Fixing lens flare using Photoshop CS6’s Content-aware Patch tool

djc_6163hgLens flare can be a major problem when photographing wide-angle scenics, especially through large groves of trees. Sometimes the sun is close enough to the frame that it isn’t possible to completely block it out without changing the composition of the photograph. Removing it after the fact is difficult if not impossible with traditional photo editing tools. One common approach is to use the Patch tool in Photoshop. Fortunately for all of us, the new Photoshop CS6 Patch tool can be made content-aware, and does a remarkably solid job helping fix lens flare…

It’s easy to set the new Patch tool to content aware. Once you’ve selected the Patch tool, simply change the mode in the mini-toolbar from Normal to Content-aware. After that, you can typically just leave it that way and Photoshop will remember your preference.

Using the tool is the same as it always has been. Simply outline the area of the image you wish to patch with your mouse, and then drag it to another, hopefully similar, area of the image from which you want to get the patch material.

Once you let go, the “magic” begins. In addition to moving the patch material over the area to be patched, the content-aware Patch tool will attempt to blend the patch material into its new surroundings. It’s far from perfect, but provides a much better blending than the previous versions, and doesn’t require as much manual labor to blend your new patch.


In this first image, taken on a sunny afternoon along the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country, you can see there are two fairly noticeable areas of lens flare in the upper right. I was able to mostly fix them in just a few seconds each with the new content-aware patch tool, yielding the final image below. Neither patch is perfect, as there are some “repeated” branch patterns, so I could have spent more time perfecting the patch, but they are small areas in a large photo, so the image works quite well even after a quick fix.