Updated: May 1, 2019
There's something magical about adding lens flares, sun beams and sun flares to your imagery. They are used ubiquitously in Hollywood films and for good reason. They just look bloody cool. So how can you add realistic lens flares to your photographs? In this tutorial I take a look at the best way to add convincing lens flare and/or sun beams in post production.
Not too long back I posted a video on creating sun flare in Adobe Photoshop. Now, while the method is versatile and convincing when done right it can be time consuming. I now have a much better way to achieve a realistic sun flare and sun glow effect that is super easy and speedy to create.
The best tool to create the effect is a filter that's built straight into the powerful photo editing software Luminar. The filter
Below I've created a video tutorial on how to use the sunrays filter in Luminar. The basic steps are outlined below.
1. Choose the right type of photo Select an image that lends itself to sun rays or sun flare. I would recommend having the sun in the frame of the original photo capture. This way you are enhancing what is already there rather than forcing a flare into a scene where it doesn't belong.
2. Get a good base point to start from
Use the filters you feel comfortable with to give your photo a good starting point. I would certainly recommend the RAW Develop filter as a must. Here you can make sure your exposure is how you want it and also address the shadows and highlights.
3. Warm it up
In the RAW Develop filter move the colour temperature towards orange and add a tint of magenta if things start getting too yellow. We want the sun rays and sun flare to sit in an image that evokes a feeling of warmth. If you like the hue you've created but feel it's too strong you can always add a saturation/vibrance filter and drop the saturation down.
4. Get creative
One of the most fun things in Luminar is that the filters and sliders are just calling out to be played with. Get creative with it. I really encourage you to let loose and play around in this non-destructive digital playground. Some of my favourite filters for a sunset shot are the Orton Effect, Image Radiance, Fog and Golden Hour.
5. Add the sun flare filter
Create a new adjustment layer over the top of your current one that will hold the filter on its own. Add the sun flare filter to this layer. The reason we do this on a seperate layer is so that you're able to dial back the effect as a whole later without affecting any other image editing changes you've made. This is a great point to remember as it's easy to overcook the sun rays filter look. Having the ability to reign it in without doing it slider by slider can be a godsend.
6. Place the Center of The Sun!
Use the "place sun" option to position the sun filter center point directly over the top of the existing sun in your scene.
7. Play with the settings to achieve the effect you like.
Whilst there are elements of the filter that are intuitive there are several variables that may need tweeking to create the look you're after. I'll often warm the rays up just a tad as the default white looks too stark and cold.
Aside from the name giving me a giggle like a prepubescent school boy, I'm fond of the "penetration" slider for another reason. It enables the user to guide the filter as to what objects the sun rays can penetrate through and which will block it. A-MAZ-ING!
8. Add a vignette (Optional)
Add a vignette to help bring the viewers eye towards the bright part of the image. Place the vignette center near to the sun center to emphasise the effect.
9. Add a LUT (Optional)
If you want to colour grade your image further, adding a LUT is a great way to do it. I always throw on a LUT at the end just as a finishing touch.
....aaaaaaaand you're done. Sit back. Enjoy your masterpiece, upload to instagram, and revel in the praise. Well done you!