How to avoid lens flare

Ron Niebrugge Moab, Photos, Travel, Utah 30 Comments

When photographing directly into the sun, especially with zoom lenses, it seems like lens flare is almost impossible to avoid.  I thought I would share a little trick that I have used for the last few years for eliminating flare.

I capture two images, one that includes the sun and flare, and one where I block the sun and eliminate the flare as you  can see above.  I then combine the two images using photomerge in Photoshop  keeping most of the image on the right except for the portion of the image where you see my fingers.  Here is the end result:

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

It is important that both images are of the same exposure – I make sure I’m working in manual mode because your camera’s meter is going to come up with two very different exposures for these two scenes.  And of course a tripod so that the two images contain identical compositions is imperative.

I used to stand in front of my camera and block the sun with a lens cap.  The lens cap made a perfectly round shadow that I could then position just barely over the front of the lens.  When it comes to your eyes, I’m sure this is the safest way of doing it, but it does take more work in Photoshop.  Lately, I have been looking through the camera with my hand out in front until it is positioned to block the sun – I wonder what passerby’s must be thinking as they see me doing this – is he really photographing his fingers in front of that pretty arch?  🙂

Comments 30

  1. I did see you doing that and thought you were kind of weird, I’m kidding. I’ve been doing it for quite some time now but always edit the other easier photographs instead. Guess I don’t want the extra work, saving it for when I get an assissant someday. I do see the gradual darkness there, it does not bother me but it is noticeable. I know removing everything far from the sunburst is a piece of cake but does it tedious at all right around the sun?

    Found the blog via QT Long twittering.

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    Thanks a lot everyone!

    That is funny Steve.

    Good question. In a typical image where the exposures are identical, it just takes seconds to remove my fingers to expose the underlying image, and there isn’t any darkness, banding or noticeable shift in the light. This might be a better example:

    Seward, Alaska.

    Unfortunately for this image of Landscape Arch I tried an additional blend for exposure, and that is what is causing the gradual darkness you see here. Admittedly, that area need work.



  3. This is a really great idea, Ron. Can’t believe you’ve been holding out on us for several years. 😉 Seriously, thanks for sharing this tip. I’ll try it out the next time I head out to photograph.

  4. Thank you for your tip here and from your previous post! Wonderful tips that will definately be handy..especially for an amature like myself that can use all the advises I can get;) As always, beautiful images always found here! Happy New Year;)

  5. If you want to predict where lens flare will appear, don’t forget to use ‘depth of field preview’! This shows you how the picture looks with your taking aperture (which affects where flare will appear).

  6. LOL Ron, I was in Yosemite at sunrise this morning thinking “why the #@!* don’t my pics with the sun look as good as other people’s”… and now I know.

    I actually use the same trick when the sun is nearly in the photo and putting glare on the lens, just didn’t think of photo merging them with it in the shot. Sometimes a piece of paper or other flat object (e.g. soft filter case work) when out of the frame, since they provide a bit more extension.

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    Thanks a lot everyone!

    Bret – You are right! Judging from the response, now I see I should have written about this a couple of years ago

    Good tip Tim!

    john – Yeah, I have used my GND filter cases as well.


  8. Of course, why didn’t I think of that? Big problems often have simple solutions, but not until they are found.

    If I saw you doing this, I would have thought of Arno Rafael Minkkinen who makes great landscape-self portraits.

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    Thanks Claes.


    I made my comment, and then went in to admin to edit it, and realized I could add a photo. Came in handy!

  10. Great tip Ron – I never thought about doing this. Could have saved me a few times as flare can be kind of difficult to get rid of in post if you don’t want it.

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  14. I’ve been using this trick for several years as well. I often shoot a frame with my hand or had blocking the direct sun – creates a lovely OOF photo of my hand! Then I do a second frame w/o the blockage and then merge in post. This trick has made it possible for me to get a bunch of images that would otherwise have been completely impossible.


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