Reducing Appearance of Smoke


Today’s Question: Is there a range mask that would eliminate the smoke from a picture of fireworks and, if so, what are its settings?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While a luminance range mask can potentially be helpful in this scenario, you’ll very likely find that simply using the Dehaze adjustment can greatly diminish the appearance of smoke in photos of fireworks.

More Detail: More often than not, fireworks are photographed in dark (or relatively dark) conditions. Therefore, the background including the sky tends to be quite dark, the fireworks are of course very bright, and the residual smoke is somewhere in between in terms of luminance values.

While these tonal ranges do point to the use of a range mask based on luminance in Lightroom Classic, Lightroom, or Camera Raw, in many cases a simple Dehaze adjustment will provide a great solution. I therefore suggest starting with Dehaze, which is found in the Basic section on the right panel in the Develop module in Lightroom Classic, or in the Effects section of the Edit panel in Lightroom or Camera Raw. Increasing the value for Dehaze, potentially by a large amount, can significantly reduce the appearance of smoke in photographs of fireworks.

A range mask for Luminance can also be helpful with many photos of fireworks, since the tonal range for the smoke will tend to fall well between the bright fireworks and the relatively dark background.

To use a range mask in this case go to the Masking controls and create a new mask for Luminance Range. I recommend making sure the Show Overlay checkbox is turned on so you’ll have a better sense of which portion of the image will be affected. Then drag the slider handles below the Luminance Range control inward so that the mask overlay only appears in the smoke area of the photo, not the dark background or bright fireworks. Then pull those handles back outward slightly, so there is some transition between the areas being affected versus not.

Once you’ve refined the mask, you can then apply adjustments to that area to reduce the visibility of the smoke. That would likely include increasing the value for Dehaze, reducing the value for Exposure so the smoke blends better into the dark background, and any other adjustments that help refine the targeted portion of the image.

I have covered masking for these types of targeted adjustments in my comprehensive video courses on “Mastering Lightroom Classic”, “Mastering Adobe Lightroom ‘Cloud'”, and “Photoshop for Photographers”. You can find all of these courses (and the GreyLearning Ultimate Bundle that includes them all, on the GreyLearning website here: