With Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6, Adobe introduced a new Lightroom Dehaze tool. This is designed to boost contrast in hazy-looking images, usually landscapes, where distant objects look washed out. Actually, though, it works in all sort of pictures – but how?
Essentially, Lightroom Dehaze is a kind of localised contrast tool, boosting contrast in areas the look flat, while leaving alone areas which already look contrasty enough.
It’s much more selective than the regular Contrast slider because that just increases contrast globally across the whole image, regardless of how much contrast there is already. Washed out areas will get a useful boost, but areas which already have lots of contrast will be pushed over the edge into a kind of ‘soot and whitewash’ effect.
It’s different to the Clarity slider, too. This increases the contrast around object edges to make them stand out more clearly, but it’s not designed for enhancing larger areas of even tone. It also tends to reduce saturation at stronger settings.
Step 01: Try it out on a weak photo
Here’s a good example. I took this picture on a day with hazy sunshine when heavy storm clouds had just passed over the building in the picture. It looked like it would make a good shot at the time, but the photo looks pretty weak and washed out when viewed on the computer.
Step 02: Use the Lightroom Dehaze slider
You’ll find the Dehaze slider at the bottom of the Effects panel. Don’t be shy – give it a good old shove to see what will happen. It’s certainly done the trick here, really ramping up the contrast in that washed-out sky but giving less of a boost to the foreground. I pushed the slider right up to 100% and it’s been a lot more effective, and a lot easier, than using a graduated filter would have been.
Step 03: Localised Dehaze adjustments
If you use the Dehaze slider in the Effects panel the effect is global. It will work on some images but less well on others. The sky in this picture of an Aston Martin needs a boost, but the Dehaze slider pushed the contrast in the rest of the picture just a little too far.
Step 04: Graduated filter with Dehaze
So the answer here was to create a graduated filter effect, because there’s now a Dehaze slider here, too – and you can use it in conjunction with other adjustments. In this instance I pushed the Dehaze slider up to 100% again, increased the saturation and added an amber colour tone to the sky.
So how useful is the Lightroom Dehaze tool?
To be perfectly honest, when I set out to look for photos that really showed off the usefulness of the Lightroom Dehaze tool it took me half an afternoon – I just didn’t have that many. Keen landscape photographers might have more.
There is another issue. Like other localised contrast tools, it will also pick out any sensor spots, hairs or other blemishes. That’s not a good reason not to use it, but it may leave you with a bit of cloning to do afterwards.