I recently showed a picture to colleagues where I’d added a light haze effect to a woodland scene. Although fairly subtle, it added a little magic, and I was asked how it was done. I figured I’d do a quick tutorial.
This effect uses the high-pass filter in Photoshop. The technique below is often used in portraiture to soften skin, although I have tended to use the Dynamic Skin Softener in Color Efex Pro for that task in the past. Instead, I decided to use the same effect on a landscape shot.
First, let’s take a look at the source image:
The image above is a processed raw- I’ve lowered highlights and raised shadows, and also used the Indian Summer filter in Efex to give a more autumn feel. It’s okay, but a bit more atmosphere would be nice.
Open the image up in Photoshop, and duplicate the image to a new layer with CTRL+J
Now go to Filter > Other > High Pass
The value you set in here will need some experimentation. On my (24MP) image, I tried a setting of 15.
It’s going to look pretty weird at this point, but don’t worry. The high-pass filter is essentially an “edge finder”. Areas of the image that don’t have any edges will be a flat mid-grey, and edges will be highlighted in lighter/darker tones. The pixel size affects the sensitivity of the effect.
Next, invert the layer (Image > Adjustments > Invert)
Finally, change the blending mode of the layer to “soft light”:
You should see the image now has a nice soft-focus effect. If you’re happy, continue. If not, undo back to before you added the high pass filter and try again with a larger/smaller pixel radius.
The next step is to reduce the effect nearer the camera to make it look a little more realistic. We do this by adding a layer mask and removing the blur effect in various places:
Add a Layer Mask.
Select the paintbrush tool, colour black, and set it to have a soft edge (0% hardness) and a radius to let you paint over the nearest tree trunks, making them stand out again. You might also want to paint over the ground nearest the camera.
To improve the effect, you might want to then lower the opacity of the brush to, say, 70%, and paint the trees a little further away, then reduce to 30% for the next ones, leaving the furthest ones receiving the full effect. The good thing is, you don’t need to be hugely accurate! The mask looks something like this:
Once you’re happy with the effect, you can save the completed image and perform any final edits you want in Lightroom:
The effect is fairly subtle, but adds a nice bit of atmosphere.