Add a light Source in Lightroom in 5 Easy Steps - Digital Photography School

Add a light Source in Lightroom in 5 Easy Steps

The Lightroom Graduated Filter tool can be used to add a secondary light source to an image where one was not in existence when you shot it. This often works better to rescue an unexposed area of an image than, for example, applying a Shadow/Highlight fix in Photoshop.

add-light-source_before-after.jpg

1. This image is extremely dark on the right – a problem caused by capturing the carousel horse in broad daylight on a very sunny day..

lr_step1.jpg

2. After adjusting the Exposure in Lightroom and tweaking the image using the small Recovery, Clarity and Vibrance sliders the image is still dark in areas where I would like to see more of the detail in the underlying image.

lr_step2.jpg

3. To bring in some light on the right, click the Graduated Filter tool and drag the selector in from the right edge of the image so that the midpoint of the filter is over the point where the problem ceases to exist (around the level of the carousel horse’s eye).

lr_step3.jpg

4. With the Effect Sliders visible, increase the Exposure and then, if desired, adjust the Brightness and Clarity sliders. Click Close when done.

lr_step4.jpg

5. In many cases you will find the Graduated Filter gives better results than, for example, the Shadows/Highlights filter in Photoshop and it’s a lot less work.

lr_step5.jpg

Read more from our Post Production category.

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • http://www.tyleringram.com Tyler

    This sounds like it is a much better option that using the Fill Light slider :) I need to learn a lot more of lightroom it seems! Thanks!

  • http://www.specialty-art.com Rick

    Great tip, I wonder if there is something like this I can use in Photoshop CS?

  • http://www.monifoto.net Monika

    Thanks a lot! I didn’t know about it and it seems like a great tool I will use a lot!

  • Zack Jones

    Thanks for the great tip! I have a recent photo I want to try this on.

  • Reznor

    In Photoshop you could just use an adjustment layer for increasing the exposure and then apply a gradient from white to transparent on the layer mask in the same way the gradient filter is used here. Instead of the adjustment layer, you could also create a new layer, fill it with white, set it to soft light or overlay and mask that layer. Whatever you prefer, results should be nearly the same.

  • Reznor

    Nay, forget my last tip, it would be much easier to just create a new layer, make a gradient from white to transparent and then set the layer to soft light. That way, you don’t need to mask anything.

  • http://danferno.deviantart.com Danferno

    This is also possible in Adobe Raw. Not sure from what version.

  • Bernadette

    Wow! This is great. thank you!

  • byndgdnevl

    Helen, I quite simply will put it this way. I enjoy and appreciate your posts. They are extremely informative and I always look forward to new tips from you. Keep up the good work!

  • Geoff C

    Raw files + LR grad filter = bliss

    I often use multiple grads, with different effects on the same image. And if you shot raw and managed to keep most of the info within the histogram, you have tremendous latitude to adjust the image to your heart’s content.

  • http://Nicoleinjapan.aminus3.com NicoleinJapan

    Great article! I’ve been using Lightroom for quite some time now, and have even been using the graduated filter for some time as well, but I’ve only ever really used it for darkening or adding blue hues to a bland sky. I don’t know why it never occured to me to use the graduated filter from the side to create another light source! And I never realized there was a “custom” setting either – all this time I’ve been creating multiple filters to add on top of one another! Thank you so much for this article! It’s opened my eyes!

    -NicoleinJapan

  • http://bobtowery.typepad.com Bob Towery

    I’m a dedicated LR user and a fan of the GND tool, but DANG, I didn’t know about turning on the effects sliders! I thought each GND could only do one thing. This is great! Appreciate this post very much.

  • http://www.printroom.com/pro/thephotographer tony

    I have Lightroom but I am having problems getting started

  • Rusty Sterling

    This tip also applies to Adobe Camera Raw. I use it like this from time to time. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.joehoughtonphotography.ie Joe Houghton

    A little addition to Helen’s great tip is that you can use multiple instances of a grad filter on one photo, so you could also, for instance, add some light from below by creating a separate grad filer instance and dragging up from the bottom. As always though, be careful not to overdo things – less is often more in these manipulations!

  • TylerG

    rusty,

    How is this done in Camera Raw? I’ve been trying to go through it but I don’t see an option for the Graduated Filter. I may be missing it….can you let me know where it is? Thanks.

    Tyler

  • http://www.travisforsyth.com Travis Forsyth

    Well written guide and very handy to boot!

  • Lee A

    With the Effect Sliders visible, increase the Exposure and then, if desired, adjust the Brightness and Clarity sliders. Click Close when done.

    WHERE IS the CLICK CLOSE IN LR???

  • http://www.projectwoman.com/phototips.html Helen Bradley

    Hi Lee..

    Look in the image for Step 4 above, you will see it next to the Reset option in the foot of the panel that you are using to set the sliders. It is immediately above the panel name Basic. It’s hard to see if you don’t actually expect it to be there.

    cheers

    Helen

  • Jayme

    Any suggestions for how to accomplish this in PSE 6…?

  • http://www.ashokchakraborty.weebly.com ashok

    I am using Lightroom 3 to develop Raw images & found a very effective means of filling light by graduated filter. It’s a great tool….

  • Johnny Lightspeed

    I guess if Adobe added layers to Lightroom, no one would really have a need to use Photoshop as much?

  • Rhonda

    For some reason, I cannot see the above pictures. All I have is a white box for each photo. Anyone else having that problem? i would like to see them as this article seems to be very interesting. Thanks.

