How to Take Photos in Fog (and process them in Lightroom)

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Processing fog photos in Lightroom

After leaving China we flew on to the UK to visit family. Now we are spending a few weeks in Galicia in north-west Spain. It’s a fascinating region, green and mountainous, mostly rural. There’s a mixture of gloriously beautiful unspoilt beaches and dramatic rocky coastline. Inland there are country villages, ancient monasteries and lots of old stone churches.

Galicia is also known for its variable weather. While it’s been mostly sunny since we’ve been here, we did have a couple of days where a thick sea fog rolled in.

Fog is rare in New Zealand, so I was quite excited. I visited a Galician fishing village and took some photos.

Why is fog so interesting? Here are some reasons.

• Fog creates atmosphere. Mood comes from light. Light in fog is soft and fills in the shadows. It obscures detail and reduces distant objects to silhouettes. It creates an atmosphere of mystery.

• Fog simplifies. It hides messy backgrounds. There is land behind the boats in these photos. But you can’t see it because of the fog, so it appears that you are looking at an endless expanse of sea.

• Lots of photographers don’t bother taking photos in fog. It is rare to see good photos taken in these conditions.

Lens selection

Lens selection is crucial to making the most of foggy conditions.

I started taking photos with a 35mm lens (APS-C). The fog was so thick that even the objects closest to the camera were affected by it.

I made these photos with the 35mm lens.

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Then I switched to a wide-angle lens (18mm, APS-C) and got in closer to the fishing boats. Even this sea fog wasn’t thick enough to obscure much detail in objects close to the camera.

The fishing boats come out quite sharp. The fog obscures and simplifies the background. The lens pushes distant objects further away. This increases the sense of space and distance.

I made these photos with the 18mm lens.

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

How to process foggy images in Lightroom

Lightroom has several tools that are useful for processing photos taken in fog.

1. The Temp slider in the Basic Panel. There are two ways you could approach colour in foggy photos. One is to go for a neutral colour that emphasises the whiteness of the fog. The other is to go for a blue cast to emphasise the coldness and gloominess of the fog. Either way, the Temp slider is the tool you need to use.

2. The Highlights slider in the Basic Panel. Use this to determine the brightness of the lightest foggy areas in the frame. Do you want them to be bright, or a darker grey? The Highlights slider gives you control.

Use it in conjunction with the Exposure slider. Move the Exposure slider to set the brightness of the image. Then use the Highlights slider to adjust the brightness of the highlights.

3. The Graduated Filter. Even in fog the sky is brighter than the foreground. Use the Graduated Filter to darken the sky.

4. Clarity. Use the Adjustment Brush to select the most important parts of the foreground. Then increase Clarity to bring out textural detail. In my photos this technique emphasised the contrast between the fishing boats (lots of texture) and the background (foggy, no texture).

5. The Dehaze slider in the Effects panel. If you have Lightroom CC then you can use the Dehaze slider in two ways. One is with a positive setting to decrease the effect of the fog.

The other is with a negative adjustment to make the fog appear denser. The best approach depends on the photo you are editing. I like to apply a little negative Dehaze (-5 or -10) to emphasise the fog.

Read the article at the link below to find out more about the Dehaze slider, and learn how to use it in Lightroom 6.

Further reading: The New Dehaze Slider in Lightroom CC (plus a workaround for Lightroom 6 users)

Practical example

I used all these techniques with the following photo.

This is the starting image, straight out of the camera.

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

These are the Basic Panel adjustments. I also set Profile to Camera Astia/Soft in the Camera Calibration panel as it suited the mood of the photo. (This setting is only available with Raw files from Fujifilm cameras).

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

I darkened the sky using a Graduated Filter (area affected shown in green).

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

I applied Clarity to the fishing boat in the foreground using the Adjustment Brush. I also set Dehaze to -5 in the Effects panel.

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Here are the before and after versions, side by side.

Processing fog photos in Lightroom

Further reading

You can learn more about processing photos in Lightroom with these articles.

HDR Merge in Lightroom: First Thoughts

Video Tutorial: Environmental Portrait in Lightroom

Video Tutorial: Black & White in Lightroom

A Short Guide to Using Smart Previews in Lightoom 5

Portrait Processing in Lightroom

How to Uncrop Square Format Images in Lightroom



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4 Responses to “How to Take Photos in Fog (and process them in Lightroom)”

  1. Simon says:

    I live somewhere with a lot of fog! I really love photographing in it, especially in black and white, it creates such a moody atmosphere:

  2. Bonnie says:

    I enjoyed your tips on processing fog in LR and I enjoy shooting in fog. I am wondering where you found camera profiles for Fuji cameras. I love my X-T1, but I was not aware that these are available.

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