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I Can See Clearly Now, Dehaze is Here

Yes, the actual lyrics to the song are that "the rain is gone," rather than "Dehaze is here" but somehow I can't get this tune out of my head anyway. For outdoor photographers, the Dehaze feature in Adobe Camera Raw for the new Photoshop CC (2015) is indeed something to sing about. Lightroom CC (2015) just got Dehaze added too.

Dehaze as it appears in ACR. Lightroom is similarWith the recent release of Lightroom CC (2015) and its Lightroom 6 boxed version counterpart, those of us also using Photoshop started wondering when Photoshop CC would similarly get the 2015 treatment. Since the 2014 release was the first iteration of Photoshop CC, nobody really knew how the upgrade cycle would work. From everything Adobe had said, expectations were that we'd see a new CC release annually. And with Lightroom getting a facelift, we were left wondering how soon Photoshop CC would catch up to 2015. In addition to being Father's Day, today is the summer solstice. But Adobe has now delivered.

And while most of the new features for Photoshop itself are geared more towards graphic designers than photographers, Adobe Camera Raw version 9 that released with Photoshop CC (2015) was the first sighting in the wild of the new Dehaze feature that had been rumored to be coming. Shortly thereafter, I got the Lightroom CC (2015) update that included Dehaze as well as part of ACR 9.1. So now both applications have this cool new tool.

So what does Dehaze do? If you've ever visited a scenic location on a hazy evening at sunset and later gone back on a clear day at the same time, you know what dehaze does. It removes haze. According to Adobe, Dehaze is "based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and ... tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere." Whatever. All I know is that it can easily make quite a few outdoor shots look better.

In both Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw, Dehaze shows up as just a single slider in the Effects section (or tab) that starts at the zero point in the middle. Move the slider to the right, and the haze removal effect is strengthened, making the image appear clearer. If you want to add more haze for some reason, you can move the slider to the left instead. Nothing could be simpler.

Yes, as with many things, Dehaze can be overdone. Move the slider all the way right to +100, and you might just end up with a somewhat surreal looking image. Part of the effect seems to be to increase the Vibrance in areas where detail is enhanced, and at maximum effect, Dehaze can create some garish images indeed. If you want to go for the gusto though, the oversaturated appearance can be toned down by also moving the Vibrance slider to a lower setting. But for most images that you'd even consider trying to salvage, a Dehaze setting of about +50 is as far as you'll want to go.

The two versions of Oregon's Mt. Hood here with Lost Lake in the foreground show a typical application of Dehaze. The original image looks good to me, but there is some loss of detail on the peak that Dehaze easily restored. To my eye, the optimized image looks even better. The only difference between these two versions is a Dehaze setting of +35. Yes, I could have adjusted the levels a bit on the Dehaze version to brighten it up a tad, but I intentionally left it with just the Dehaze adjustment for comparison and illustration purposes.

Original Mt Hood with haze
Original Mt Hood with haze
Mt Hood with Dehaze adjustment
Mt Hood with Dehaze adjustment

This isn't the only software out there that claims to remove haze of course. Last year I picked up a copy of a Photoshop plugin called Neutralhazer by Kolor that can produce similar results. The effect of Neutralhazer though works mainly by optimizing levels without the vibrance (saturation) changes. Both tools limit their results to areas where haze removal is needed rather than affecting the entire image equally. Neutralhazer even has the option of exporting its results as a mask rather than actual adjustments.

Kolor Neutralhazer
Kolor Neutralhazer

The three images here of Mt. Rainier show the difference. The original image is quite hazy indeed and is an image I shot because I was there, not really because I liked what I saw. The original thus represents an opportunity lost to haze and is therefore an extreme case. The Lightroom CC version is the result of pushing the Dehaze slider all the maximum and attempting to compensate for the oversaturation problem by pushing the Vibrance slider way down and adjusting the exposure. The Neutralhazer version is basically the default settings. I tried to improve things further by tweaking the Neturalhazer controls but ended up liking the automatic settings better.

Original Mt Rainier with haze
Original Mt Rainier with haze
Mt Rainier with Adobe Dehaze maxed out
Mt Rainier with Adobe Dehaze maxed out
Mt Rainier with Kolor Neutralhazer
Mt Rainier with Kolor Neutralhazer

Now that I have both Neutralhazer and Adobe's Dehaze, I'd have to say that overall I prefer what Adobe has come up with. Dehaze is available both in ACR and Lightroom while, being a plugin, Neutralhazer only works in Photoshop. From a workflow standpoint, Dehaze wins as well since it's accessible directly in the tools you're already using to optimize images. Also, Dehaze operates directly on raw image data meaning it can potentially deliver higher quality results. And since Dehaze is part of Lightroom and Photoshop, you don't need to pay for anything else. Yes, Dehaze can exaggerate Vibrance at times, but this is a manageable problem and not something encountered in typical images anyway.

Of course your best option is to avoid the haze to begin with, but when that isn't possible, Dehaze is something to sing about.

Date posted: June 21, 2015


Copyright © 2015 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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UV, Haze, or Skylight?
More On Dehaze
Do It Yourself Dehaze

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