The New Dehaze Tool

By Roger (22 June 2015)

If you belong to Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription programs, you just received new updates to several programs. One of my favorite new tools is the Dehaze feature. It allows you the opportunity to remove or add haze in your photos. Adobe says that the algorithm used 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.” OK, that's nice if you're into the technical details.

In the past, you could find some tutorials, around the internet, that addressed reducing the impact of haze, using Levels and Curves adjustments. In Lightroom, I've tried to reduce the impact of haze, using Clarity and Contrast. Both methods will help, but this is supposed to be a more refined approach. It is, certainly, a faster approach because you just use sliders to make your adjustments. It turns this exercise from minutes to seconds.

You can find the sliders in the Develop Module of Lightroom CC or the Camera Raw windows of Photoshop CC. (Please note: If you have the stand-alone Lightroom 6 version, you will not see this upgrade.)

 Dehaze in Lightroom (L) and Photoshop (R)

Dehaze in Lightroom (L) and Photoshop (R)

Notice that the slider's default position is set to 0. The scale moves to 100, in both positive and negative directions. Moving the slider to the right will remove haze and, to the left, adds haze. The algorithm cannot put in details that don't exist in your file, so it will only do so much. This is another reason to make sure you get a proper exposure. And, since there is more information in a RAW file, this is another reason to shoot RAW.

Let me run through a couple examples.

Here are a couple of boats floating so deeply in the fog, they are almost invisible. Photo 1 is the original file, with no adjustments. Photo 2 has adjustments made the old-fashioned way, with the Clarity and Contrast sliders, in Lightroom. And Photo 3, is the original photo and the Dehaze slider, only. I moved the slider to +40, so less than half the available amount.

 Original

Original

 Original+LR Clarity and Contrast

Original+LR Clarity and Contrast

 Original+Dehaze only

Original+Dehaze only

There is quite a difference. You can now see the beginnings of the island behind the boats. I had forgotten that was even there. Sadly, there still isn't a “Make-It-Wonderful” slider.

If you want to create or enhance the moodiness of a photograph, you can increase the haze.

 Finished lighthouse photo

Finished lighthouse photo

 Lighthouse, with fog added, using negative Dehaze slider

Lighthouse, with fog added, using negative Dehaze slider

I've had mixed results when adding haze. I'm not a fan of it, in this lighthouse photo. I've also found it doesn't work well with every photo, but that is no different than every other tool or plug-in you use in these two programs.

Of course, after you've used the Dehaze tool, you can continue to edit your photo with the other tools available in both programs. I've just started playing around with that. I will keep experimenting with this and recommend you do the same. That's the best way to learn how these programs work. It's part of the fun of post-processing. Give it a shot, and see what works best for your photos.

What is White Balance?

By Mark

Our eyes and our cameras see the world very differently.  In lots of ways, our eyes have evolved into much better image and motion detectors than our technology can reproduce.  One of the areas that our optical system manages without our even noticing, is the mental adjustment of our images, to how they should look, despite the variations in the lighting.   Our cameras provide us the opportunity to adjust that lighting to match the images we see with our eyes.  That component is called the White Balance.    WB definitely impacts how your images look, but also lets you add some artistic choices to your image.  Just for the record, my sister Donna is NOT an oompa loompa. 

 Too much warming or a bad spray tan?

Too much warming or a bad spray tan?

The color of the light changes how we see objects.  In the red glow of the sunrise, things look warmer, in the gathering twilight; things take on a bluish hue.   Light is actually measured by temperature.  Here is an easy graphic showing the color scale.

Fluorescent lights are really greenish, while tungsten lights are quite blue.  “Daylight” is actually fairly balanced light, containing much of the visible spectrum.   In your camera you can choose what kind of light you want the camera to think it is seeing.

You have the opportunity to change those settings after you shoot.  Here is the original nicely balanced daylight image I shot of my sister last week.  

