Photography Tips | Controlling haze

I love the way late afternoon sun makes everything look. One of my favorite things to photograph during this time of day are backlit photos.

If you are the same, the problem is that when you shoot towards that gorgeous light, there is a tendency for images to be over exposed, hazy, and out of focus. How disappointing! While some haze and flare are desired for certain photos, haze becomes a nuisance if you don't know how to control it. 

While there a some tools, like Lightroom’s dehaze tool to help minimize haze during post edit, I thought it would be useful to give visual tips here on how to avoid that haze in the first place.

I took several shots the other day, about 1-1.5 hours before sunset. In each photo below, I changed my position so that the sun was hitting different areas in my frame. I have a Nikon d750 and I was using my Nikon 135mm at f/2. All of the photos area SOOC (straight out of the camera, unprocessed).

Generally, to prevent haze, you need to shoot your subject without the sunlight going into your lens. The biggest problem for me was that even when I thought the sunlight wasn’t going into my lens, it was. You’ll notice in the photo below that a sliver of my son’s head isn’t hazy. That’s because the sun was hitting my lens at an angle. Only part of my lens was shielded from the sun.

 hazy photo of a boy holding  aphone

The next picture, I tried to block the sun completely. It prevented the haze, but then the sky was overblown and my son’s face is underexposed. His face could be brightened up post process, but that sky can’t be saved unless you intend to composite it with another sky.

 boy standing and he is backlit and underexposed

You’ll notice that the next two photos were taken almost exactly at the same position. The slightest shift to my right made the difference between the hazy picture versus the unhazy picture.

 hazy photo of boy holding a phone
 boy standing holding a phone

I took this last photo using the train to prevent the sunlight from hitting my lens. See how the exposure on his face is much better and there is no haze on him at all.

 well exposed photo of boy holding a phone

I hope you found these tips useful! As a natural light photographer, I've learned that the most important thing to learn is understanding how light will affect your shot. This is dependent on a lot of factors: time of day, your lens, position of your subject, your surroundings. Doing a reference mini shoot like this is helpful so you can see what will happen using the camera and lenses that you own. 

 boy looking at phone in Folsom CA

Claire Toney is a Folsom child photographer. She works in natural light and has a photojournalistic style. She serves families in Folsom. Rancho Cordova, Sacramento, Granite Bay, El Dorado Hills, and all surrounding areas. You may reach her at claire@clairetoney.com or (916) 769-5482