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by Aditya

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Just came across your site, and so hopeful to save my material from my last photo walk. My Google search on how to improve foggy pictures brought it up.

When shooting, the associations were those of Stephen King's movie "The Mist." Unexpectedly, I also got Hitchcock's "Birds." I want to keep the fog (that was the point), but, to it, I want to add a touch of "The Shining" (to stick with the metaphor). Is there any way to make the fog lighter, whiter, brighter, like on those "classical" fog shots (for example, of Golden Gate Bridge wrapped in morning fog). Yet, I still want the feel of gloom, especially added by the birds (which almost looked like bats). Unfortunately, my PowerShot SD 1200 IS (my photo gear of the moment) does not shoot raw files. Neither can I shoot long shutter in daylight. (That would have curled the fog into nice cloudy fixtures.)

I am new, and just learning how to trick my machine's auto mind into desired settings. I will attach three images, but please tell me how to attach images to questions. I tried to upload through "image" icon above, but it did not go through.

I am using Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Once you have 10 rep here, you can post images directly. Until that time though, you can post to imgur or a simlar website and just use the URL link to present the picture. –  dpollitt May 27 '13 at 21:46
    
You might want to check out this question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7438/… –  NULLZ May 27 '13 at 22:06
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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I don't recommend using a white balance tool in this case. That would result in altering the gray fog to the correct color, but it will also bring out the blue in the sky, which you don't want. So I'm going to suggest using a levels tool. Many applications have this and it's really easy to use once you know how. In this example I used Pixlr, which is free and can be run within Google's Chrome browser as an app, installed from their webstore, but Adobe's Photoshop and Apple's Aperture both have a levels tool too.

Here is a levels tool from Photoshop as an example (they all look similar): Adobe Photoshop Levels Tool

The levels tool shows you a histogram of the color distribution (left is darkest, right is brightest) organized by color channel and some sliders. You will also be able to choose the color channel if you want to adjust just one: RGB, Red, Green, or Blue. In this case leave it on RGB. As standard practice in the histogram, move the arrow/tab for the input sliders to the left (dark) and right (light) to the extents of the histogram (or in further if you want to clip some colors off). This will help the image fill the entire used tonal range and prevent a washed out effect.

Once you've done that, your image should look a lot better, as the gray tones of the fog are more neutral. You can now enhance the hazy effect of the fog by clipping the right most slider further in - this removes the light tones as much as you want. If you adjust the middle slider, this will create a brightness/contrast effect that applies to almost the entire image - it could be useful, but I left it alone. Here's my before/after with about 1 minute of adjusting the levels:

Before:The Mist - original After:The Mist - edited

You can probably achieve exactly what you're looking for with a bit more time and effort (the blue vignette in the top left is annoying me), but the levels tool is where you should start. If you start to see blues that you don't like, then change the channel to Blue and move the left most slider in and adjust the output level as well. From there you can play with hue and saturation to keep things looking balanced. Ultimately though, play around and get familiar with the levels tool. It's invaluable!

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You could try increasing the white point in the highlights of the image. That should keep the darker parts dark while making the white brighter. The same thing could also be accomplished using curves and pulling up the brighter side while keeping the darker side linear.

If you shot raw, you might also try increasing the exposure and then increasing the contrast or using curves to drop the shadows and mid-tones back down to be darker.

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Thanks! I only find "highlights" in Color Balance, and in Image>Shadows/Highlights. But I am not finding " –  Lena Borisova May 28 '13 at 2:28
    
Thanks! I only find "highlights" in Color Balance, and in Image>Shadows/Highlights. But I am not finding the white point in either of these. Sorry, I am a newbie. On the second option, do I access curves through Image>Adjustment>Curves? I tried to pull up the brighter side, but the darker side would not keep linear (i.e. it also pulls up). Can I set it up in such a way that only the brighter side would be affected and the darker stay linear? Also, even though I didn't shoot raw, couldn't I still increase exposure and contrast? (In Image>Anjustment>Exposure?) –  Lena Borisova May 28 '13 at 2:37
    
Also, where are the curves for shadows and mid-tones? I am still learning.... –  Lena Borisova May 28 '13 at 2:37
    
@LenaBorisova - the easiest way in Photoshop is probably the curves tool. There should be a diagonal line going from the bottom left to the top right. The left side/bottom is shadows and the upper-right part is highlights. You can alter the line to brighten or darken each part along the way. You'll need to put in other key points to make it stay closer to linear. If you didn't shoot raw, then Exposure is really just brightness and you're already limited to the color depth you have, so curves is your best bet. –  AJ Henderson May 28 '13 at 4:12
    
Thank you! When you say I need "to put in other key point," do you mean just clicking on the curve, so that a tiny square appears and locks the curve in place in that spot? Also, in your earlier message you mentioned increasing the white point in the highlights. What is "the white point," and how do I increase it? Is this the same as using the curve to increase highlights? –  Lena Borisova May 28 '13 at 17:53

Even if you are not shooting in RAW, you can still use PS Camera Raw to edit the files. Simply go to File -> Open as... and choose camera raw format, then open your jpegs. ACR should give you plenty of options to deal with the fog :)

As Bart pointed out correctly, this does not answer the question on how to make the fog whiter, just points towards a possible solution. Personally I would try to use the sliders for highlights and blacks to improve the look of the fog. Depending on the image, changing the exposure might also be beneficial.

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This doesn't really answer the question on how the fog can be made whiter in ACR. –  Bart Arondson May 28 '13 at 16:10
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This is actually very helpful. I did not know I could edit in this mode at all. Thanks! –  Lena Borisova May 28 '13 at 17:47

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