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How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool

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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.

OceanFinal-600x3371 How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool Lightroom Tutorials

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.

Screen-Shot-2013-03-21-at-6.13.57-PM1 How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool Lightroom Tutorials

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.

Screen-Shot-2013-03-21-at-6.22.55-PM-copy-600x3711 How to Draw Attention in Lightroom Using the Graduated Filter Tool Lightroom Tutorials

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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  1. JC Ruiz on May 13, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Great little tutorial on a great Lightroom tool. I wonder if they’ll make improvements to it when Lightroom 5 is released.

    • john on May 16, 2013 at 7:30 am

      They’re adding a radial gradient tool in LR5 which looks like it might make this kind of thing easier to accomplish – I haven’t gotten my hands on the beta as I tend to just work with what I know and wait for final releases to see how things are, but it does look pretty cool. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Danielle on May 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Liked Mcp on Facebook

  3. Ashley Peterson on May 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Would love the opportunity to win the lens!! I have:1)BEEN a follower on FB2)BEEN a subscriber on FB3)FB’ed a link to your AMAZINGLY simple, easy to use, “Blog It Boards”4)Tweeted the same link5) Pinned this contest!Thank you so much for the opportunity!!

  4. Caroline on May 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I love the gradient filter in LR4, but having played in LR5beta just a little the new radial filter is AWESOME and will be a definite boon for portrait photographers! 😀

  5. Carrie Scheidt on May 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    1) a follower on FB2) a subscriber on FB3) Pinned this contest!4)Liked the page

  6. Magda on May 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Would love the opportunity to win this amazing lens :)I am a fan, I pinned this contest…..

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