How To Create A Foggy Haze on Photos

Tone Down The Saturation

Learn how to reduce the color saturation and add a foggy haze to your nature photos
Learn how to reduce the color saturation and add a foggy haze to your nature photos | Source

How did you do that?!

It seems that whenever I do photo edits in Adobe Photoshop on the fly, I always get asked the question “how did you do that?” Now, let’s face it; if I were to come back with ‘I just hit a bunch of buttons randomly and it happened’, I would sound like quite a jerk. But, there are times that we photographers really can’t explain the process because we just went with the Photoshop flow. Even if we could explain it, it would take an hour just to explain all of the steps, and shortcuts and actions we created to get to the image they are admiring. This is where this hub comes from; can I edit a photo on the fly and go back and explain how I got to the end result? The answer is yes!

My goal was to create a visual from an existing photograph that was light and gentle and could be used behind text without taking away from the message. I wanted the image to still be a key component, so I didn’t want to just lighten the image, or blur it into the background; I just wanted to make it a bit less abrasive. Here is what I ended up with after I edited the photo in Adobe Photoshop.

You can turn a boring photo into an interesting photo

While I don't say to edit every single image, sometimes editing can turn an unusable photo into a stunning image
While I don't say to edit every single image, sometimes editing can turn an unusable photo into a stunning image | Source

Want to use my photo for the tutorial? Send me a request!

The image of the flower is still crisp and clean, but less abrasive with less color saturation. The lighting added to the image looks like the sun is kissing the subject and the bit of fake fog makes the lightened flower still stand out against the background. Ok, great. Now, How did I do that? Let’s get started!

Once you choose the image that you want to use, open it in Adobe Photoshop. If you would like to use this image to work along with the tutorial, head on over to my page and drop me a request. I don’t mind at all!

Adjusting Saturation and Hue

The first step is to learn about saturation, hue and lightness tools
The first step is to learn about saturation, hue and lightness tools | Source

Photo Software

Do you use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom to edit your photos?

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Don't be afraid to play in Adobe Photoshop

Once you have your photograph open on your screen. Go to Image -> Adjustments and then choose Hue/Saturation. This will give you a screen with a variety of options to play with.

The tools are automatically set to zero

The image can easily be reverted back to the original by putting your levels back to zero
The image can easily be reverted back to the original by putting your levels back to zero | Source

Be One With Photoshop

Go ahead, don’t be scared. Move those sliders and get a feel for what they do and how your image changes when you use them.

Change Your Saturation

Reduce the image saturation to -46 or whatever looks good for the photo you are using
Reduce the image saturation to -46 or whatever looks good for the photo you are using | Source

If you are curious, try it. There is always 'undo'

For this particular image I am going to reduce the saturation to -46. This reduces the color saturation; it doesn’t necessarily lighten the image although it may look like it does. Wondering what happens if you increase the saturation +46? Here it is:

Whoa! That's bright!

Source

Now, try changing the lightness bar

Whoa! Where are my sunglasses? Ok, that was bright! Let’s take a quick peek at what happens when we increase or decrease the lightness of the image:

Decreasing Lightness Will Make The Image Darker

We also call this an underexposed image
We also call this an underexposed image | Source

And if we increase the lightness...

As you can see, it treats the image with a darker exposure, which in turn looks like it has darkened the entire image. This is also called underexposed and can be easily fixed in Adobe Photoshop if it happens straight out of the camera. On the flipside, take a look at what happens when I increase the lightness of the image:

And this would be overexposed...

'Overexposed' means that the film (or digital sensor) was over exposed to the light
'Overexposed' means that the film (or digital sensor) was over exposed to the light | Source

Range of hues

This is what we call overexposed and although it is more difficult to fix straight out of the camera; this particular image is fairly simple because the white highlights are not blown out. But, we will save that for another article.

And finally, let’s take a look at what changing the hue does for the image. Since there are so many things you can do with this tool, below is a video showing you the range of hues that you can use when editing photos.

See the wide range of hues

Now... back to the tutorial

Now, let’s get back to your original image with the -46 saturation in place and get back to this tutorial! The next step we are going to take is going to utilize your adjustments using a mask. What is a mask you ask? Good question! It over lays your changes in a new layer, and from there you can control where, how much and when the adjustment is made to your image. This is best used to utilize the adjustment on a background or foreground and not the opposite, which is what we are going to do now.

Exposure Mask

Adding an adjustment layer allows for far more control with editing photos in Adobe Photoshop
Adding an adjustment layer allows for far more control with editing photos in Adobe Photoshop | Source

You can see the exposure layer now

Now you can edit the adjustment layer without adjusting the entire image
Now you can edit the adjustment layer without adjusting the entire image | Source

Now you are ready to edit your edits

In your pallets choose the exposure button (it looks like a half black and half white square with a plus and a minus sign). Change your offset to .2120 and make sure your gamma is set at 1. You will notice that your image gets a bit of a haze over it. We want to keep that haze in the back, but we don’t want quite so much on the flower. This method works really well for photos of people with a short depth of field. Add a little haze to an already blurred background and you have yourself an incredibly interesting image! Where did that person come from? Why is it foggy behind him? Why is he so calm when we can’t see into the fog? What does he know that we don’t? Yea, this is a great tool for portraits.

