What is it?
Landscape and architectural photographers are always darkening skies to call attention to the foreground elements in their photos. In the past, this correction required the use of a graduated neutral-density filter over the front of your camera lens, or sophisticated Photoshop tricks. The Graduated Filter tool in ACR makes it quick and easy to darken skies, lighten foregrounds or smooth out uneven lighting. One key to remember with the Graduated Filter tool is your gradient is always created from “corrected to protected.” Start the gradient on the area you wish to correct then drag it toward the uncorrected part of the image.
Why is it important?
This tool is a life-saver for landscape photographers and is one of the most useful tools in the Photoshop CS4 update. Performing your gradient adjustment in ACR offers several advantages of doing it in Photoshop.
1) Speed: By not having to open an image into Photoshop you’ve eliminated processing time as well as an additional file you have to save, store, manage and back up on your hard drive. This makes your workflow, and your image library, more efficient.
2) Quality: Working on the raw file gives you the best results. With gradients, this equates to smoother transitions between corrected and unaffected areas and more natural, more pleasing photographs.
3) Flexibility: Once you’ve performed your initial correction, you can quickly modify the intensity of the correction or adjust additional attributes (sharpening, saturation) by adjusting the sliders. You can also reposition the gradient to hide the transition along a horizon line or lengthen the gradient. Your corrections are always performed non-destructively to your raw file.
Bonus Tip: Add Color: Adding a slight color tint to your gradient enhances the mood of your photos considerably. Consider adding a slight blue tint while darkening skies to make clouds feel more foreboding. Add orange to gradients lightening foreground elements to separate them from the background and make subjects appear more approachable and warm.
For a video tutorial on using the Graduated Filter tool, visit the Layers Magazine Web site http://www.layersmagazine.com/photoshop-cs4-graduated-filters.html or for a Lightroom version, visit http://www.prorgb.com/lightroom-2.