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Graduated Neutral Density

Now let’s look at a more academic photography process: simulating a neutral density filter in Color Efex Pro 4. We’ll do this while combining it with the Film Efex preset we examined earlier, to maintain the enhanced color and brightness. As we saw with the Graduated Fog example, the Graduated Neutral Density preset also provides five basic controls for creating the tonal balance, along with Shadows and Highlights clipping controls (Figure 14).

Figure 14

Figure 14 The controls for the Graduated Neutral Density preset work similarly to the Graduated Fog preset.

The first control you’ll encounter is the Upper Tonality setting, this modifies how light or dark the upper half of you photo is, while the Lower Tonality setting controls how light or dark the bottom half is. Vertical Shift acts like a “boundary” between Upper and Lower, and therefore weights how much of the scene is controlled by the Upper and Lower Tonality settings. Rotation and Blend are based on the same principles as those described in the prior example.

For this shot, I wanted to take the clouds and make them darker and more dramatic, without making the foreground darker. To achieve this I set the Upper Tonality value to roughly 35 percent, and increased the Lower Tonality value to about 15 percent. I also shifted the “boundary” upward by changing the Vertical Shift value to 55 percent, and I reduced the Blend slightly to emphasize the details on the horizon and the tonal shift it represented. The finished shot with split preview is shown in Figure 15. Notice how just a few tweaks can really improve the realism of this effect without dulling down the shot.

Figure 15

Figure 15 The Graduated Neutral Density settings give you precise control over the tonal balance in your shot. This works great with sunsets and other landscapes!

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