Does Dehaze Really Work?

May 24, 2018

Hazy photos are a very common occurrence and can be caused by a wide range of issues, the most common being heat haze and foggy weather conditions.

Adobe Lightroom and the Camera RAW Plugin for Photoshop come to the rescue of hazy photos with a simple slider, appropriately named Dehaze.

Similar functions are available in most major editing applications.

Let’s see the Dehaze tool in action with some hazy photos in need of repair.

Our first example is a shot of Melbourne from the air on a rather hot hazy day in January 2006. Below is the un-edited version of the photo and as you can see the overall image is lacking in contrast and saturation.

This simple animation shows the results of slowly increasing the dehaze setting from 0 to a value of 50 in Lightroom.

This final version has a bit more fine tuning and the dehaze was selectively intensified using the Lightroom Develop module’s Gradient Filter settings. This enables a more natural look to the final RAW conversion as the level of haze in a photo shot from the air tends to require a greater level of dehaze in the areas of the scene off in the distance.

Our next example is a foggy morning walk in the Okavango Delta in Africa. In this case the camera has just captured the reality of the scene — and it was heavy fog.

The problem is our human eye-brain combination naturally sees through the fog and increases the contrast and that is how we remember the scene.

Unfortunately the camera isn’t as smart as our brain when it comes to recording the scene and again we see a very low contrast captured image.

The Dehaze function is easily able to bring out the details from the fog and quickly improve on the overall quality of the image. The Dehaze slider is able to improve a hazy photo and get you to a great starting point for further refinement of the image. A setting of 90 (the maximum is 100) on the Dehaze slider has been used and in this case and the original photo was in .jpg format.

If at all possible, when you run into these sort of hazy/foggy shooting conditions, you should capture in RAW file format. As the process of dehazing dramatically increases the contrast of the image — having the maximum amount of data to work with at the start will yield the best results.

If you only have .jpg format files to work with, dehaze can still work its wonders but there might be a loss of smooth gradients in some areas of the processed image and higher levels of grain or noise might become evident. In the above foggy morning walk example, some noise showed up in the tree line off in the distance.

Find the Dehaze slider in the Presence group of the Basic Panel in the Lightroom Develop Module.

The dehaze function in Lightroom is very powerful, yet easy to use and definitely worth a try to get a usable image from a capture otherwise ruined by fog or haze.

Dehaze is just one of hundreds of powerful editing and workflow features in Adobe Lightroom.

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