I’ve been using Lightroom for the past four years now and have seen the vast improvements and added features that they have released with every new version of the photography editing software. I’m so pleased that Lightroom listens to what photographers want, and most importantly deliver on those wants. More and more I’ve discovered that using Lightroom has actually allowed me to reduce the use of photography gear in the field! Especially my graduated neutral density filters.
Now, this may upset some of those photography purists out there who say you have to use the tools to get the shot right in camera. But, my bag is lighter than theirs and the photos look the same, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.
Let’s take a look at how to create filters in Lightroom, first by understanding what a graduated neutral density filter is.
How to Attach and Use a Graduated ND Filter
The first thing we are going to look at is how you actually attach a graduated ND filter. When you take your graduated ND filter set out of the box, it can be a little confusing to picture it going on the end of your lens, but trust me, it does.
You want to be sure you purchase a graduated ND filter that will fit on your lens size. Since most people have an assortment of lenses that cover a lot of various sizes, I recommend buying a kit like this one (it’s what I use) that have various sizes. No, it’s not a name-brand graduated ND filter, but you’re save a ton of money by going this route and you get the exact same look.
First screw on the black ring that matches the lens size you’re using. To know which size lens you have, look at the number on the end of the lens.
Next, slide the circular glass holder onto the black ring. Make sure it’s sturdy on the ring so that it doesn’t fall off during a photo.
Last, choose which graduated ND filter glass you want to use. For brighter skies, use a darker piece of glass. For a darker sky, use a lighter piece of glass. Remember, this step may take some trial and error, so it’s alright if you have to take a couple test shots to get it right.
How to Use a Graduated ND Filter
Align the glass so that the faded line matches up with your horizon line. If the faded line doesn’t match up with the horizon, your photograph won’t look natural, so try a few different shots to see which look works the best.
That should help you get your photograph correct with the graduated effect you want. If not, here’s a quick video that will help you.
How to Create Filters in Lightroom
Now that you get the general idea of how the graduated ND filter will look when you use it, let’s take a look at how to achieve the same effect using Lightroom so you don’t have to carry around a bunch of filters all the time.
It’s extremely simple to do. All you have to do is locate your gradient tool in the develop module of Lightroom.
Once you select the gradient tool, you will see options of what you want to adjust using the tool. For this, we are going to be adjusting the exposure to reflect the same effect of the graduated ND filter. So, slide the exposure slider all the way to the left. Next, decide which part of the photo you want to effect with the gradient tool. It’s usually either the bottom half of the photo or the top half. Once you’ve decided which half of the photo to edit, simply click and drag your gradient tool. While the effect you’ve just created may look way too underexposed and gross, don’t worry! Just slide the exposure slider to the right until you get the exposure you desire.
That’s it! It’s that simple!
For more Lightroom tips and video editing tutorials, check out my Lightroom editing course!