Thursday, June 2nd 2011

Graduated Neutral Density filter in Lightroom

I started thinking about graduated neutral density filters. I don’t own any, but my feeling is that they would be a lot of hassle to deal with in the field, so I got curious to see how much you can do in post processing. That’s to say, how much of a gradient can you add in Lightroom without it bringing out noise or looking generally stupid.

I started poking around with this old photo from last summer.

I added a gradient of 1.5 stops extra exposure from the bottom, while reducing the overall exposure by 0.4 stops:

I pulled the white balance down to 4600 K, to make the image cooler:

I increased the fill light and black clipping to about 60:

I also decided to pull the Clarity slider up to about 50 and increased the saturation from -35 to -15:

Finally I pulled the vignette in a little tighter:

Here’s a larger version of the final image. Hover to see the before.


It ended up perhaps slightly over the top, but it shows that you can make quite a big difference with digital gradients in post processing too. I feel confident in skipping the real gradual neutral density filters and still being able to get the effect digitally.

On a related note, I’m very tempted to get a B+H ND110 (10 stop) neutral density filter to be able to experiment with really long exposures in daylight.

2 Responses to this post:

  1. hsbn says:

    Digital GND is a great tool. However, it is only good if the contrast is about 1stop different. You should try double exposure, give much better result. But I like LR GND for one thing: I don’t have to create extra file.

  2. David Naylor says:

    Exactly, that is what I’m trying to avoid as well. Having a load of duplicates of the same scene.