Knoll Light Factory For Photoshop; Creative Lens Flare For Your Images

There are literally thousands of plug-ins available for Adobe's Photoshop, from expensive applications created by major software vendors to freeware created by part-time graphic programmers. However, seldom does a plug-in have as close a relationship to Photoshop as Red Giant Software's Knoll Light Factory for Photoshop. The plug-in was created by Photoshop co-creator John Knoll, whose credits also include that of Visual Effects Supervisor for several Star Trek and Star Wars movies.

Knoll Light Factory is focused on creating lens flare effects, one of the most commonly used effects in both photography and film. Lens flares have probably achieved their high degree of popularity because they can occur naturally when photographing or filming any scene that contains a light source, such as the sun (#1). Using software to create a lens flare effect in a photo not only adds brightness and color, but also reinforces a natural look and feel to the photo, since the effect could easily have occurred on its own as a refraction of light off of the camera's lens.

1. A naturally occurring lens flare created when an Apollo Lunar Module was photographed on the moon. In this case, the flare is exaggerated by the bright sunlight against the black background of space.
All Photos © 2007, Anthony L. Celeste, All Rights Reserved

As you may know, Photoshop does contain a Lens Flare filter, but it is extremely limited in ability. There are only four lens flares available, and with the exception of a single Brightness slider, absolutely no customization is possible (#2). I chose Knoll's lens flare plug-in for this article, because it is one of the most powerful and customizable lens flare plug-ins on the market.

2. The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Lens Flare filter.

Using Knoll Light Factory
In sharp contrast to Photoshop's four lens flares, Knoll Light Factory ships with 42 lens flare presets (#4). Each preset contains Elements (such as GlowBall, Star Filter, and PolySpread) that combine to create the flare. Elements can be turned on or off, and additional Elements can be added from a selection list. Perhaps the most powerful feature of Knoll Light Factory is that each Element can be fine-tuned, using a set of slider controls and other options such as color selection boxes (#3).

3. A sampling of the lens flares in Knoll Light Factory. Sci-fi fans may find two of these flares familiar: John Knoll used a variation on the flare in the upper left image to create the Photon Torpedo effect in the Star Trek movies; Knoll used the flare in the upper right to create the hostile-looking desert sun in the movie Planet of the Apes.

4. The Knoll Light Factory interface.

Lens Flares And The Sun
One of the most common uses for a lens flare is to enhance the effect of the sun in a photo (#5). Since lens flares are created by an interaction between a light source and a camera lens, using lens flares with the sun (the single most used light source) is a natural fit.

5. A photo containing the sun before adding a lens flare.