In the previous installment of this two-part post, I explained how you may attempt to reduce or remove the haze in your photographs using a simple Photoshop tool, Layer Blend Modes. In this second part, I will show a more flexible, albeit slightly more complex process to deal with unwanted haze in a photograph. This approach, with its many variants, has been around for quite some time for Photoshop users, here it is for your editing pleasure! (Without the LR 6 CC Dehaze Slider!)
A more complex, but flexible method to dehaze
If the simple one-step adjustment does not produce the desired results, we can resort to a little more complex but more flexible method. Don’t worry about the complexity, I will include a Photoshop Action that you can download and use. With a single-layer blend-mode solution, we are a little limited. Here is an alternate approach that involves making the new layer a smart object so that the adjustment we apply to is changeable. After that, we will apply a large-radius High Pass Filter to increase the mid-tone contrast and augment all this with a curves adjustment layer at the top. First thing first:
- Download this action file Remove Haze (compressed ZIP)
- Extract it to a known folder on your computer
- Find the extracted copy and double-click on it to load it to Photoshop, you may need to have Photoshop open before double-clicking on it. If you cannot load it that way, you can always do it from the Actions palette by clicking on the small menu icon on the top right and choosing Load Actions then pointing to the extracted file.
This time, we will use a different photograph. The photograph on the left shows the Golden Horn in Istanbul near Eyup district. I was enjoying the view and a nice lunch with a friend when I took the photograph. I am showing the original with no adjustments and then various stages of haze removal. Yes, it is too warm but I wanted to show the image the way it came out of the camera. Normally, I would adjust the white balance before other steps, I will show you what I consider to be my preference for this image at the end of the article.
When your image is open and you are ready to process, open the actions palette, making sure that “Dehaze” is highlighted, click on the “Play” button and let Merlin wave his wand! The result will most likely be overdone, which is on purpose. As the stop message says, you can adjust a variety of factors to make the result suit your taste and needs. Here they are and they are optional depending on your needs. You can do some, all, none:
- Change the layer blend mode of the Dehaze 01 layer to increase or decrease the effect. The default is Vivid, Overlay will reduce the impact and Linear will increase it.
- Turn the Dehaze Curve layer off and on, or adjust the curve to your taste
- Change the opacity of either layer or both, they are set at 80% and 70% respectively, lowering the opacity will reduce their impact on the result
- Double-Click on the High Pass filter under Dehaze 01 to adjust its radius. The default is 100, but your image may need less or more. It is a fully visual adjustment, as you change the radius you will see the effect on the image
- Add a luminosity mask to the Dehaze Curve layer. To do that, turn off the curves layer, switch to the Channels palette, Ctrl-Click on the RGB channel to load the luminosity as a selection. Now, switch back to the Layers palette, turn on the Curves layer, target the layer mask, press D to load the default foreground-background colors as Black-White, and press Alt-Backspace to fill the selection with black. This will allow you to adjust the curves while protecting the highlights.
- In step 5, you can optionally press Ctrl-Backspace a second time to double the density to make a stronger mask. Or, adjust the contrast of the mask to suit your needs.
- Repeat the action once more. This may go over the top. Now, select the two new layers and press Ctrl-G to put them both in a group. Add a layer mask to the group and fill with a gradient from black at the bottom and white at the top. Select the start and the endpoints depending on the image and the level of haze.
- Add a Selective Color adjustment layer and tweak the colors to your satisfaction. Hue and Saturation adjustment will do the same if you are more comfortable with it, however, I find the Selective Color adjustment to be a better tool for two reasons. First, it is a kinder and gentler H&S tool. Second, and more importantly, it offers additional channels of Whites, Neutrals, and Blacks which are quite handy. Take your pick.
As you can see, there are many ways to alter the final look of the image using any combination of the above suggestions. The original action will most likely yield an aggressive look that is intentional. I want you to make the final artistic judgments rather than taking my vision for one particular image. Using the same action and process, I may change the elements differently for different images and what I want that image to look like. No, “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” here! Take a look at the variants of the same image with dehaze action steps applied along with my final edit to the image.
Let me know how you like the process and what parts you may or may not like.