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How to Use the Adobe Lightroom CC Dehaze Tool

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Many Lightroom users were surprised when a new slider called Dehaze showed up in Lightroom CC. How does this slider fit in to the existing tools you already know in Adobe Lightroom?

After a few months of using Dehaze, I can say that this is one of the best features Adobe has added to Lightroom in a long time. I've found myself going back and re-editing photos that were previously "throwaways." Dehaze brought back details that turned an image into a keeper.

Dehaze Example Image
This image shows the power of applying Dehaze, as the left side of the frame is untreated while the right side features a modest adjustment to restore detail in the background.

In this tutorial, I'm going to share tips on using Dehaze, including unconventional creative uses.

What Is Dehaze?

Haze can be caused in images by a variety of factors. This could range from conditions with the atmosphere or fog, to man-made conditions like pollution.

As you might have guessed, the goal of dehaze-ing a photo is to bring back the detail in a scene with prevalent haze.

Dehaze Before Adjustments
The original version of the image I shared in the intro to this article has some definite background haze caused by atmospheric conditions.

How does the Dehaze tool compare to existing tools? There's certainly overlap with other tools like Clarity, but Dehaze seems best suited for images like landscapes where detail in the background fades away.

Adobe's release notes for Dehaze adds this bit of technical detail on how the new feature works:

"The Dehaze technology is based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere."

Watch & Learn

In the screencast below, I'll show you how you can use Dehaze for both corrections and creative adjustments. You'll get ideas for apply this tool to a variety of images.

 

Read on to see more of the Dehaze slider in action.

How to Use the Dehaze Tool for Corrections

To get started with Dehaze, you need to be using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, the subscription-based desktop version of Lightroom. If you're using the perpetual version of Lightroom (usually called Lightroom 6) you won't have the Dehaze slider.

Make sure that you're working in Lightroom's Develop module. This is the section of Adobe Lightroom where you can adjust the look and feel of an image. On the Effects panel on the right side, find the Dehaze slider.

The Dehaze slider has a neutral value of 0. Pulling it to the right reduces haze, while moving to the left will add haze to an image.

Dehaze Slider Adobe Lightroom
The Dehaze slider lives on the Effects panel of Lightroom's Develop module.

When to Use Dehaze

What types of images can you use the Dehaze slider for? Let's take a look at an ideal example below.

I've had the luck of growing up in an area of the United States known as the Smoky Mountains, which are the ideal candidate for a bit of the Dehaze slider. I've always felt like these mountains never show up in photographs just the way I want to, due to the natural haze in the area.

The image below describes the perfect situation where Dehaze can really bring detail back into the frame. With a bit of Dehaze adjustment, the mountains come into view.

Dehaze imapct on landscape image
Pulling the Dehaze slider made the mountains in the background far more visible.

The Dehaze slider really added saturation to the blue skies, but the real value was in the way it added detail to the mountain range in the background. In the screenshot below, I've zoomed in 100% on the same area before and after applying the adjustment.

Dehaze Example Image at 100
At 100%, you can really see the impact of the Dehaze slider on the details in the background.

In short, I've found Dehaze works great for any image where the details in the background are lost. If the background of an image is beyond the plane of focus, Dehaze won't restore the details in the same way shown above.

I've also found that after pulling the Dehaze slider, you may need to adjust exposure and saturation further. Keep in mind that you may need to tweak your other corrections slightly too as you apply more of the Dehaze effect.

Creative Dehaze Slider Effects

When you're adjusting the look and feel of an image, it helps to separate, in your mind and your workflow, the idea of corrections and adjustments. Corrections are neutral, "good enough" changes to our image that correct for elements like exposure, white balance, and composition. Adjustments are where we can apply creative changes to an image in post-processing.

The obvious use for the Dehaze slider is as a correction tool for images where haze is prevalent. But what if we used the slider for creative adjustments?

In essence, the Dehaze slider is going to adjust contrast and detail in a way that other sliders don't. Let's take a look at two creative uses for the Dehaze slider.

Black & White Treatments

One of the most popular uses for the new Dehaze slider is to create stunning black and white images. The default conversion to black and white in Lightroom creates a flat image, and this is usually a good thing: a conservative conversion it gives us lots of room to play around with tone and contrast.

However, I recommend making the Dehaze slider your first stop after converting to monochrome, at least for a try. This slider really adds contrast and detail in one fell swoop, and multiplies any other adjustments you'll make.

The Dehaze slider adds what I would call "structure" to black and white images. You'll see details, particularly in the background of your images come to life as you pull the slider up. 

Dehaze Black  White
In this example image, I've taken a flat black and white conversion and and used the Dehaze slider to bring detail to the image.

Again, it's somewhat ambiguous as to when you could use the Clarity slider or Dehaze slider. The beauty of the digital darkroom is that you can test both and see what works best for each individual image. 

Standard Clarity and Dehaze Images
This comparison shows some subtle differences between the Clarity and Dehaze sliders, particularly the way in which the Dehaze slider sharpens the buildings in the background.

The effect will vary by image, but the comparison above does give some insight into the Dehaze effect. Notice the detail that Dehaze brings out in the pants, and generally applies a "darker" effect than clarity.

Haze Your Images

Even though Adobe calls this tool Dehazethere's nothing stopping you from pulling the slider to add haze to your images. Adding a bit of haze to an image can create an effect that other tools can't seem to replicate.

In the example below, I've added haze to the image as a creative effect. If you want to draw more attention to the foreground than the background, you can add haze to make the background fall off with less detail.

Haze Added Landscape Photo
Adding haze to the image will take attention away from the background and draw the viewer's eye to the foreground.

Another example is the portrait image below, which was shot with backlighting. Shooting with your subjects backlit often creates a natural haze effect, but we can enhance that soft lighting by dialing in a negative value with the Dehaze tool.

Haze Added Image
Pulling the Dehaze slider to the left (negative value) adds a bit more haze to this backlit image.

Recap & Keep Learning

Lightroom's Dehaze tool is one of the more important features that Adobe has added in recent releases. Whether you're using it as a correction tool or used for creative styling, it has its place as part of an adjustment toolkit.

Keep learning more about adjusting your images in the tutorials below.


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