How To Control Lens Flare with Exposure Blending
The Exposure blending method involves equal parts fieldwork and postprocessing. This procedure works well when the sun is present in your composition (Figure A).
To begin, make sure your camera is locked securely on a sturdy tripod, as this procedure won’t work (or at least will be prohibitively difficult) if your captures don’t match exactly. Make two exposures: one with the sun present in the frame and another in which the sun is blocked by your finger (Figure B).
It’s a good idea to manually set your white balance so your colors don’t change when the sun is covered up. You also may want to expose a half-stop or so brighter for your second frame, as blocking the sun can darken your resulting capture a bit. Your camera’s histogram can come in handy here.
Now that you’ve captured your source images, follow these steps:
1. Open your two fi les in Photoshop. Your first capture, in which the sun is visible, will be your Background layer.
2. Copy your second capture, with the sun hidden, and paste it over your Background as a new layer (Photoshop will automatically call this Layer 1).
3. Add a black layer mask to Layer 1 (Layer > Layer Mask > Hide All). Since black equals hide and white equals show in layer masking, your black layer mask will hide Layer 1 from view.
4. Select your brush tool, and set your foreground color to white. Making sure your black layer mask is selected in the Layers Panel, begin painting white in the areas of the image that exhibit lens flare. Watch as the offending areas disappear! While exposure blending is a powerful method for controlling lens flare, it can take some practice. Often, your two source photographs may have slight variances in exposure or color due to adding and removing a light source as powerful as the sun. Experiment with Levels, Color Balance and Exposure adjustment layers and masks in order to fine-tune your blended image (Figure C).
Text & Images by Scott Rubey for Outdoor Photographer May 2016