We were in a greenhouse with translucent glass panels which acted like a giant softbox.  I added a little fill flash to give some shadows.   In Lightroom, under the Develop Module>Basic  Panel, the very first thing in your work flow is to evaluate and adjust your White Balance.  

You can drag the Temp Slider left towards the blue which cools the image, or to the right towards the yellow to warm the image.  When you shoot RAW, (as we strongly recommend that everyone should), then you have some precise choices from the pull-down menu.

Starting with our old friend Otto, (Auto, for you purists), which does a decent job of creating an average photo, then onto the standard values established by the gods of photography.  By changing the image to Fluorescent, it will try to correct for the green hue of that ghastly light.  

 Fluorescent makes my sister just a little blue.

Fluorescent makes my sister just a little blue.

If you move it to Cloudy, it will warm the skin tones.  

 Cloudy warms up the images just a bit.

Cloudy warms up the images just a bit.

Unfortunately, if you only have jpegs, you just have to drag the sliders around until you get the adjustment you need.   

There are lots more ways to adjust and use this seemingly simple first step, that really will make visible differences in your photos.  

Fix The Shake

By Roger (22 January 2015)

Have you ever been in this situation? You are being pressed by a crowd at an event; the window light is a little iffy; you open the lens wide; up the ISO a skosch; and slow down the shutter speed a tick. You know you're near your limit, with that heavy 70-200 lens on the camera. But, hey you know what you're doing, right? You take the shot, and it works! Yeah, there is a little bit of motion blur, on her right hand, but it is acceptable in this scenario.

 Sewing in old New Orleans

Sewing in old New Orleans

Man, you think, I've got this down. I'm in manual mode, making adjustments on the fly. But, since I have my lens open to f2.8, and I hate to move the ISO higher, I have only one control available to adjust if I need more light – my shutter speed. Then, another subject

comes into the room, further from the window light, and you adjust down one stop to 1/25 of a second to compensate. You twist your body to get the shot, so you're not as steady as you should be, either. Click goes the shutter. Have you ever been in this situation? Um, me neither. (Cough, cough) Well, maybe once. ;-)

 Sharp dressed man who isn't sharp

Sharp dressed man who isn't sharp

What happens to your photo, when you push too far in those situations, is motion blur that isn't acceptable. You may not be able to see it in this photo, so let's zoom in a bit.

 A closer look

A closer look

It's a portrait, so look at the eyes. Trouble. Look at the brim of his hat; the strands of hair in beard. Ouch! There is definitely motion blur present. I used too slow a shutter speed for the 70-200, and the photo is a good copy of the look on my face. Except, his mouth is closed, and mine is using words that would get me a bite of soap 45 years ago. I know better than to push this far. Before you hit the DELETE key on this photo, give Photoshop a chance to save you.

Let me be the first to warn you that this particular tool, nestled under the Filter menu, won't always fix your problem. It can also give you some strange artifacting, even when it does work. However, I only got two photos of this man, and the second shot is beyond repair. So, with second shot deleted, I jumped into Photoshop to try to salvage my mistake. Under Filter, Sharpen, you'll find the Shake Reduction tool. It opens a window, with a couple of controls on the right.

 Shake Reduction Menu

Shake Reduction Menu

When the tool opens, it will draw a Blur Estimation Region (gotta love the engineer's use of the language, huh?) and make it's first attempt to fix your problem. You can add another BER, but I have never found this effective. I always check the Artifact Suppression box, at the top of the menu. The software does a pretty good job, so I rarely move the sliders much. You'll need to try them a little to see if they favorably impact your photo. I click the Preview box (top of menu) on and off to see the difference. If you're lucky, this is the new zoom.

 Ahh! That's better.

Ahh! That's better.

I've used no other tricks or tools on this example. The feather, hat brim, and eyes are much better. It still isn't as good as if I had used the proper settings, but this photo can be used, especially if the subject doesn't want a 20x30.

