Are you looking to understand how to remove glare in Photoshop? While glare does have its creative uses, when it’s just distracting from the main subject, it’ll only harm your images – and that’s where this article comes in handy.
Glare presents in many ways, so it can be removed with different techniques. Below, I’ll share the most popular methods to reduce or remove glare in Photoshop – as well as some tips to prevent it in the first place!
Let’s get started.
What is glare?
Glare is when light impairs visibility. For example, if you’re driving and the sun bounces off the metallic surface of the car in front of you so you can’t see, that’s glare.
Sometimes, glare occurs when the light reflects off a subject in the frame, such as water, glasses, or a metal object. That’s why you often encounter a glare effect when you’re photographing people wearing eyeglasses.
Other times, glare is caused by light bouncing around inside the lens. This usually happens when you photograph toward the light source (e.g., the sun). In such cases, you’ll often hear the term “lens flare” – but from a retouching perspective, it’s really all the same thing and can be fixed with some of the techniques mentioned throughout this article.
Glare on a photograph can be a single bright spot, a number of circles and shapes in different colors, or a light haze. Sometimes, glare can be used as a creative effect; other times, glare can ruin your picture.
So let’s see how to remove glare in Photoshop!
How to remove glare in Photoshop: 4 methods
Let me start with a quick clarification: Completely removing glare from a photo is very difficult. Most of the time, you can just reduce the glare, though it all depends on the amount of detail you have to work with.
Each photo will require a slightly different approach, so I recommend you learn all of these methods. Then, with each new image, you can apply different techniques or even combine them as needed.
Method 1: Adobe Camera Raw
Adobe Camera Raw is a digital darkroom where you can develop all the unprocessed data from a photograph taken in RAW format. It offers the best chance to recover glared-out detail because you still have plenty of information available from the shot.
By default, if you open a RAW file in Photoshop, ACR launches automatically. Here, you can develop the picture before moving on to Photoshop. Of course, while ACR is designed for standard post-processing, there are a couple of tools that are particularly helpful when dealing with glare.
Dehaze: Sometimes, glare presents as a glow in the overall image, like there’s a fog (haze) over the shot. Here, Dehaze is your best friend. Simply move the Dehaze slider, and watch how the contrast increases (and the glare disappears!).
Whites: In the Basic panel, you’ll find the Whites slider. It adjusts the whitest whites in your image (also known as the white point). So by working with this slider, you can darken the brightest areas of your shot to regain some of the details.
By the way, if you’re not working on a RAW file, you can still launch ACR from within Photoshop. Just go to Filters and choose Camera Raw Filter. This will give you access to the same tools as ACR, but keep in mind that your photo’s information will be reduced compared to an original RAW file.
Method 2: Adjust Shadows and Highlights
Shadows and Highlights is a tool that allows you to fix images with high contrast or restore details in overexposed and underexposed areas.
You can find this option in the menu Edit>Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights. I recommend you duplicate the background first; that way, you keep the original image intact, plus you can mask out different areas.
When you choose Shadows/Highlights, a pop-up window appears, which lets you control your adjustments. For further control, select Show More Options.
Then simply move the sliders to eliminate the glare in your image. Remember to check the Preview option to see the effects of your adjustments in real-time.
The Amount sliders control how much correction you’re applying. To remove glare, you’ll want to work on the Highlights. Of course, you’re welcome to change the Shadows as well, to decrease the contrast and make the glare less noticeable.
The Tonal Width controls the range of tones that will be affected by your adjustments. To fix glare, set a small value in the Highlights Tonal Width to restrict the changes to the brightest parts of the image.
The Radius changes the size of the area considered around each pixel when Photoshop considers whether it belongs to the highlights or the shadows.
Pro tip: If you want the adjustments to be applied to the glare and nothing else, add a Layer Mask. Then, fill it with black and paint white over the glare. That way, you’ll see the original image – but the layer with the Shadows/Highlights adjustment will be visible only on top of the glare.
Method 3: Dodge and burn
There are different techniques for dodging and burning in Photoshop. In fact, there is a Dodge and a Burn tool, but I prefer to use layers.
Here, I’ll show you a couple of ways to do this. You can use these dodging and burning methods on their own, but for my example image, I use both for a better result.
Dodging and burning with Curves
The goal is to darken areas where glare is present, so you’ll need to do some burning.
Add a Curves adjustment layer on top of the original photo. Pull the center of the Curve down to darken the glare. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the image becomes too dark – you’ll fix that in the next step.
When you have sufficiently dark glare, select the Curves mask, go to Edit>Fill and choose Black. That way, the Curves adjustment will be hidden. Then grab the Brush tool, with white as the foreground color, and paint over the glare. This will reveal the burning effect in select places.
Dodging and burning with Soft Light
Add a new layer on top of the original and change the blending mode to Soft Light. Now, everything you paint with white will get lighter and everything you paint with black will get darker – so paint over the glare with a black brush!
Remember: If you make adjustments and you don’t love the results, you can reduce the opacity to make the effect less evident.
Method 4: Clone and Heal
If the glare completely overexposes certain pixels, leaving you without any information at all, or if you’re having a hard time matching the colors and level of luminosity, you can try the Clone Stamp and Healing tools. These take information from surrounding areas and either blend or replace the information for each given pixel.
The Clone tool copies the information from an area that you select and pastes it on top. There’s no blending, so you need to be careful about visible borders or creating patterns.
The Healing tools grab information from a different area and blend it with the existing information. If you use the Spot Healing Brush, Photoshop gathers the information for you, though the Healing Brush allows you to choose the source point.
Usually, a combination of both tools gives you the best results, though it really depends on the situation.
How to prevent glare in your photos
Now that you’ve learned how to remove glare in Photoshop, I’d like to go back to the beginning. Because the best way to improve glare? Knowing how to avoid it right from the start.
So here are a few quick ways to prevent glare in-camera!
Use a lens hood
You can attach a hood to the front of your lens to block the light coming in from the sides. There are plenty of great options: cylindrical and petal hoods, rigid and rubber hoods with collapsible segments, and more. The specifics don’t matter much; no matter which hood type you choose, it’ll help you prevent glare in your images.
Position yourself in the shade
If you don’t have a lens hood, consider adjusting your position so you can shoot from the shade. If the glare is coming from a reflection of an object in the scene, this won’t help you. However, it will prevent light from coming into the lens from an angle.
Change your angle of view
Don’t be afraid to move your camera from side to side or even up or down. Try different positions that won’t majorly affect the framing of your shot but will change the angle at which the light is hitting your lens. This usually helps to prevent glare!
Use a polarizing filter
A circular polarizing filter helps reduce or remove glare. Just attach it to the lens and turn it until you see the glare disappear. Keep in mind that you will need to adjust the camera settings to let in more light.
How to remove glare in Photoshop: final words
Learning how to remove glare is a useful skill – after all, even if you’re highly vigilant, it tends to find a way into your photos!
So I hope this article was helpful, and that you can now confidently deal with glare in your own images.
Now over to you:
Which of these glare-removal methods do you plan to try? Do you have any tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!