November 3, 2008

Fixing Haze on an Aerial Photo

Shooting pictures through a plane window has its challenges. Not only is there considerable vibration from the engine, but we also have reflections on the glass, objects like the struts to shoot around, and a hazy look from both the glass and the atmosphere between us and the ground.
Original Image
Image after Action

Reflections and parts of the plane can sometimes be cropped out. As for the hazy look, I have a previously recorded Action in Photoshop that helps a lot. I just play it and watch changes happen.

For those who use Actions, here are the three steps that make up this one. I use it all the time.
  1. Duplicate current layer
  2. Shadow/Highlight: Lighten shadows 30%
  3. Hue/Saturation: Increase saturation 5%
On typical photographs, this leaves me with a light image and I then increase the saturation selectively. But for some reason, these steps improved the aerial photos so much that I didn't have to make further adjustments. I just merged the layers and saved the results.

Speaking about merging the layers, I like to play with the Layer Blending Mode (circled in the screen capture below).

If you haven't experimented with layer blending, I'd say you are missing one of the coolest things about layers. I like to pull down that arrow next to the word "Normal" and try "Multiply" and "Soft light." Usually these give an exaggerated effect so I change "Opacity" from 100% downward to 50% or less, moving the little slider and watching the picture change. "Multiply" at 20% or 30% can be very attractive, but it will darken your shadow areas so be careful.

Another word of caution: playing with layers can take up all your free time, so don't do it on too many photos. (I am guilty of that. It's habit-forming.)

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