It happens all the time. You have a magnificent landscape in front of you, but haze will spoil the image. No more. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to remove haze from your pictures.
Haze in a photograph can hide away the detail your eyes see.
Haze can be a photographer's friend, sometimes, but mostly is a nuisance we have to live with. Haze can be removed, at least partially, and there are multiple solutions, so this quick tip is just a look at some possible paths. It's not an encyclopedia about it. If you know another way, feel free to refer to it on the comments. We will all be richer!
1. Different Ways to Remove Haze
To remove haze you can, sometimes, just use the Auto option on Photoshop Levels, or move the triangles under the histogram closer to the sides of the "mountain" until you get the result you want.
The quick way to get rid of haze is through the Auto Contrast (go to the Image menu, Auto Contrast is right there) option in Photoshop. You can also try Auto Tone, in the same menu, and see the results. The problem, usually, is that this is a global adjustment. Just as with anything "auto," the results can can be different than what you want. It works with some images and can be a complete disaster with others.
But there are other ways to remove haze from a photograph. They're usually done in Photoshop, or any other program that lets you control your Unsharp Mask by fiddling with the controls for Amount, Radius and Threshold. The basic recipe states that you need to use a high Radius and a smaller percentage of Amount, and even change the Threshold beyond its usual value, which is 0.
2. Local Contrast Enhancement
The Unsharp Mask process does not offer a "one size fits all" solution but is a good starting point to experiment.
As the name implies, Unsharp Mask creates a mask that, contrary to its name, can make the image look sharper. But it does so by blurring the original through the value of Radius. In a normal Unsharp Mask process Amount is the value you change more drastically, but for this "haze removing" technique you do a Local Contrast Enhancement using Radius. The "recipe values" suggested are: Amount 20%, Radius 50, Threshold 0.
Remember this is a starting point value, and depending on the size and characteristics of the image you may have to adjust differently.
Most programs do offer the means to adjust images this way. The free GIMP is an example, so everybody can do this technique, no excuses. It's a matter of working out the best solution. Some people will even go to the extra work of opening the different channels - Red, Green and Blue - and adjust exposure on each of them to get rid of haze. With everything digital, there are various "recipes" you can use. The problem is that most people are not very keen on numbers and math, so they get lost... in the haze?
3. The NeutralHazer Solution
For those that prefer to do it with absolute control, there is commercial software that removes haze.
Well, there's a commercial solution for you. It is called NeutralHazer and is a plugin for Photoshop and Photoshop Elements that detects the thickness of air in each pixel which allows for the definition of the areas of foreground and background: the user can therefore keep the foreground intact and gradually remove the haze in the background, while choosing an intensity of correction.
It sounds like a rather strange explanation, but seen, it is a true WYSIWYG process and you will be hooked to in no time. The interface is very intuitive and soon you'll be using it to get rid of haze.
Being able to adjust both the background and foreground areas covered, the intensity of the effect on each of them and the transition between the two areas makes NeutralHazer a unique tool. And the fact that you can export the mask created to use in Photoshop, opens to further options in terms of editing your images to reveal all the elements in your pictures.
The result is shown in the middle section of the photograph. With NeutralHazer you can control the amount and position of haze in your photograph. I've overdone it a bit so you see it perfectly here.
Get a demo version of the program on the creator's website, Kolor, where you'll find other interesting software to create panoramas and other solutions for editing photographs. And even hardware to extend the creative possibilities.