you want to place your sun flare and how strong do you want the effect to be. In this case, I want to place my sun flare in the top right of the image and make it pretty big. The sun was actually setting in that position but I am not completely satisfied with how it looks. I want to make the flare more vivid and more intense.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

Select the Brush Tool and pick a color

The next step is to select the Brush Tool with an opacity and flow of 100%. Make sure to select a soft brush with a hardness of 0%. I usually like to pick my own color of the sun flare, the color code I use is #fd9424, but there are different ways to pick a color for the sun flare.

You can use the Eye Dropper Tool and select a color from the image by pressing I on your keyboard or by selecting it in the tool box on the left (the chosen color will automatically be set in your palette). Or after you have created the flare, you can create a hue/saturation adjustment layer only affecting that layer and just playing around until you find a color you like.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

Adding your flare

To create the sun flare, the first step is to simply create one brush stroke (you just have to press once). Make sure your brush is quite big. So far your image should look something like this:

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

The next step is to go to blending modes for your current layer (the layer with the brush stroke). The default blending mode is normal, you need to change it to Screen. The screen blending mode by definition will invert both layers, multiply them, and invert the result. Your sun flare is going to get brighter and blend in with the sky after you do that.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

Transform

The next step is to select your layer with the sun flare and press CTRL/CMD+T to transform (resize) it. A little box will appear, you want to drag the corners to make it bigger. How big you want to make it depends on your image and your desired effect. The sun flare will affect the whole image if you make it too big and will brighten up the shadows.

Using a brush tool on a new layer is really helpful because you have full control. You can change the position, color, brightness, or saturation of your flare whenever you want by creating new adjustment layers that only affect that layer.

If you think that your effect if too strong, you can reduce the opacity of the layer, if it is not strong enough, you can duplicate the layer. Always remember that the effect should be subtle otherwise if will look quite unrealistic. We are just trying to create a scene taking in consideration how light works.

How to Create a Sun Flare in Photoshop

 whenever you want

Your turn

Now you try you hand at adding a sun flare to one of your images using Photoshop. Please share your images and any questions in the comments below.

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Yacine Bessekhouad

is a young student who is currently living in France. What attracts him the most to photography is the technical and aesthetic feel. He loves talking and writing about photography and also makes weekly photography and post production tutorials on his YouTube channel. He shares most of his work on his Instagram account.

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  • Cristyanne Cabral

    I loved it. I tried and It´s fantastic. Thanks a lot.

  • Thank for tutorial, how if you want to add the effect of bright light behind the object?

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  • Excellent tutorial! I have learned following just couple of steps. Very helpful post for beginner like me.

  • Steve

    Hmmm. You may be confusing ghost images (caused by multiple surface reflections inside the camera/lens system and lens flare caused more by scattering within the optical train. Either way, modern lens designs and coatings aim to minimise these (unwanted) effects, although I accept that some folks perceive them as artistic in some sense. The purist might like to try older generation lenses and UV filters to achieve these effects optically (removing the lens hood of course!). My Canon ‘nifty fifty’ (Mk1) suffers from ghosting and I’m usually busy with the clone or heal tool.

  • I think here the main fact is selecting the appropriate color for making effect. #fd9424 is perfect one for your image to Add a Sun Flare. But this color code may change for the different image. So along with this tutorial I think sense of color is too much important.

  • like to outline them? Tricky to do

  • How about adding sun flare to the dark images ? Is it possible to get the same effect as the daylight ? What do you suggest ?

  • Raunaq Puri

    Thanks! Very informative and to the point.

  • Amazing photos, thanks for sharing the vegetarian options too!

  • Very good post, really helpful

  • Waow is very good, but how do you make the picture so neat?

  • My Nguy?n

    This is a very specific and easy-to-understand tip for people who are new to photoshop like us, and this is a great thing.
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  • Thanks! Very informative and to the point.

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