Control your brushes and opacity

Setting the brush to a soft feather and the opacity to a lower setting makes the eraser marks less noticeable and more natural
Setting the brush to a soft feather and the opacity to a lower setting makes the eraser marks less noticeable and more natural | Source

Now play!

Now that you have a mask over the image, you will use your eraser tool to reduce the amount of adjustment. You can control the size of the brush you use, the feather of the brush and even the opacity of the brush. I wanted a nice gentle transition of the adjustment, so I chose a very soft brush at 61% opacity. From there I erased the mask that was over the main flower subject.

Give the image a natural anchor point when editing

By including the stem and leaves in the foreground, you are eliminating the floating object effect
By including the stem and leaves in the foreground, you are eliminating the floating object effect | Source

Flatten your Image Into One Layer Again

Flattening the image will allow changes to effect the entire image as opposed to just single layers
Flattening the image will allow changes to effect the entire image as opposed to just single layers | Source

Flatten it back into one image layer

Next, you want to flatten the image. This combines all of your layers so any changes that you make will take effect on the entire image; not just that single layer.

Add Lighting Effects

Add a direct light source to give the photo a sense of motion, like sunlight through a window
Add a direct light source to give the photo a sense of motion, like sunlight through a window | Source

Amp Up That Lighting

The next step is to amp up the lighting to give it more of a direction and give the image more depth. Go to Filter -> Render and then choose Lighting Effects. I expanded the light source and moved it so it was lighter at the top right corner and darker in the bottom left corner. You can choose to do what makes sense to you, but be sure that the light can enter somewhere within the image frame. This will give the image a sense of motion such as the sunlight streaming in a window.

Lighten the Image Using Curves

Even the curves tool has quite a few options for editing
Even the curves tool has quite a few options for editing | Source

Take that contrast out

The lighting left the image a bit too contrasted, so the quickest and easiest fix is to adjust the curves. This is where you can control how light or dark the image is by using levels of light within the image. Choosing the pull the curve line from the center will increase the lightness of the entire image, where pulling from a bit higher or lowers will affect a select portion of the image.

Use The Sharpen Tool Sparingly

Be careful not to over sharpen your images. You will lose quality within the image.
Be careful not to over sharpen your images. You will lose quality within the image. | Source

Sharpen. With. Care.

Since we are for the most part finished with the adjustments, the next thing is doing an overall sharpen for your image. Sometimes your image will need it, while other times it will make it look too processed. Keep a close eye on how much you sharpen an image as it will look fake and unnatural. Go to Filter -> Sharpen and then choose Unsharpen Mask. I used quite a bit more than I even do on a photo, but that is the look I was attempting to accomplish.

Adding Warmth

Add warmth or coolness to images using the photo filter options
Add warmth or coolness to images using the photo filter options | Source

Warm Tones

Finally, I want to add a warm tone to the image so that viewers get a sense of a warm summer day. To do this, we can simply add a photo filter and overlay it at a light opacity. Go to Image -> Adjustments and then choose photo filter.

Add The Warming Filter

Try the cooling filter as well! That can change the mood of your image with just a few clicks!
Try the cooling filter as well! That can change the mood of your image with just a few clicks! | Source

And you are done!

By choosing the warming filter you will successfully give it a much warmer tone with dark oranges in the tones. For this image I used Warming Filter (85) at 17%.

Then I put my watermark on the image and it was ready for sharing, as well as this tutorial with you!

Before Editing

Before Editing the image in Adobe Photoshop
Before Editing the image in Adobe Photoshop | Source

After Photo Edits

Compare the before and after
Compare the before and after | Source

Other Adobe Photoshop Hubs:

How to remove the yellow tint from an image in Adobe Photoshop

Sometime fluorescent lights throw off an ugly yellow haze even if you have your white balance set correctly in your camera. Learn a quick and easy way to remove the yellow from your images.

Learn how to pull out specific colors in Adobe Photoshop

Want to keep an apple red, but change the rest of the image to black and white? Easy instructions how to do this to your own photos!

Overlaying Text in Adobe Photoshop

Want to add some inspirational quotes to your images or even type a watermark onto your photographs? Learn how to quickly overlay text on your images in this hub!

How to Create Your Own Action in Adobe Photoshop

Sometimes, you figure our a method of processing images, and you want to say what you did for batch processing. Don't worry; you can accomplish this by creating and utilizing Adobe Photoshop Actions.


Adobe Photoshop For Beginners: Part 1

Looking to dive in and learn the basics of Adobe Photoshop? This hub includes examples images and screenshots to walk you through learning the basics of the daunting software.

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4 comments

WiccanSage profile image

WiccanSage 2 years ago

Very cool, definitely bookmarking this one. I've still got a lot to learn with photoshop but this is a great effect.


dappledesigns profile image

dappledesigns 2 years ago from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest Author

glad to hear you like the effect! Photoshop definitely takes some time to learn, but it's such a great tool for photographers and designers.


JaneA profile image

JaneA 21 months ago from California

Well done. The temptation is always to over-saturate, isn't it? You do a lovely job of showing the power of reducing saturation.


dappledesigns profile image

dappledesigns 21 months ago from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest Author

Thanks! Yes, it seems with the burst of HDR, everybody loves to over-saturate and over-sharpen and over-everything else lol. I love how decreasing the saturation can make a photo so much more gentle. It's also a great tool to get rid of the yellow of fluorescent lighting.

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