4 Fun Tricks to Enhance Your Photos With Lightroom's Graduated Filter Tool

4 Fun Tricks to Enhance Your Photos With Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool


A few weeks ago I shared some key tips on how to get a lot out of Lightroom by using only a handful of sliders and while this is a great place to start eventually you’ll want to get a bit more creative with the software. Today I’m going to show you four different things that you can accomplish by using Lightroom’s Graduated Filter tool.

4 Creative Ways to Use Lightroom’s Graduated Filter

Split White Balance – This technique can be a powerful one when trying to get some interesting colors out of the sky, but retaining the natural colors of the earth. In the photo below I’ve added some pinks and purples to the sky, but was able to retain the natural green color of the grass.


How I Did It – The graduated filter was dropped in from the top and rests just above the horizon line. I then made adjustments to the temperature and tint sliders until I was happy with the colors. Note: if there are objects that fall within your graduated filter’s effected zone you can correct it by using the adjustment brush and adjusting the tint & temp sliders locally for that specific area.

Direct the Light – By applying multiple filters to your photo you can create spot light like effects, leading lines and even your own very customizable vignette effect like seen below.

directing eyes

How I Did It – Here I’ve dropped in four different filters which all work together to create the final effect. There are two that are pulled in from the sides of the frame to drop the exposure of the edges. Then I dropped one in from the top and placed it almost at the bottom of the frame I use this one to increase the exposure of the overall photo excluding the very bottom of the frame. However, once this one was applied the top of the frame was over exposed so I then apply one more filter, again dropped in from the top, but placed towards the middle of the frame. This time I drop the exposure to cancel the effect of the previous filter and thus create the vignette effect. Yikes that was a mouthful!

Soften Your Borders – Sometimes you might want to soften the borders of your photo to draw in more attention to the center of the frame.

soft borders

How I Did It – This is a fairly simple process of dropping two filters in one from each side of the photo and then reducing the sharpness and clarity on both of them to -100. This effectively blurs out the sides of the frame and draws your attention to the middle.

Create a B&W to Color Transition – A very cool effect can be the black and white to color transition. It’s  not something that’s going to be used on every photograph you produce, but when you do use it it will often get people to look twice.

Black & White Color

How I Did It – The black and white to color transition is done by using one single graduated filter and dropping the saturation to -100. It’s up to you where you want it placed and how dramatic you’d like the transition to be – a narrow filter makes for a more dramatic transition.

For Those Who Prefer Video

If you’re anything like me it is so much easier to learn this kind of thing when things are in motion and therefore I’ve included a video which walks you through everything I talked about above, plus a few other Lightroom goodies as well. Enjoy!

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John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro an online community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. Join today! John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos. This course covers the most important techniques you need to learn when getting started with photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Lawson July 27, 2013 02:19 pm

    Here is an example of a photo I took with an actual filter in the field- for photographers who are scared of using real filters, they can easily be implemented. Take a look


  • Steve Butler July 25, 2013 04:24 pm

    I have a strong passion for passion for photography. Be it still photography or themed based photography- it is always fun to be with a camera. I have always loved the idea of taking snaps during weddings or in any special occasions. I love doing caricatures and photo booths as well. This article really gave me a boost. Planning to buy a good camera this Christmas. Till then keep clicking guys !!

  • John Davenport July 23, 2013 07:10 am

    @tinyhands - there are a couple of reasons why what I did here can't be done with a single radial filter. One: the four grad filters allow you to accomplish fine control over each side of the direction of light which allows you to say have a "spotlight" effect coming in from the top of the frame or mimmic an off camera flash by lightening up the left or right sides of the frame (yes it's going to be rough, but it's creative editing here). The other main reason that I use the grad filters here is that I like many other Lightroom users haven't upgraded to LR5 and don't have access to that fancy new tool and therefore must make our own.

    Hope that answers your question. :)

  • tinyhands July 23, 2013 06:46 am

    #2 would benefit from an explanation of why the same effect couldn't be accomplished with a single radial filter. Unless the whole point was to square the circle.

  • John July 22, 2013 01:40 pm

    Thanks for the tip, I normally use the old school filters but this looks tight!

  • San Diego Portrait July 20, 2013 02:34 pm

    Very informative!

  • Janis July 19, 2013 02:05 am

    Thanks for sharing this good ideas to make pictures better.

    Until now I rarely used the graduated filter option in LR.