When shooting landscapes in Western India, I often have a serious problem with haze. The air can often be dusty outside cities and polluted inside. Shooting in the golden hour doesn't always help either, since the haze can be pervasive. See below for an example of what I mean.

Since this seems to be an unavoidable fact of living where I do, I've been wondering if it is possible to artistically incorporate the haze into the image.

Are there any technical or compositional techniques that can help do this? I could obviously get a CPL to help with the haze, but assume that this isn't an option in this case.

PS: I'm aware that the composition on this image isn't exactly stellar, it is intended as an example of the haze problems that I face.

Landscape haze


4 Answers 4


Because the effect of the haze gets stronger as objects get more distant, it really adds depth to an image, as long as you have nearby objects which are less affected, midrange objects and distant objects. The further objects will get more and more faded.

This can work to your advantage if you can find situations where there are a series of mountains further and further away, you can get very nice images where the closer mountains are less hazy and the rest slowly fade out. Like this shot, taken before sunrise:

enter image description here

Or if all of the background is the same distance, and will be equally hazy, you need to find something else for foreground interest. Could simply be a tree or rock. Anything that isn't "hazy" to instruct the eye that the image isn't simply washed out, but that the background must be very distant due to its being so faded compared to your foreground.

Because haze reduces contrast, in post processing, you ought to be able to fix the images to a degree by bring down the blacks and boosting overall contrast (using curves) or midtone contrast (using clarity slider or equivalent in whatever editing program you use).

As well as lowering contrast, the haze desaturates the colours, so you may want to boost saturation or vibrance.

Here is a quick edit - in RAW converter

  • +50 Clarity
  • +20 Whites
  • -20 Blacks
  • +10 Saturation

Then in Photoshop added a warming filter to the land areas, and various curves layers to the sky, water and mountains.

enter image description here

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Holy moly, that clarity slider really helps with haze! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes! It increases contrast in the midtones, which is where a lot of that haze lives. Too much haze will cause you to lose detail, but you can recover a lot in post processing. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also found that dropping the clarity down to about -50 gives the photo a dreamy look that works particularly well with haze. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 9:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dropping it down works well on clouds too. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 10:08

Here are some possible ideas.

  • Shoot at different times of day!

    The middle of the day, with the sun high in the sky, is often not a good time to get landscapes, because you get virtually no shadows. Your example image has no depth. Try taking pictures late or early in the day to get more shadows.

    If you take a shot really late in the day when shadows are extreme, this has good potential to interact with the haze in a really interesting way.

  • Contrast curves

    Use the curves tool in Photoshop, or dial a contrast setting into your camera or RAW processing software, to bring more life into the image. You probably want an S-shaped contrast curve:

    You can probably also play with white balance a bit

  • Filters

    If your shot contains a lot of sky and/or water you can definitely experiment with a polarising filter (a circular polarising filter if you have a DSLR). This is one effect that Photoshop can't reproduce easily.

    There are other types of filter that may or may not be easily substituted for a little bit of Photoshop work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My intention wasn't to minimise or remove the haze, but give tips on how to improve his photos. In my opinion, my tips (particularly the first two) should enhance the look of the haze in the photo. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 3:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, I'll retract the comment. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The easiest, and cheapest, way to improve landscapes is to follow the "different times of day" advice. Shoot near dawn or dusk. It will make a huge difference. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 18:12

You could experiment with tilt shift effects (using lenses or post production) or simply use a small DoF centered around a foreground subject.

While either of these would certainly make all your background fuzzy and indistinct, the results may show some compositional aspect of the background (the mountains line for example) that a casual observer wouldn't normally notice.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Good suggestion with the tilt-shift! Now if only I could afford a tilt-shift lens ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the text in order to let it clearer that one could also use post production effects for the tilt shift. Thanks for the heads up! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 13:45

De-haze the image from India -sample for "the blue haze problem". The blue-haze is the nightmare of the any landscaper-documentarists. Bl.-haze means: low-contrast and blue color dominante. Just oppside-compensate this, attack the blue-haze by forcing sliders of contrast and the warm colors. enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to photo.stackexchange.com and thanks for leaving an answer! Since this is a Q&A site, please improve your response to answer the question of the OP: "Are there any technical or compositional techniques that can help do this?" by giving more detail and describing of your approach, otherwise your answer as-is may get quickly downvoted or be flagged for deletion. \$\endgroup\$
    – TFuto
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 8:14

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