When you say the word defog to a photographer or Photoshop professional, you usually get one of three reactions:
- What is a “defog?”
- I LOVE defogging. It is the best!
- I hate defogging. It is the worst.
Like many things in the photograph industry, it can be controversial. I have gotten into many disagreements on photography forums over this simple 5 letter word.
To start with, what is a “defog?” Actually let’s start with what it is not… It is not a global sharpening technique, though it often gives a similar feel of sharpening.
Defogging adds midtone contrast. It is often used in the beginning of the workflow and can make your photo look crisper. Defogs add clarity to your photo. You can accomplish a defog in Photoshop using USM (unsharp mask) set to numbers like 20 – 60 – 0, 10 – 50 – 0, 14 – 40 – 0 (for amount – radius – threshold). Other sharpening tools can be used with high radius too – such as smart sharpen and high pass. I always recommend doing these on a layer so that the opacity may be adjusted if they are too strong.
In Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw Adobe added slider for doing defogs. It is called “Clarity.” Scott Kelby, Photoshop Guru, Author and President of NAPP, in his Lightroom 2 Live Seminar explained, “zoom in to a 1:1 view…I apply between +25 and +50 clarity to nearly every photo I process, with the only exception being photos I intentionally want to be softer and less contrasty.” He says he skips clarity on for example a baby with its mother or a closeup of an older woman with wrinkles as those you want softer.
A few things to remember if you use ACR/LR in combination with Photoshop:
- Only use clarity or defog once. It likely will be too harsh if used both places. Also make sure if you use actions that you do not manually defog and then use a defog action too.
- As for MCP Actions I have a number of different ways to defogs and they are in many action sets in different forms. If you use the Complete Workflow actions, a defog is part of the main workflow actions (it runs as part of the whole but is not adjustable as it is light – if not desired you would need to uncheck that step of the action). In the quickie collection, the defog/clarity actions are Snap, Crackle, Pop (think of these as light, medium and heavy). They use high pass and are on an adjustable layer with a mask for full control. There are also 2 more traditional defogs in the Quickie Photoshop actions, Light and Heavy Fog Fixer. In All in the Details, Binoculars and Telescope serve a similar purpose to Snap, Crackle and Pop. And in Bag of Tricks Magical Clarity will add deep midtone contrast – again with full flexibility and control.
- Remember to apply selectively instead of globally by utilizing masks as necessary.
- If your photo was shot at a high ISO and/or was underexposed and now contains graininess/noise, you may want to refrain from defogging that image. It will bring out that extra noise too. Not something that is likely desired.
So now that you know what it is, or if you already did, do you love it or hate it? If you are a firm believer in NOT defogging, please comment with why. I would love to see that side of the argument too if you can back it up and really support it.Previous Post: Lightroom Tutorial – Organizing Photos For Quick Editing
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