Copyright 2009 Rob Sylvan – All Rights Reserved

Guest Post by Rob Sylvan – Follow Lightroomers on Twitter

Lightroom’s Graduated Filter is the perfect tool for giving your skies a quick boost in color, depth and contrast without effecting the area below the horizon. Here’s a workflow for better skies:

1. Press D to bring your photo into Develop and do all the basic global adjustments needed first (e.g. white balance and exposure).

2. If needed, clean up any sensor spots with the Spot Removal tool.

3. Press M to jump to the Graduated Filter. This will reveal the Graduated Filter settings below the histogram.

4. As a starting point, set the Brightness to – 40, Contrast to +40, Saturation to +10, Clarity to +35 and zero out the rest. All the Graduated Filter settings are completely adjustable at any point after they are applied, so you’ll tweak these later.

5. Click above the horizon line and drag away from the sky to apply the Graduated Filter. As you drag the cursor you will see 3 lines and a dot appear.

The area behind the point of your first click will have the full amount of settings applied, while the area in front of your cursor will have no settings applied. The graduated part of the filter is the area in between the outer lines. The further you drag, the wider the lines, and smoother the transition between maximum and zero effect.

The dot, or pin, located on the center line is the axis around which the filter rotates. Hold the Shift key when you first apply the filter to maintain a perfectly horizontal (or vertical if you drag left to right) line. Release Shift and drag left or right to rotate the filter to match the orientation of the horizon.

You can click and drag either of the outside lines to increase or decrease the graduated area, or click the center pin to reposition the filter at any time. Press the Delete key when the pin is active to delete that filter completely.

Tip: You can hide the Graduated Filter lines by pressing H. Press H again to show them. This makes it easier to evaluate the effect without leaving the tool.

6. Adjust the filter effect settings for the best results for your particular photo.

Optional: To add more color to the sky click the color swatch and choose a Hue and Saturation level that you find works with your photo. For blue skies, set the Hue to 240 as a starting point and increase Saturation from zero to gradually add color. Tweak the Hue value to taste.

7. Save your settings as a preset for reuse by clicking the Effect drop-down menu and choosing Save Current Settings as a New Preset.

8. Press M again to exit the tool.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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About Rob Sylvan

Rob Sylvan is a photographer, trainer, and author. Aside from also being the Lightroom Help Desk Specialist for KelbyOne, an instructor for the Perfect Picture School of Photography and the Digital Photo Workshops, and the host of Peachpit’s Lightroom Resource Center. He is a founding member of Stocksy United (a stock photography co-op). Rob writes the “Under the Loupe” column for Photoshop User Magazine, is a regular contributor to Lightroom User magazine, and is the author of many photography related books.


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