This post is born from several encounters with users on various Lightroom forums where I participate as a Lightroom Guru. The first of these posts was asking about the ability to feather asymmetrically a Lightroom Graduated Filter. The second of these was a post asking if Lightroom could produce a ‘reversed graduated neutral density’ filter. In truth, I had never heard of this type of filter but when I pressed for more information, I was directed to a product currently for sale by Singh-Ray Filters. A little research and some trial and error and I was able to produce an analogous filter within the Lightroom interface.
In the example above, a Reverse Graduated 2-Stop – 1-Stop ND Filter set has been applied. To get a feel for how this filter works, below I show the same filter applied to a White Card.
The above white card image has a sharp breaking horizon graduation of 0-stops to –2-stops going downward. At the 2-stop Maximum, the filter transitions to a 2-stop to 1-stop gradual filter going upwards. The purpose of a filter like this is to hold exposure in a brightly-lit horizon area, while holding the light in the foreground and gradually tapering the brightness of the sky. Using a filter like this in Lightroom is just like using a lens-mounted filter in the field at time of capture. You need to use this on a scene with a defined horizon so that intrusions into the sky do not become too dark. You also need to place this filter so that it accurately portrays the horizon’s location in your image. Like a glass filter, this software control assumes you will match the filter’s break with the horizon.
1-stop to 0-stop
2-stop to 1-stop
3-stop to 1-stop
3-stop to 2-stop
The four examples above show the effect of the four Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filters I have built for my own uses. As you can see, they can be very effective. They also have the same inherent problems of a glass filter in the field. They leave those little hills which intrude into the sky abnormally darkened with a severity depending upon the density of the filter graduation. Also, the filter depends upon matching the angle of the horizon and work best on images where care has been taken to maintain a level camera at time of capture.
I have built the carefully constructed graduated filter sets into a series of Lightroom Develop Presets for easy application to any image. Adjustments for non-level horizons and non-centered horizons are tweaked from with the graduated filter controls within Lightroom.
Shortly, I will be producing a Video on their use and making the presets available to the public.
Rikk Flohr © 2014