Awesome Lightroom Technique to Add Atmosphere

In this article, I show you an awesome Lightroom editing technique you can use to add atmosphere to your photos. If you take this method to the extreme, you can even turn a normal day into a foggy scene. It works well for woodland photos.

This technique is not for purists, though. If you want to keep your photos as close to reality as possible, you might not want to apply the edit I'm about to show you. But if you like to get creative, it is a valuable addition to your photo-editing toolbox.

Selective Fog

In the feature video, I show you how I added mist to one of my woodland photos. I photographed the scene on a very windy morning - not the ideal conditions for forest photography. As I walked through the fields toward this scene, fog drifted in and out of the forest. But unfortunately, it didn't stick around for me to capture it. 

When I opened the raw photo in Lightroom, it lacked atmosphere. I've photographed this forest many times with fog, and I know how it could have looked. I will also return next year to try my luck and take a better photo. But I also couldn't resist experimenting with the image I had taken: could I somehow redeem it by adding atmosphere in Lightroom?

The answer is yes. With the settings shown in the screenshot above, I was able to add mist to the scene:

  1. Open the masking panel in Lightroom and add a new mask using the "Brush."
  2. Place a single brush stroke next to the photo and click the "Invert" checkbox in the upper right beneath the masking panel button.
  3. Now, you can dial in and fine-tune the settings for the artificial fog. It's applied to the whole image - don't worry, it's just temporary and helps to see the effect.
  4. As a starting point, use the settings shown in the screenshot. From there, experiment and adapt the effect to your liking.
  5. Press the "Invert" checkbox again. It will hide the effect.
  6. Use the brush with a medium "Flow" setting and gradually add fog to the scene. Exclude the foreground for a more realistic effect.
  7. Holding down ALT, switch to the "Erase" brush or select it in the brush panel. Make sure "Auto Mask" is active as you paint over the foreground trees and branches in your photo. 

As I explained in the video, fog typically appears more dense in the background of your image. That's why you should try to remove some of the effect from foreground elements - step 7. You can achieve amazing results with photos containing a lot of depth as source material.

Below I show two more images captured in the same forest. One contains real fog, while the other was processed using the technique from this article. The question is: can you to tell which image contains real fog and which contains artificial fog? Leave your guesses in the comments.

Foggy forest scene 1
Foggy forest scene 2


As you've seen in this tutorial, it is possible to completely transform a woodland photo with clever masking and a few sliders in Lightroom. You can add fog in just a few minutes. If this goes too far for you, use the "Amount" slider at the top of the masking panel to reduce the effect. You don't have to create the illusion of fog with this technique. Sometimes, adding just a bit of atmosphere will do the trick and give your photos a dreamy look if that's what you want to achieve.

Michael Breitung's picture

Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape and travel photographer from Germany. In the past 10 years he visited close to 30 countries to build his high quality portfolio and hone his skills as a photographer. He also has a growing Youtube channel, in which he shares the behind the scenes of his travels as well as his knowledge about photo editing.

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I dont care about likes ;-)

Great work Michael, thanks for the helpful tip.

Hey Robert, it's easy to sit in judgment of others' photography when from the looks of it you don't have any photographs to share of your work. Michael on the other hand has many great photographs and several taken with actual fog. Your comment is insulting to photographers who actually share their work and time to help others improve their craft. Next time put your money where your mouth is before popping off about another photographer's process, you troll!

I just want to see a good image, I don't care how it's created. As Michael asks about the bottom two images, which one contains natural fog and which contains artificial fog? I can't tell but I like both of them so what difference does it make?

You maybe can divide photographers into those who want to faithfully capture the beauty of the moment and those who want to create great art. Sometimes the two align, but it's OK if they don't.

Let's see your photos the Mr big shot.

you must be fun at parties...

Agreed, but try not to be so bitter. AI is coming...

Whoa there, Negative Nellie! There is absolutely nothing wrong with what he's's art, not photojournalism.

Nice article Michael. Would I be right in saying that image 2 contains the artificial fog?

Interesting technique thank you. With a little separation between the foreground elements and the misty background I can see this looking believable. When there are many elements at different distances it’s going to be hard work, as your photo 2 proves. I would be very concerned to be in a woodland that looked like that!

Thats true. Photo two at least had some Fog in the BG, so there I Just added a layer behind the FG tree. Otherwise it would have been even harder

I'm with Robert. It's essentially digital art. What's next? Sky replacement, a rainbow or two? Maybe some wildlife?

Each to their own I guess 🙏

Michael, your work is beautiful and entirely convincing. Ethically, you have disclosed that these are not "pure" photographs. My personal take is that the manipulation of photos into illustrations is akin to drawing and painting. I myself see absolutely nothing wrong with it, provided it is clearly disclosed. The ethical worker does that. The unethical has to be caught. The really bad guys need to be prosecuted, but that's a ways off unless you work for a newspicture agency, in which case you will be fired and permanently banned.

Now, in my 82nd year, I am over the moon with what I can do that, when I was working professionally, I never even dreamed it possible since the concepts were beyond imagining. What we could do in analog was limited, and too often obvious, but it was what we had.

Today is a paradigm shift, a game changer; I sometimes cannot believe what I can accomplish, and I am just a dabbler.

I photographed roses gifted to my DIL. My tabletop set is too small for the subject (third picture). I ultimately wanted a wallpaper at a 16:9 ratio. Using a number of AI tricks not limited to Photoshop generative expand and fill, I got what I wanted without needing to rebuild my set. I even seamlessly deleted the gift card. I have many other samples.

Nice technique!

And, as for the self triggered commenters, this method is in the same line as dodging and burning for drama, dimension, mood, subject prominence, atmosphere, etc, etc, etc.

Some people just prefer a natural looking image. Go look at the Natural Landscape Photography Awards for inspiration. If you like heavily edited photos you might want to enter a digital art competition instead 🤗

--- "Some people just prefer a natural looking image."

That's fine. No one is asking you to change. Why come here acting like an envious petulant child? If the tip has no value for you, simply move on.

--- "Go look at the Natural Landscape Photography Awards for inspiration."

Yeah, I think you are confused. "Natural" does not mean SOOC JPG.

A lot of the "Natural" images on the below competition don't look anything like in the real life.

--- "If you like heavily edited photos you might want to enter a digital art competition instead."

What does liking heavily edited photos have anything to do with entering a competition? That's the problem with you insecure people. It's all about validation.