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Enhancing Landscape Photographs with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4′s Graduated Filter Tools

July 05, 2012 | | Comments 12

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4′s New Graduated Filter Controls

I was floored when I first saw the Graduated Filter back in the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom version 2 days. As a sports and landscape photographer, I consider the Graduated Filter to be a vital part of my image processing routines and almost all of my landscape images are improved in Photoshop Lightroom with some combination of Graduated Filters. With Lightroom 4, this tool is even more powerful!

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4′s new Graduated Filter uses the Process Version 2012 algorithms. These new sliders and math formulas significantly expand Lightroom’s ability to recover fringe highlights and shadow detail. We can also change the white balance of the affected area when using a Graduated Filter and can now use this tool to add or reduce noise and moire.

In this video tutorial, I take an old favorite, an image that I have been pleased with for many years, and I push it even further using the new Graduated Filter. Although you can’t see the old vs. new comparison in this video, I promise that the results that I can get now when working on this image using the new Lightroom 4 Graduated Filter far surpass anything that I have ever been able to accomplish without additional software.

I love it when new and improved software forces me to rework my old favorites, and even more so when the results exceed my expectations. Getting better results with new tools always reminds me that the digital processing technology available to photographers is continually improving and that my best images are never truly “done!”

Using the Graduated Filter’s Color Wash Feature

Mendocino Beach Sunset Photo Enhanced with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Silhouetted trees and fading sunlight above the Mendocino Headlands beach at sunset. The colors in this image were dramatically enhanced using the Graduated Filter tool in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.

In this video tutorial, I demonstrate one way to improve the colors in a flat, dull sunset photograph using the Graduated Filter’s Color Wash feature. I will gladly admit that the wonderful interplay of warm and cool light that I find so appealing in my finished image was manufactured using Lightroom’s Develop Module tools. The strong colors that you see in the final product are largely missing in the original raw capture.

For some photographers, the end result that I create in this video tutorial might be ethically, or aesthetically, “over-the-top.” If I were a photojournalist, this technique might be questionable, but I am proud of both my capture and my post-processing image enhancement skills. While our tastes in art may differ, a robust understanding of all the features hidden within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s Graduated Filter will sooner or later help any landscape photographer build stronger photographs.

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About the Author: David Marx is a digital photography instructor whose engaging teaching style inspires photographers of all skill levels. David is an Adobe Certified Lightroom Expert. To learn more about David's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit www.davidmarx.com or follow David Marx on Google+.