Balance the Light: Graduated Filter
First, let’s look at balancing the light in the scene. For this shot, I decided to darken the top and bottom of the scene, to avoid the viewer’s eyes being drawn away from the central details in the shot. I could have used a vignette, but here a more linear approach is better than a rounded one because the top and bottom regions need to be uniformly darkened. A vignette would darken the corners slightly less than the neighboring pixels.
To access the Graduated Filter, click the third icon from the right in the Lightroom Toolbar, or press M. This will reveal a series of tone, color, and detail controls below the Toolbar (see Figure 5). These controls are common to all three of the tools we’ll be using (Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush).
Figure 5 The Graduated Filter controls.
Once the filter is active, you should see a crosshair when you move the cursor over the main preview area. You can then click and drag to reveal the widget that will help you to define the boundaries of your graduated (or gradient) effect. The corrections will be seen on the side of the widget where you originally clicked. For example, if you click and dragged top-to-bottom, the changes will be seen above the centerline of the widget. To restrict it to a purely vertical or horizontal orientation, hold down the Shift key before you click and drag.
You can add more than one gradient at a time, and each can be positioned and rotated freely. Rotate a widget by moving the cursor over the centerline until the cursor changes to a “bent arrow,” then click and drag to one side or the other. You can reposition the widget by clicking on the silver and black “pin” in the middle of the centerline, and then dragging it to the preferred position. To widen (and soften the boundary of) the gradient effect, click and drag either of the two outer lines.
To modify the tones, colors, and details, use the control sliders beneath the toolbar as needed. They work just like the sliders in the Basic and Detail panels for the most part, and they combine with (rather than override) any settings you’ve already made in those areas. For this shot, I created three gradients (top, bottom, and left) to darken the edges and soften the edge details, helping to draw the eye into the frame. The darkening and softening was accomplished using a negative Exposure value and negative Clarity value.
After you’ve created the first Graduated Filter and applied its settings, you can create new one by clicking the New button (top-right, above filter sliders), shown in Figure 6. Each time you create one, you can customize the settings from what was used on the prior filter.
Figure 6 Three Graduated Filters were used, to selectively darken the edges of the frame and draw the eye to the leaves and waterfall.