The Fix

Clear up the mist and get rid of the gray to give your photos impact.



Luis Alvarado, Rio Rancho, NM

The Problem: This study from New Orleans is a well-composed, wonderfully atmospheric shot... But it's also the atmosphere that bothers us -- namely the heavy mist that grays out the whole scene, foreground to background. We felt the photo would read better with some more color and detail in the foreground.

What Now? This is one of the trickier fixes we've done. For fog or mist to look natural, it should be gradated -- getting murkier at greater distance. So we decided to "deconstruct" the mist from front to back. We made four separate adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop CS3, corresponding to different planes, nearest to farthest. Within each layer, we boosted the contrast using Curves, applying the greatest effect to the near foreground layer and the least to the far background layer. (Increasing contrast, by making a sharper edge between adjoining tones, reduces the effect of fog or mist). This provided the added benefit of increasing color saturation in the mossy foreground.

Next Time: It would be nice to be able to turn mist down by, oh, 30-40% at will, but we all know that weather doesn't cooperate with photographers that way. There is one adjustment you might try on a digital SLR, though: the contrast setting. Boosting the contrast up from the default setting can help cut through mist or haze. A touch more color saturation (usually in the same menu with contrast) can help. And, if you want to go to the trouble, there are after-the-fact fixes like the one we used.

Tech Info: Canon EOS 30D with 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Canon EF IS lens. Exposure, 1/160 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.

||| |---|---| | Before| After| |
Whitening agent
Paul Sasseville, Westminster, CO

The Problem: Camera meters think snow is gray. Even the socalled smart meters on the latest cameras think snow is gray. You tell them over and over again that snow is white, but do they listen? No.

What Now? We masked off the upper, sky part of the picture and used Curves on the bottom of the picture to goose up the contrast, which also produces the effect of brightening the snow.

Next Time: In all fairness, the photographer made this exposure as storm clouds rolled in, so the overall gray was probably a pretty accurate rendition of the scene. We, however, are of the opinion that reality is vastly overrated, so we went with an aesthetic adjustment. But we kept the sky gray because that makes for much of the drama. (By the way, if you want whiter snow to start with, meter off the snow and add about 2 stops' exposure compensation.)

Tech Info: Nikon D200 with 17-55 f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor. Exposure, 1/400 at f/10, ISO 100.

Before After