There aren't any weird artifacts on this photo. The two I've seen most frequently are haloing around high contrast areas (like the edge around his coat and hat in this photo) or a “crunchiness” in the finer details. The crunchiness looks like you've grossly over-sharpened that part of the photo.

The key move is to use appropriate settings for the situation. A good rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed as high, or higher, than your lens' longest focal length. My 70-200 was being used at 1/25 – rather far from 1/200. In addition, whenever possible, leave yourself room to move all your settings to get the correct exposure. At f2.8, I had no room to move there. My shutter speed was already too slow. I should have changed my ISO to keep my shutter speed higher. But, when you need some help, give the Shake Reduction tool a try, as a last resort. It worked for me on this photo.

 At the Chalmette Plantation, New Orleans

At the Chalmette Plantation, New Orleans

Color Calibration Part II

(By Mark)

Last week we talked about the first half of the process, calibrating our monitors.  The next step is getting it out of your computer and on to your output device or service.  One of the key things to remember is that printed images are seen with reflected light and not backlight as they are on your monitors.  It seems obvious, but it is the number one reason, why the images seem “darker” when they get printed.  Luckily, adjusting for this has gotten much easier in Lightroom.  That being said, it still requires some thought and adjustment.   If you print your own images than you will want to understand which colors your printer can reproduce and how they relate to what you see on screen.   These days printer manufacturers include an ICC profile with their installation software.  The International Color Consortium (ICC) has developed a standardized data set which describes how that device works with different color spaces and outputs.   If you are using even moderate quality photo papers they too have their own ICC profiles tailored specifically for most major printer models.  

 Hannemuehle 

Hannemuehle 

For high end papers such as Hannemuele or Red River, you can be very specific.  If you want the color profile for Red River 64lb Aurora Art Natural Fine Art paper, you can, and should download them.  

Hannemuehle Fine Art   http://harman.hahnemuehle.com/site/en/821/icc-profiles.html

These days I rarely print my own images.  Mostly because printers able to print 20 x 24 and larger are very, very expensive.   I use and love www.mpix.com.    They too have a downloadable set of icc profiles.  

While I am not a huge fan, lots of people claim to get good results from their local Costcos.  You can even download their icc profiles from Dry Creek Photo http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/

Fortunately, Windows and Apple have finally made managing these invisible in the operating system.  When you download and unzip them, the OS will ask if you want to install them, and then will do so without fuss.

Having the profiles available is only the beginning.  You have to think about using them in your workflow.   There are 2 locations in LR where you need to think about the profiles.  The first logically is in the print module. 

In the Print Job panel, you can select both your output device and your Color Management selection.  If you click on the up/down arrows in Profile, it will open a window showing all of the profiles you have downloaded. 

Two IMPORTANT reminders; One, if you don’t change your profile, it will stay set at that for all future jobs; two, LR embeds your color management profile as part of the metadata for your photo.   This means when you send the file somewhere it will contain the data needed to print it.   Have you spotted the flaw in this process yet?  Well, it’s not obvious, but the print module display doesn’t change to reflect the profile you selected.  

You have to go back to the Develop Module, where they added an important and underused feature called “Soft Proofing”.   

Down in the bottom left hand corner of the image window in the module is a check box.  Selecting it changes the background around the image to white, which better shows how it will look when printed, and it opens up a new Soft Proofing panel.  

Again, you have the opportunity to select the icc profile you intend to use and you can see how it changes the appearance of your image.  If you need to make changes, a dialog box opens up and asks if you want to “Create virtual copy for soft proofing?”  

This keeps the adjustments you need for printing separate from your master copy.   Now when you go back to the Print Module, use the virtual copy and you are good to go.  If you select “Make This a Proof”, it will make this the master version.  Most often you should choose “Create Proof Copy”.  There are a lot more things to learn, but they get really technical quickly.  If you have questions, send us a note and we will try and answer them. 

If you are in the Northern VA area, this will be the topic of this week’s Fauquier Viewfinder Camera Club meeting on Thursday evening at 7PM at the Hospital.   All are welcome to come and join us.