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Smoke machines! How to rescue a ruined picture

Halfhidden

Untouchable
Staff member
Administrator
Without a doubt the smoke machine is a menace to most photographers and party snappers. It is compounded when an over enthusiastic DJ gets carried away with the juice. Most people will find that their pictures will come out white and look as if the picture is behind tracing paper. This happens because the flash illuminates the smoke in the atmosphere giving it that familiar washed out look.
To be honest the only real way to take pictures in such an atmosphere is to do so without the use of the flash. On a point and click type camera it would be difficult getting shots but not impossible. Turn the control to the quarter moon or star symbol and the camera is set to optimum. If you have a DSLR camera with full control then you'll need to spend a little time working out the best aperture v shutter speed to get the results you desire. One thing you can do is set you DSL to night shots (as mentioned above) and then look at the Exif and see how the camera set up the aperture and shutter and then replicate this.
Anyway getting back to the dreaded smoke machine. No matter what we've all succumbed to the dreaded smoke machine once and a while. This New Year's Eve was a bit of a problem because of the excessiveness of the smoky atmosphere. So the question is if all of your pictures came out bad what if anything can be done to correct this.
Well luckily there is help in the form of photo editing software.
I use Paint Shop Pro (because I'm to thick to understand Photoshop)
To give you an idea how smoky the atmosphere was and how much photo editing software can make a difference here is a picture I've slit. The first half of the picture is after it has been enhanced in Paint Shop Pro whilst the right half is the original smoky picture.
View attachment 347
Now in this case I took the worst picture I had to exaggerate the finish. Clearly this picture is beyond repair because although the picture on the left looks better... it is full of noise and well doesn't look good. No.. I made this picture as an example to show how much control software has over pictures and to explain that photo editing software is good.
Now I know its better to take a picture properly and not rely on artificial enhancements but there comes a time when you have to.
To correct fog in pictures using Paintshop Pro go to Adjust > Colour > Fade Correction.
View attachment 348
I'll zoom in on the right hand side picture so that you can see how much of an effect fade correction has on the picture. I set the amount of correction to 30 but you might find that a little too strong for your pictures. If the correction is too strong the picture looks tinted blue.
View attachment 349
Now we have something to work with lets correct the brightness and contrast. To do this go to Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Clarify
View attachment 350
I used the setting at 2.0 and in most cases it was the perfect setting.
View attachment 351
At this point I recommend using a noise remover. In Paintshop Pro there are two types of noise remover, one stop noise remover and digital noise remover. It really is a matter of personal preference which you use and each picture will have different levels of noise. So play about with the strength of the noise removal filter to see what the best results are for your picture.
The One stop noise filter is pre set and does a pretty good job at removing the noise without blurring the picture.
Here's where the noise filters are in the menu of Paintshop Pro
View attachment 352
Now the final step. Because we have removed the white sheen from the picture the colour is still out of balance and needs to be corrected. To do this go to Effects > Photo Effects > Film and Filters
View attachment 353
Be careful in here its easy to get carried away enhancing colour.... and then the final finish could be ruined because the colours look unrealistic.
I like to use the "Vivid skin tones" filter as this gives the most realistic colour without making people look orange or bright pink... But again try different filters and see what effect you get.
View attachment 354

That's it! you've taken a ruined picture and rescued i. As I said I have picked on the worst picture I have just to show how much control you still have over pictures from your digital camera even if you think they are ruined. Obviously pictures with less smoke will lend themselves to be edited without generating too much noise (grain in the picture) and the colours will still stay vibrant and crisp.
 

treeve

Major Contributor
Like any atmospheric disturbance it is reflected into the lens. I am not entierly sure, but it used to be dry ice that was used. A similar problem to mist in mountains, smoke/steam in stations, the prime factor is to try and avoid the situation beforehand, as much as digital manipulation is possible, to the point where it is necessay to prevent condensation for that matter on a lens or group of lens. Go in with expectations and deal with it at source. Know the limitations of the camera. Prefocus for the session. Turn off the autofocus.
 
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