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How to use Graduated Filters in Lightroom

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Below we have transcribed the video so you can read through it as well!  We will be releasing graduated filters for you to use soon and would love to show you how to use them.  Enjoy!

Hi this is Elizabeth from, on behalf of pretty presets for Lightroom and Adobe Cam Raw and today we are going to talk about graduated filters.

So we are here in lightroom3 and this a photo, it’s been edited this is before, straight out of camera and this is it edited. It’s been edited with pretty presets of course. From the old Hollywood glam collection, the preset is called golden-age and so I just did a one click little edit on this photo using that wonderful preset and over here is the graduated filter which what we're going to be talking about today.

It's in the develop module here in Lightroom 3, of course also available in Lightroom 2 and it’s called the graduated filter. So when you click it, what you get here is its sort of looks like what you get when you click the adjustment brush. Some of the same options there. And what you do is you decide what you want to do here. So I'm going to add some brightness. My favorite way of using the graduated filter is to add something like a bit of a light leak from the corner of the photo. Just to add extra warmth and sunshine, just to make the photo appear more like a it’s completely saturated in warm sunshine. And this is a big part of my style; I really love sunlight to be a part of all my work. And so, this is something that I do often to create a light leak in the corner of my photo.

So all you do is you click and you pull the graduated filter down. As far as you want and don't worry 'coz you can change it later. And what you get is depending on what you set here so we brought the exposure up a bit, the brightness. And now that we've pulled down the graduated filter, we can start playing with this, take it brighter and brighter and just experiment until it looks naturally like a leak of light. Just some really bright sunshine coming through, I bring clarity down, to make it more glowy. Bring down the contrast. And then once you get it the way you want, you can move it, kind of to see how far into the photo we want it to be affected. I want it to be really nice and sun-shiny. You can also go here and add a color to it if you want it to be particularly warm and sunny. And just click around with the little teardrop, a little dropper tool here until you get it the way you want it to be. Can't, it's a little bit warmer, it's a little bit too bright, too much. But you can go in here and you can click the little toggle switch here that turns the effect on and off so you can see how it affected your photo. So that's before and that's after, we've added a little bit of a sun-shiny leak of light from the corner of the photo.

Always be careful when you're adding Fo lands flare of Fo light leak in your photos that you're aware where the sun naturally was in the photo. So we can see that the shadow is on this side of his face. And I remember for when I was shooting, the sun was over here in the photo. Be careful that you're not taking, like putting the sun over here if in fact it was over here.  Every once in a while people actually notice that, I used to do that, and it is something that people actually notice, so be aware of where the sun naturally was when you're taking your photo.

So we're going to look over another photo to show another example of how you can use the graduated filters in your photography. Ok, so here we have a landscape and I don't do many landscape, so it took me a while to find this one. This is from when we climbed up to Creep got in Whales which was very heroine. And this is from about middle-way. And this is a really great way that you can use the graduated filters if you're a landscape photographer and you have a horizon, something very definitive 'coz we have up here sky and we have down here land. So if you're able to just call something down, sort of like a window blind to add an effect to that area, that's a great use it, a great way to utilize the graduated filter. So what we're going do is we're going to grab it and we're just gonna pull it right down. And I like to add my graduated filter and then change the settings because I don't know what I want it to look like until I start playing with it. So I'm going to double click here and bring everything back down to default. And normally the skies I like to add more contrast, I like to add more clarity, I like to bring up the saturation to make it a bit more blue. Maybe you can bring the brightness down a bit to make it more dark and dramatic. If you have a lot of clouds this would be great adding more contrast and it can add a lot more drama. So already what we have here is before and after. And because this a gradual this filter is gradual, it doesn't, you don't have a line right here, a line of distinction where up here it's one thing and down here its another. But after you've started your edit you can change this. And now we can grab it and pull it up to make sure I like to pull it up and down to kind of see where the changes really begin and end. And so I'm going to leave it like that. And again if there were lot of clouds here it might just do something totally different. And then again that's before and after.

And all you need to do if you want to get rid of the filter is to click it and hit the backspace key much like when you are using the adjustment brush that's something that you are already familiar with.

Now I'm going to show you sort of the same thing on this photo but a little bit tweaked, there is no way when you're using the graduated filter to erase any portion of the filter after you've pulled it down. So where before, I was showing a landscape, there was quite a distinct up here sky, down here is land. Right here we have a horizon that's cutting straight through our subject. So if we were to pull down a graduated filter as we're going to do now, to make the sky more dramatic, it’s gonna also affect her. So I'm gonna show you my little way of erasing portions of the graduated filter. So we could still pull it down, we could still make the sky a little bit more dramatic but it’s not going to affect her. So we're gonna bring the brightness down to make it darker and we're going to bring up the contrast. And bring up the clarity to make the edges of the cloud more defined. Ok, so lets toggle this to see what it's like. So that's before and that's after but you can see its really affected her quite a lot and the plant on the left. So what I'm gonna do now, is I'm gonna go in and make a note of what I've done. So I've brought the brightness and the exposure down. So I've darken it, I've made it more contrasty, a bit more saturated, more clarity. So I'm gonna go in and take this adjustment brush and I'm gonna bring the exposure up a bit and the brightness up a bit. So I'm gonna just do the opposites of what I've done. I have brought the contrast way up so I'm gonna take this one down, bring the saturation down a bit.

Now this is by no means a full fool proof way to do this and you're gonna have to experiment a bit but the great thing about this is this is all completely undoable it's not distractive editing. And it’s just something that you can do quite intuitively after you've gotten the half of it, a bit. And it’s just another tool for you to have in your tool to have in your tool belt when playing with Lightroom. So we're gonna go in here and start painting that on and of course it’s gonna look a bit too much perhaps as we're first getting started. It's gonna be a bit more difficult to do it on the plants because... yeah a bit more difficult to do it on the plants because of course we've got the sky just behind them. So like I said, it’s not completely fool proof and you might have to make do of it I could hit auto mask and see if that makes a difference. Actually I make it more difficult 'coz there's still many colors going on here. So I'm just gonna do my best to brighten it up a bit. Just a bit smaller. See what we can do there.

Ok, so now that we've got that brushing in place with the adjustment brush. We can go in and start tweaking it a little bit just to kind of try and bring it back down to the way it normally was. And you can hit the before and after key so can see the sky is changing a lot but she's pretty much staying the same. That's affecting her hair quite a bit. Yes, so now the sky is a bit more dramatic and its pretty much left her alone. It's not full proof. I mean I think this down here is a little bit too bright but if you are to have a horizon and one little bit that you wanted to sort of mask back in as it were and erase a portion of the graduated filter like maybe just the tip of a mountain or something like that. You could use that method that I've just shown you here.

So it's completely up to you, of course there are other ways to do this same sort of thing but this video was just about graduated filter which is why I was showing that. But if I were going to intensify the sky a bit, you could do it using the adjustment brush, just fine by bringing all those same thing down that we did with the graduated filter except, then we just go in and paint it on like this. Which means that we can skip over other portions of the photo. But again, this is just another tool for you to have in your tool belt and it's important to know what all this different things do in Lightrooms so that you can make an educated decision when you’re doing your own editing.

So thank you so much for watching. This has been Elizabeth from, on behalf of pretty presets for Lightroom and Adobe Cam Raw and you can find them at

Elizabeth Halford is a professional photographer and blogger. She gives real photography advice in real.plain.english. Visit her on Facebook and join a community of photographers just like you!

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