When I’m photographing into the sun, I often do so with the intent on silhouetting or purposefully adding lens flare.
When it doesn’t happen, I can add the effects in post processing. By adding sun rays and lens flare, it can add mood to the scene. Here’s the before and after on a shot I took a few years ago while hiking in the Ramapo Reservation Park, in New Jersey.
Here are the abbreviated steps in Photoshop (Substitute CTRL for CMD if you are using a PC):
1) CMD -> Click on the RGB channel to load the luminosity. Create a new alpha channel and fill the loaded selection with white.
2) Boost contrast of the new alpha channel with levels. Use the black eyedropper and click on a dark area. Use the white dropper and click on a bright area.
3) Load the new alpha channel as a selection in a new layer and fill the selection with white.
5) Go to filter menu -> Blur -> Radial Blur -> set amount to 100%. In the preview window, move the center of the radial blur to the relative brightest spot in your photo.
6) Hit CMD-F to Re-apply the filter to soften the blur.
7) In filter effects, add an outer glow with a yellow-to-whte gradient, if you want to enhance it further.
8) To add more contrast and drama, add a new layer above the bottom-most layer. Load the alpha channel, invert the selection, and fill with black. Use the opacity slider to lessen the effect if it’s too dark. Use the Output Sliders (Know as the “Blend-If” sliders) and drag the black and the white sliders in towards the center to add more contrast.
9) Add lens flare – Create a new layer on top and fill it with black. Go to Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare. I chose the 50-300mm zoom and left it at 100 %. Choose Screen from the blending mode.