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One Little Filter, So Many Applications . . .

January 22nd, 2013 No Comments

You know just what Lightroom’s graduated filter tool does but where and when do you put it to best effect, i.e. how do you recognize a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter?

In 4 Uses for Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool, Jason Weddington shows four kinds of situations where use of Lightroom’s graduated filter can create a more compelling image, and not all of these uses may be intuitive and obvious.

For instance, a grad filter doesn’t have to be a grad filter: tip 3 explains that, though you apply the effect across a part of the image, you can use it to adjust white balance thus, in effect, strengthening a hue or shifting a tint.  The ‘after’ shot is a vast improvement on the ‘before’: the blades of grass and flare (both lens and iris in a single image) fairly pop.

Tip 2 offers something very different.  Weddington doesn’t use that (now old-fashioned) word ‘polarizer’.  However, polarizers used to be used to (among other things) ‘cut through the haze’ and that’s just what is explained in ‘Reducing Atmospheric Haze’, with the example photo demonstrating a dramatic improvement in clarity on the horizon.

Tips 1 and 4 are two sides of the same coin; as Weddington says, “This technique builds on #1 above, because we are actually manipulating exposure.”  Though the same technique is applied, it is applied for extremely different purposes: in the first case to correct a perceived defect by smoothing out tonal range; in the second, to strengthen or highlight a particular area of a photograph to deliberately draw the eye into that area.

That is where “recogniz[ing] a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter” comes into play: though there’s one filter there are many applications; you have to recognize the picture and the situation to exploit.  If you have a relatively low-contrast seascape with a washed-out sky, would decreasing exposure of the sky by a stop help?

For a more aggressive application of post-processing filters to achieve quasi-painterly images, check out our next post!


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