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Post Production Tips

How to Create Creative Effects with the Graduated Filter Tool in Lightroom 4

By Pye Jirsa on April 1st 2013

Introduction

In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will go over how to use the Graduated Filter Tool and how to create creative effects with this tool in Lightroom 4. The Graduated Filter Tool has greatly improved in Lightroom 4, making the Graduated Filter Tool an even more powerful and handy tool to use when editing our images. The Graduated Filter Tool allows us to create a filter effect that will apply the settings we specify over any area of an image. The Graduated Filter Tool is great because it can help us fix problems in an image, such as a problem with exposure. For example, you may have an image that is darker on the right side and brighter on the left side. You can use the Graduated Filter Tool to create an even exposure in that particular image. In addition, the Graduated Filter Tool allows us to be creative with our images because we can do many different effects with it.

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Using the Graduated Filter Tool

We can access the Graduated Filter Tool by simply hitting “M.” By doing so, this will automatically open up the Graduated Filter Menu in the Adjustments Toolbar. We can also select the tool by clicking on the Graduated Filter icon, which is next to the Spot Removal Tool.

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As mentioned before, the Graduated Filter Tool is great for creativity. For example, if we want to make the sky in the image below to be a little bit bluer, we can use the Graduated Filter Tool to achieve a more dramatic look.

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First, we need to reset our settings. Hold down “Alt” to bring up the “Reset” dialogue in the Graduated Filter Menu. When you click on “Reset,” all of your settings will be reset to 0. As you can see below, we have selected “Reset” and all of our settings are now at 0.

03-lightroom-4-graduated-filter-reset-settings

In our example, we want the Graduated Filter to cool down the area that we will paint over. We have set the Temperature to -20 and brought the Exposure down to -0.33. Next, we will boost up the Contrast to 20 as well as the Clarity to 20. Finally, we will bring up the Saturation to 10. See below for an example.

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Once you have dialed in your settings in the Graduated Filter Menu, we are going to apply the filter across our image. Select the area where you want to apply your filter and drag your filter across. The filter will start out the strongest from the area we start from and then feather off as we pull the filter into the image a little more. In our image below, you can see that we are bringing the filter down from the top of the image to create a more dramatic look for the sky. Since we started the filter from the top of the image, the filter is strongest at the top.

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To constrain the direction of the Graduated Filter Tool so that it is not diagonal, simply hold “Shift” down while you are dragging the filter. Depending on how you drag the filter, it will constrain the filter to be either horizontal or vertical.

If you do not constrain the direction of the Graduated Filter Tool, your filter will be diagonal, like the example below.

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We can also apply the same effect of the filter twice, over the same area of an image. Once again, just drag your filter across the image while holding “Shift” to have 2 filters over the same area of the image. As you can see below, the sky looks even more dramatic with 2 filters applied.

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If you want to adjust one of the filters, simply select one. The black button indicates which filter you are adjusting. To adjust the settings, go back to the Graduated Filter Menu and dial in your settings. As you can see below, we have selected one of the Graduated Filters and we can make adjustments in the Graduated Filter Menu.

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If you want to delete a filter, simply select the button and hit “Delete” on your keyboard. As you can see below, we have deleted one Graduated Filter and only one other filter remains. You can also see that the sky is not as dramatic as the image above.

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You can also toggle the Graduated Filter Tool by simply clicking the icon at the bottom of the Graduated Filter Menu. If you want to reset your filters, just hit “Reset” located next to the toggle icon. Be careful because this Reset button does not remove just the filter you have selected, but rather all of the Graduated Filters on your image.

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Improvements in Lightroom 4

The Graduated Filter Tool has greatly improved in Lightroom 4, making it an even more powerful tool. We can now make adjustments to the Temperature and Tint and we also have Process 2012 available in the Exposure settings. In addition, we also have adjustments for Noise and Moiré control from both the Graduated Filter Tool and the Adjustment Brushes.

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Conclusion & Learn More!

Hopefully this tutorial has given you a better understanding of what the Graduated Filter Tool is and how to use it to create creative and dramatic looks for your images.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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