How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool

How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool

When it comes to processing photographs there’s no question that one of the best values in for editing is Adobe Lightroom. It’s affordable and extremely powerful, but it can be a bit intimidating.  I do understand why people are hesitant to pull the trigger so to speak.

Jodi and the MCP Actions Team do a fantastic job at creating powerful Lightroom presets that take a lot of the manual work out of Lightroom. This makes it easier to get started and can shave minutes or even hours off your workflow.  That said, sometimes Lightroom presets might not get you all the way to your final vision, or you may want to customize them further, so you’ll want to still learn a bit about what Lightroom can do for you when you look under its hood. Side note: MCP does offer an online Lightroom class to teach the basics.

Today I’m going to show you a really quick technique for controlling your viewers eye with the Graduated Filter Tool in Lightroom.

Ocean Final

What is the Graduated Filter Tool?

First let me start by introducing the the tool and give you a general overview of what it does and how it works. You’ll find the Graduated Filter Tool in the cluster of buttons located under your histogram in the Develop Panel of Lightroom. It’s the second one in from the right as seen in the photograph below, you can also simply use the keyboard short cut ‘M’ to activate the tool as well.

Graduated Filter Tool Lightroom SS

Once opened a new box filled with sliders for all kinds of things will slide open. Today I’m going to focus on using the exposure settings of the tool, but just know that you can apply this graduated effect to things like contrast, clarity, saturation and even white balance. The tool can be used as many times as you need in as many different ways as you can imagine so don’t just assume it’s only use is for faking the graduated effect of an on camera graduated filter.

Using the Graduated Filter Tool

To use the tool you simply click and drag on your photograph in the direction you want the filter to be applied. The direction from which you start will be the strongest effected and the direction you drag towards will see the least effect. In the example I have today I was able to use three of these graduated filters to control the light in the scene in such a way that it draws the viewers eye towards the post in the water.

Graduated Filter Overlay Screen Shot

To help you see what is going on here I created an overlay diagram to showing how I added the three graduated filters into this photograph. The red and green filters each had their exposures dropped a bit, while the blue filter had its exposure increased to draw the light in from the bottom of the frame. The arrows I drew in over the frame indicate the direction in which the graduated filter was applied.

This is a simple technique that can add a lot to your photography. It’s something that can be added after running through your standard workflow and using which ever Lightroom presets you enjoy using most. It is something that can be applied to a number of situations from a simple ocean landscape like you’ve scene today to a photograph of a bride as a way of making it appear that she’s under a spot light.

John Davenport is an avid photographer who enjoys sharing his photography daily on his Facebook Page. He has also started a weekly YouTube series called “Let’s Edit” which focuses exclusively on how to edit photos in Lightroom.

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How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool