These days, we try to avoid lower contrast and flare, but it’s part of the charm of most retro photography. However, achieving flare is quite a hard effect to replicate unless you’re shooting in ideal light conditions, with the sun in, or close to the edge of, the frame. To save time and effort, here’s how to add a convincing flare effect in Photoshop Elements.
It helps if you start with an image where the sun is positioned close to the edge of the frame (even if there isn’t any flare) as the lighting will be consistent with the flare, so the effect will be more convincing.
Step 1: Adjust Levels
Open your original image – our download ours seen here, flare_before.jpg from http://goo.gl/tPqrE – and open it in Photoshop Elements. Click on the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and select Levels. To lighten the highlights, drag the right-hand slider to the left. Drag the middle slider to the left to lighten the midtones.
Step 2: Colour adjustment
With the basic tones adjusted you now need to adjust the individual colour channels. Select Red from the drop-down menu in the Levels Adjustment Layer and drag the middle slider to the left to a value of around 1.30. Select Green and again drag the middle slider to the left, this time to around 1.10.
Step 3: Stretch the canvas
To position the ‘sun’ in the correct position you need to expand the canvas size by going to Image>Resize>Canvas Size. Choose Percent from the drop-down menu and enter 130%, then make sure that the Anchor graphic shows the square in the middle of the arrows. Click OK.
Step 4: Add flare
Duplicate the Background layer by pressing Ctrl+J, then go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare. In the new window, choose 105mm Prime and set the Brightness to 120%. Drag the cross-hairs that indicate the flare origin up to the top right and click OK. To finish, crop the image to the original size.
Top Tip: Try a filter
Using a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer is a simple but effective way to tone to your image. Simply add it to the top of the layer stack and choose from a huge range of cool or warm filters, setting an Opacity of around 20%.