Monday, June 8, 2009

Reducing the appearance of glare in dark areas with Contrast/Brightness

(Final edited image: Parrot Tulips, R. Garriott, oil, 24"x24")

The best way to avoid having to deal with glare in photo editing is to avoid it when photographing. Try some of the photo suggestions posted here to eliminate or reduce this issue.

Occasionally, though, you'll be in a hurry, photograph without checking, the painting goes out the door, gets sold... and the only record you have is a photo with glare-- as in this sample in the tutorial below. For those instances, here's a method that might help minimize the effect of glare a bit.

The Magic Wand Tool

With the Magic Wand tool, select the areas of glare that are most noticeable. (As in past tutorials, I've included a second 'control' image to the right, to help show the change.) In this case, it's the upper and left background. Select 'contiguous' on the upper toolbar to select only pixels that touch each other (otherwise it will select pixels all over the image). You can adjust the tolerance as needed; 32 is the default, it is set at 20 here. You'll see a dotted line around the area as you select it. To select more area at the same time, hold down your shift key while continuing to click on areas with the Magic Wand.

In the top toolbar, choose Image/Image Adjustment/Brightness-contrast. To darken, move the brightness pointer to the left. In this case I've reduced the brightness by -14. This allows the background to blend in with the dark areas at bottom and left with no noticeable line.

Release the selected area, and you'll have your result. If you get a 'line' or the fix doesn't blend in smoothly, undo (Ctrl+Z), try again, and adjust your increments.

If the glare covers a large portion and is noticeable over areas of light and dark, I would suggest rephotographing as a first step.
Here's one more little tip that may help you-- when you use the Magic Wand in an image with mixed shades, it may not pick up all the pixels in an area. So while holding down the Shift Key, click the Magic Wand a few times, moving around to pick up more pixels, and then if you need to pick up strays, switch to the 'Lasso' tool (while still holding down the Shift key)-- it's right next to the Magic Wand. Move your mouse in a loop around the stray pixels, and then make your adjustment with Brightness/Contrast or Levels.
I hope you find this tip useful! Happy photo editing!


  1. Thank you R - I needed this one!

  2. Ah ha! So that's how you do it. Thank you thank you thank you.....!

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise. I need to refine my photography and gain more control over the results. So far, it is luck that gives me good photos.

  4. Thanks so much. I can use these tips for my watercolors. I need to start practicing right away.

  5. WOW, thanks for laying out such clear and helpful tutorials!!