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Nothing catches the eye of a potential home buyer or design client quite like a beautiful set of photos. Whether it’s for real estate agents, designers, or homeowners, expectations are high, and restrictions are often many. It’s not uncommon to have to deal with extremely short notice, very short windows of time in which to work, or to be asked for almost immediate turnaround. We, as photographers, become torn between meeting all the needs while still producing work we are proud of… and all while still making a profit! In real estate, especially, this often leads to photos that are “good enough”. But does it have to be this way?
While most are aware of the basics of editing images for interior spaces, there is one tool that is often undervalued – the Gradient Filter. This can be a tremendous tool for helping to balance out fading light on the edges of a frame when you are limited on gear and are not able to balance out the light on location. Adding a few Gradient Filters onto an image can make your mundane interior photos go from acceptable to impressive, with minimal time invested. The Gradient tool is also excellent in helping to sharpen up towards the edges of the frame, helping to compensate slightly for lens distortion.
The Gradient Gilter can be found just below the histogram in Lightroom. Once applied, you can move it around by grabbing the central node, you can change the angle of it by placing cursor over center line and clicking to spin it, and you can also spread or tighten the gradient by grabbing the outermost line and moving it inward or outward. The flexibility of positioning alone is a great benefit when trying to keep editing time to a minimum.
Another great quality about the gradient filter is that, unlike the lens vignetting correction (under the Lens Correction module) or the post-crop vignetting effect, the Gradient Filter can adjust many factors of the image. You can adjust exposure, temperature, tint, sharpness, clarity, and several others. This makes it a very handy tool for making subtle adjustments that would otherwise be tougher to blend in with a brush filter. In this before-and-after example, the gradient filter has been used to adjust for the blue tint in the shadows on the floor due to the bed cover. It’s a subtle adjustment that helps to elevate the quality of work.
Let’s look at a few more before and after photos so you can see the effect of the gradient filter. In the series below, the only change that has been done to the After photos is the addition of Gradient Filters. While the Before photos are acceptable to most, adding the Gradient Filters helps to add extra polish to the photos. It helps to bring it up another notch, and will help to impress your clients even more than usual!
Note that in most cases, you will want to add several gradient filters, not just one. Each space will be a bit different, but the need tends to toward adding a bit of subtle light onto the sides of the frame, along with some clarity and possible slight temperature adjustments depending on light sources.
Exterior photos can benefit just as much from the Gradient Filter as interiors! Not all scenes will need this type of adjustment, but below is an example of a common setup that benefitted greatly from gradient filter adjustments. The shadows in the lower left corner of the frame are too dark, and a gradient filter adjusting the brightness of shadows is ideal for balancing them out.
As a final point, it’s worth noting that the Gradient Filter tool is one that should finish off your editing, and should not be the main editing technique used on an image. In nearly all cases, it will be a perfect tool for some finessing of highlights/shadows or temperature so that your image will have that extra bit of polish. Before exporting your final files and sharing with your client, be sure to consider if a Gradient Filter should be added into your arsenal of editing tools.
Do you have a different tool that you feel is undervalued for photo editing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!