Lightroom's New Dehaze Control: Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View – after applying the Dehaze control

Last week Adobe added an update to Lightroom CC, designated the 2015.1 release. It includes a couple of new features. The main one is a Dehaze slider, designed to reduce the appearance of atmospheric haze. It’s found in the Effects Panel of the Develop Module.

I’m usually skeptical of things like this. Is it really different than adding Contrast or Clarity? Well, yes, actually. Adobe says, “The Dehaze technology is based on a physical model of how light is transmitted, and it tries to estimate light that is lost due to absorption and scattering through the atmosphere.” I’m not sure how they do that exactly, but it seems to work more effectively than just adding Contrast or Clarity.

This rainbow image from Tunnel View has considerable atmospheric haze, created by falling rain. In the photograph at the top of this post I’ve applied a modest amount of the Dehaze control (+20). The image below shows how it looked before applying the Dehaze adjustment. Just a small application of this tool added some extra definition to the upper two-thirds of the image.

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Rainbow over Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View – before applying the Dehaze control

Using the Dehaze tool tends to make an image darker, so you may need to compensate by lightening the photograph a bit with Exposure, the Tone Curve, or maybe the Shadows slider. And, like every digital-darkroom tool, Dehaze is best used in moderation. Add too much and things start to look weird and fake pretty quickly.

This latest Lightroom update also adds another feature: Blacks and Whites sliders to local adjustments (the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush). I’ve long wanted the ability to use a point curve on just part of an image in Lightroom. Adding the Whites and Blacks sliders to the local-adjustment tools isn’t the same, but it helps to give more precise control over the range of tones being altered with these local adjustments.

These latest additions are helpful, though not huge. Looking at the big picture, perhaps the most significant part of this update is that it’s available to Creative Cloud subscribers, but not to people who own a standalone license to Lightroom 6. When Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC were announced, Adobe said that owners of a Lightroom 6 license would get updates for new cameras, but wouldn’t get other new features until the release of Lightroom 7. It seems that they’re following through on this.

In the past, some significant new features were introduced in between the major releases, and these updates were given free to everyone who owned a license for the latest version. Now, people who own a standalone license to Lightroom 6 will be left out of these updates. It seems that Adobe is really pushing people toward getting a subscription. My guess is that they’ll be rolling out more new features that are only available to subscribers, just to make a subscription seem more attractive. I’ve become more used to the idea of the subscription model, but this move by Adobe feels like they’re treating people with a standalone license as second-class citizens.

The problem is that Adobe makes really good software. No other program offers anything comparable to Lightroom’s amazing Highlights and Shadows tools (except Adobe Camera Raw of course). No competitor (as far as I know) allows you to choose from a variety of camera profiles, or offers as sophisticated lens correction tools and local adjustments. Nor does anyone else offer completely non-destructive and flexible editing for panoramas and HDR images, introduced in Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC. And all this is coupled with robust file-management tools. So for me, for now, Lightroom will continue to be my main image-processing software.

For those of you with a Lightroom 6 standalone license, there is a workaround that will allow you to use the Dehaze tool – sort of. It turns out that Presets created in the CC version will work in Lightroom 6.1. Several people are already offering free presets that do just that – just do a search for “Lightroom dehaze presets”. I also saw a rumor that Adobe will offer these updates to Lightroom 6 users for a fee. I hope they do offer this, and for a nominal charge, as these additions aren’t significant enough to warrant a large price tag.

— Michael Frye

Related Post: Lightroom 6: First Impressions

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.