  • http://www.projectwoman.com/phototips Helen Bradley

    The pictures are quite large so they show as white boxes to start with but they downloaded and show just fine after a few seconds.

  • http://www.pixazy.com Cornell Adrian

    I’ve been using Lightroom for quite some time now, and now I’m using the graduated filter as well. It’s a great tool to create another light source!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Diana

    Amazing tool. Been looking it for ages. Thanks!

Some older comments

  • Cornell Adrian

    September 28, 2011 06:07 pm

    I’ve been using Lightroom for quite some time now, and now I'm using the graduated filter as well. It's a great tool to create another light source!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Helen Bradley

    November 26, 2010 12:58 pm

    The pictures are quite large so they show as white boxes to start with but they downloaded and show just fine after a few seconds.

  • Rhonda

    November 26, 2010 05:48 am

    For some reason, I cannot see the above pictures. All I have is a white box for each photo. Anyone else having that problem? i would like to see them as this article seems to be very interesting. Thanks.

  • Johnny Lightspeed

    November 3, 2010 01:31 am

    I guess if Adobe added layers to Lightroom, no one would really have a need to use Photoshop as much?

  • ashok

    August 3, 2010 01:54 am

    I am using Lightroom 3 to develop Raw images & found a very effective means of filling light by graduated filter. It's a great tool....

  • Jayme

    June 24, 2009 05:29 am

    Any suggestions for how to accomplish this in PSE 6...?

  • Helen Bradley

    June 21, 2009 03:15 am

    Hi Lee..

    Look in the image for Step 4 above, you will see it next to the Reset option in the foot of the panel that you are using to set the sliders. It is immediately above the panel name Basic. It's hard to see if you don't actually expect it to be there.

    cheers

    Helen

  • Lee A

    June 21, 2009 02:01 am

    With the Effect Sliders visible, increase the Exposure and then, if desired, adjust the Brightness and Clarity sliders. Click Close when done.

    WHERE IS the CLICK CLOSE IN LR???

  • Travis Forsyth

    June 20, 2009 10:29 am

    Well written guide and very handy to boot!

  • TylerG

    June 19, 2009 09:43 am

    rusty,

    How is this done in Camera Raw? I've been trying to go through it but I don't see an option for the Graduated Filter. I may be missing it....can you let me know where it is? Thanks.

    Tyler

  • Joe Houghton

    June 19, 2009 01:18 am

    A little addition to Helen's great tip is that you can use multiple instances of a grad filter on one photo, so you could also, for instance, add some light from below by creating a separate grad filer instance and dragging up from the bottom. As always though, be careful not to overdo things - less is often more in these manipulations!

  • Rusty Sterling

    June 19, 2009 01:16 am

    This tip also applies to Adobe Camera Raw. I use it like this from time to time. Thanks for sharing.

  • tony

    June 18, 2009 01:43 am

    I have Lightroom but I am having problems getting started

  • Bob Towery

    June 16, 2009 12:52 am

    I'm a dedicated LR user and a fan of the GND tool, but DANG, I didn't know about turning on the effects sliders! I thought each GND could only do one thing. This is great! Appreciate this post very much.

  • NicoleinJapan

    June 14, 2009 11:32 am

    Great article! I've been using Lightroom for quite some time now, and have even been using the graduated filter for some time as well, but I've only ever really used it for darkening or adding blue hues to a bland sky. I don't know why it never occured to me to use the graduated filter from the side to create another light source! And I never realized there was a "custom" setting either - all this time I've been creating multiple filters to add on top of one another! Thank you so much for this article! It's opened my eyes!

    -NicoleinJapan

  • Geoff C

    June 14, 2009 12:24 am

    Raw files + LR grad filter = bliss

    I often use multiple grads, with different effects on the same image. And if you shot raw and managed to keep most of the info within the histogram, you have tremendous latitude to adjust the image to your heart's content.

  • byndgdnevl

    June 13, 2009 11:34 am

    Helen, I quite simply will put it this way. I enjoy and appreciate your posts. They are extremely informative and I always look forward to new tips from you. Keep up the good work!

  • Bernadette

    June 13, 2009 10:04 am

    Wow! This is great. thank you!

  • Danferno

    June 13, 2009 03:32 am

    This is also possible in Adobe Raw. Not sure from what version.

  • Reznor

    June 13, 2009 03:26 am

    Nay, forget my last tip, it would be much easier to just create a new layer, make a gradient from white to transparent and then set the layer to soft light. That way, you don't need to mask anything.

  • Reznor

    June 13, 2009 03:24 am

    In Photoshop you could just use an adjustment layer for increasing the exposure and then apply a gradient from white to transparent on the layer mask in the same way the gradient filter is used here. Instead of the adjustment layer, you could also create a new layer, fill it with white, set it to soft light or overlay and mask that layer. Whatever you prefer, results should be nearly the same.

  • Zack Jones

    June 13, 2009 01:59 am

    Thanks for the great tip! I have a recent photo I want to try this on.

  • Monika

    June 13, 2009 01:14 am

    Thanks a lot! I didn't know about it and it seems like a great tool I will use a lot!

  • Rick

    June 13, 2009 01:05 am

    Great tip, I wonder if there is something like this I can use in Photoshop CS?

  • Tyler

    June 13, 2009 12:33 am

    This sounds like it is a much better option that using the Fill Light slider :) I need to learn a lot more of lightroom it seems! Thanks!

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