How To Reduce Lens Flare In Your Photos

Lens flare has adversely effected sharpness, color saturation and density in this image from Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg in Russia.

This post features two images that, in all but one critical way, are identical. But, as is evident when comparing these two images, it’s that one point of difference that separates a technically proficient image from a failure.

Forget About Being Clever After The Fact

Now let’s not confuse the issue by thinking about what some of us may or may not be able to do in applications like Lightroom or Photoshop to fix the problem.

Not everyone has the applications in question, let alone the time or skill to resolve such issues on the desktop. And anyway, who has the time.

Save Time And Get It Right In Camera

Surely, it’s better to avoid lens flare in camera.

Knowing you’ve made a technically good image allows you to move onto other subjects or scenes with a degree of confidence, or to continue to explore the same one in a more creative and visually interesting manner.

These two frames were made, seconds apart, in the grounds of Peterhof Palace just outside of St. Petersburg, Russia.

It’s a simple scene, and nothing to write home about, but it is a great example of the adverse effects of lens flare and how to avoid them. And that, of course, is the whole point.

Here's My Disclaimer, If You Were Wondering

The only processing that’s been done, other than a little bit of sharpening and resizing on Export, to either image is some perspective correction through the Lens Correction panel in Adobe Lightroom.

Comparing Two Images Of The Same Scene

The first image, the one at the very top of this post, suffers from pretty substantial lens flare.

Direct light has hit the front element of the lens resulting in the following:

  • A lack of dynamic range (i.e., contrast) and density (i.e., darkness)

  • Desaturated (i.e., more pastel) color reproduction

  • Reduced sharpness

It’s worth noting that these adverse affects of flare are accentuated by the fact that I’m photographing adjacent to a fountain and there’s plenty of moisture in the air.

This second image in the series shows the successful reduction of less flare from the image though the proper use of a lens shade/hood.

How I Reduced Lens Flare From This Photo

The second image displays none of the effect of lens flare. Why? Because I shaded the front of the lens from direct light.

It’s really that simple.

The One Simple Bit Of Kit To Improve Image Quality

If you don’t have a lens shade/hood you really should buy one, by which I mean the one that is designed specifically for the lens you use.

If you already have a lens hood and you don’t use it, every single time you make an image (yes, indoors as well) then, from my point of view, you’re making a big mistake.

While the first photo in this post showcases the adverse affects of lens flare very well, many images made without a lens hood suffer from low level lens flare.

Your images won’t look terrible, but may look flat, a little hazy and lacking in color saturation.

Some Sports Are More Fun At Home, Alone

Have you ever made the mistake of going to a Football Grand Final day party where some nutter has decided to move the TV outside.

Sure, that’s where the BBQ is and the idea of watching TV outside on a beautiful sunny day sounds great. That is until you try to watch the game. Yikes!

I did it once and almost immediately realized that folks were there to party and not to watch the game. I left at quarter time and now only ever watch the footy on Grand Final Day at home on my own.

That’s because I want to actually watch the game and listen to the commentary. Call me crazy, but not on Grand Final Day, because the door will be locked and the blinds will be closed. 

Normal home TV sets are simply not designed for outdoor use. Likewise, there’s a reason why they turn the lights off at the movies.

In the average home many folks choose to close the blinds when watching TV during daytime hours. Why? Because doing so shades the glass TV screen from direct light which improves the picture as follows:

  • More dense blacks providing richer colors and more defined shapes and textures.

  • Higher contrast which increases the perception of sharpness.

  • Increased color saturation for a more dynamic viewing experience, particularly for sport and most movies.

If you’ve spent big money on a large screen TV you really should do one of two things. Only watch it at night, with the room lighting turned way down, or, if you do watch it during daylight hours (and I won’t tell anyone if you do), shade the screen by closing the blinds and turning off overhead lights.

And I’m hoping you follow the same regime when using your computer, particularly when processing your precious digital photos.

Improving Image Quality In Your Photos

Now if you accept the above TV viewing recommendations why would you not to the same thing for your photos.

Folks go on and on about wanting to get things right in camera. They seem to feel that, in doing so, the photos they make are, somehow, more authentic.

Well, one of the best ways to reduce the amount of image processing you do on the desktop is to employ a lens hood/shade to shade the front glass element of your lens from direct light.

Just do it! It’s a simple, no fuss way to make better photos.

The Dude Is No Role Model For Serious Photographers

Do you remember how dudes used to go around wearing a baseball cap on their heads with the peak of the cap turned around backwards?

Well, it might have shaded the back of their neck but, if you have the kind of skin I have, doing so would significantly increase the risk of a sunburned face.

Not only that but, by shading the eyes, the peak of the hat allowed you to see the world around you more clearly. Interesting, and if that’s true for your eyes, it must also be so for your camera’s lens as well.

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Oops! I Did It Again

By the way, did you know how a lens hood can be reverse mounted onto the front of your lens so that it doesn’t protrude outwards?

It’s designed that way for storage purposes so that the whole ensemble (camera, lens, lens hood) will better fit into your camera bag.

But when making photos, there’s actually no value in having a lens hood fitted to your camera’s lens unless it’s turned around and points outwards to shade the front glass element of the lens. 

Just thought I should mention it, as rarely a week goes by when I don’t see folks out and about making photos with the lens hood mounted, in storage mode, on their lens.

Time to call the lens hood police.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru