Photoshop Camera Raw Filter Series - Part 4 - Add Interest with the Graduated Filter

Today's tutorial will look at how you can add interest to a flat-lay or evenly exposed image using the graduated filter.


Today's tutorial will look at how you can add interest to a flat-lay or evenly exposed image using the graduated filter.


Part 4: The Graduated Filter

The graduated filter is often used on landscape photography. For example, you might need to deepen the saturation in a sunset sky while leaving the landscape unchanged. Or, lift the shadows in your landscape while leaving the bright, cloudy sky untouched.

It basically allows you to edit an area of your image from edge to edge, whether top to bottom, left to right or at an angle, running across the whole image or just partway across.

Another way you could use the filter is to add interest to an evenly-exposed image. In the example below, I've used a gradient filter to increase the exposure from one corner across towards the centre. I wanted to give the impression there was a window on the right, with light flooding in across the bed.

I've taken an image with a balanced exposure across the photo and made one side brighter than the other.

You can, of course, do the exact opposite. If you have a photo with one side significantly brighter than other other, you could balance the exposure across the photo by adding a gradient filter on the darker side, brightening it up to match the other side.

They are really flexible, you can use more than one on a image, and they create a subtle effect across your photo.




Video Walkthrough

This video walkthrough will show you how to:

  • Convert your image to a Smart Filter.

  • Add a gradient filter to increase or decrease exposure.

  • Expand, contract, move or rotate the gradient to suit your image.



I like this effect because in real life, light naturally varies across an area. Adding a gradient filter helps you keep your editing subtle and realistic. No hard edges or abrupt changes, just a gentle transition.

Why not try this on a flat-lay image of your own? If you find your shadows are too dark, use a graduated filter starting on the opposite side of your light source and dragging across towards the light source to lift and soften the shadows.

Write a travel blog? This tool is an essential to play with and get to know. Improve your shots without the need for neutral density filters or HDR techniques. Drag down to the horizon and deepen your sky. Drag up towards the horizon and reveal your landscape detail.

This 5-part series will cover:

  1. Highlight Slider - brighten images without losing all the detail in the existing highlights. Great technique for room photos.

  2. Radial Filter - make the best bits of your image glow with the radial filter. Great for faces and fashion shoots.

  3. Shadows Slider - expose the beautiful details hidden in the shadows. Great for bringing out details and lifting an image without over-exposing it.

  4. Graduated Filter - add interest to a flat image or enrich skies or landscapes. Great for flat lays and travel images.

  5. Brush Adjustment - make really specific adjustments on your photos, and make sure the focal point of your image really stands out. Great for balancing competing elements in an image.


[The stock images used in this series are available free from Pexels.]