The Dehaze slider in Lightroom is one of the most powerful and useful tools and produces contrast far beyond what we can do with curves, clarity sliders in Lightroom, or third-party plugins. It brings dynamic contrast to thin or washed out skies and reveals details that you cannot see with your own eyes. As a global tool, it adds contrast (and saturation) to the entire image, but you can use the adjustment brush and or the graduated filter tool to apply Dehaze locally. Within Photoshop’s ACR we could create a layer with Dehaze effects and then mask in the contrast as needed.
When you move the Dehaze Slider to the right, we reduce haze, add contrast, and when pushed to the left we remove contrast and add haze. Adobe engineers tell us that the technology uses a physical model configured on light transmission, and DeHaze tries to estimate the light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere. While I often make Dehaze adjustments early in the workflow, it is sometimes better to set the white balance (if needed) for the image before using Dehaze.
Dehazes’ Side Effects
While the Dehaze slider can produce incredible, almost magical results, it can also create some adverse side effects such as dramatic color shifts, magenta hues can appear in neutral areas, and shadows often pick up green and or blue colorcasts. If you’re pushing the slider hard right (extreme), you may need to refine the image by increasing the shadow detail, tweaking the Vibrance slider, or adjusting the appropriate saturation slider in HSL. However, these types of workarounds often force us to compromise and sacrifice color and or saturation, something we want to avoid in most cases.
Blend Modes to the Rescue
There is an elegant solution that will allow you to get the most contrast from Dehaze while avoiding these side effects that we can do quickly with Photoshop’s blend modes.
Here is how:
In Lightroom, create an image with Dehaze and then make a virtual copy.
Remove the Dehaze from the second (virtual) copy.
Highlight the original file and the virtual copy and select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop.
In Photoshop, make sure the layer with Dehaze applied is the top layer and change the top layer’s blend mode from Normal to Color. This method combines the color of the top layer (without Dehaze’s color artifacts) and the luminosity values of the bottom layer while retaining Dehaze’s contrast.
You can also do this in Camera Raw, by opening your Raw file as a smart object, then select New Smart Object via Copy in the Layer menu, and finally double click on the top layer to return the Dehaze slider to 0. The key to success is to remember to change the top layer’s blend mode from Normal to Color.
Using the color of one layer to overlay another layer is a valuable technique that works well in a variety of other creative approaches. However, it is a particularly powerful way to extend the capabilities of Dehaze, which allows you to gain and control additional contrast.