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How to create stunning images using photography filters… when to use them, and when it’s best to put them away.

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Sunrize on Grand Canyon National Park

How to Avoid Lens Flare

Here is a quick tip that might come in handy when you want to include the sun in your scene and the lens or filters are causing lots of flare and ghosting. In the image below, I was using a graduated ND filter in front of my lens to darken the sky. The light reflecting between the filter and the front element of the lens was causing most of the ghosting issues that take the form of colored blobs of light.
Ghosting issues
Here is my suggestion in a situation like this is… take a second exposure with the camera on a tripod but, with this exposure, use your finger or another suitable object to block the sun as shown below. As you can see, the foreground has more contrast and most of the ghosting is gone.
Using a finger to block the sun

Back home, I loaded the two images as layers in Photoshop, then created a layer mask to hide the sky from the second image. In this case, I could use the gradient tool to very quickly create the mask, but, if your horizon isn’t so straight, you may have to do more masking work. In any case, making a very precise selection is not necessary.

Layers with mask

Finally, I used the spot healing brush tool to fix some of the remaining issues. As I was using an aperture of f/22 in order to get the sunburst effect, the dust particles on my sensor became visible. A few more touches with the healing brush quickly got rid of those.

Final image

This is a simple technique that can be very helpful when dealing with these kinds of situations. Alternatively, you might think that ghosting artifacts add an artsy touch to your images and decide to leave them there. That’s totally up to you.

About Author Ugo Cei

Ugo Cei is a fine-art travel and landscape photographer from Italy. He believes this is really an amazing planet that we live on and every place and every culture possesses beauty that deserves to be shown, so he tries to catch every available opportunity to travel and to create new images of foreign cities, their inhabitants and of natural landscapes.

He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and his work has been published on magazines and exhibited in art galleries worldwide. He is also the host of the popular travel photography podcast, The Traveling Image Makers.

  • Terry

    Awesome and informative! Thanks for this post! Definitely going to use this.