Using Graduated Filters

Historically when using a film camera you could use various plastic filters held in front of the lens. Often they would be darker at the top, so that the sky did not appear too bright.

Using digital graduated filters in Adobe Lightroom is the same idea, but much more flexible. The biggest advantage is that they can be used after the photo has been taken. It is possible to vary the strength of the effects, the shape and have multiple graduated filters used on one photograph.

All of these effects are used on RAW images. The camera has to be set to take RAW images rather than JPEGs or TIFFs. The main advantage of using RAW format increases the number of adjustments that can be made.

All my shots are taken in manual rather than auto setting. Intentionally underexposing images makes the colours richer and avoids the possibility of blown highlights – losing their details.

BEFORE using graduated filters


The shot is ok, but could be a lot more dramatic. Adding a diagonal de-haze filter has boosted the clouds. I have also reduced the brightness of the shadows making the clouds more moody.

One of my favourite graduated filters is to increase the clarity making the whites brighter and the shadows darker. This has the effect of making an object appear much more shiny. Here I have used the effect on Tate Modern on the left plus a different one on the tall building – One Blackfriars on London’s Southbank.

It would have been best to have had a clean foreground, but as you can see the paving slabs have been taken up, so the last job is to crop them out altogether which avoids the problem.

graduated filter added to the skies to make the clouds more dramatic

De-haze filter added to the sky

graduated filter added to building to increase reflections

Increasing reflections on the building

AFTER using graduated filters and cropping