How To Use The Graduated Filter Tool In Adobe Lightroom

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Images are an essential part of using the art of persuasion in business and in life. Whether you need to rebrand or just clean up an image, Adobe Lightroom is one of the premier tools to get started with when you want to do this. But sometimes skies can be difficult to work with. They are either overexposed or underexposed.

If you want to get better reviews of your images, this tutorial is going to show you how to use something called the graduated filter. 46% of marketers say good images help them to tell stories. This will allow you to lighten certain aspects of your images without impacting the whole image. Now you can create impressive and meaningful images.

Understand It

A lot of people misunderstand the graduated filter setting, which is why they so often don’t use it in the right way. The original use of the graduated filter was to make skies darker. Those photographers specializing in landscape photography most commonly used it. Today it goes far beyond that, but only successful entrepreneurs tend to know that.

Before you decide to use the filter, you need to understand there’s no right and wrong way to use it. To begin with you need to find your style in Lightroom. Figuring that out can take some thought, so set some time side before you start to utilize this feature.

Step 1 – Find the Filter

To begin with, you are going to have to find where the filter is kept. You should find the Histogram and you will find the icon for the graduated filter just under there. The quick shortcut to get to this filter is ‘M’. Once you have selected it, a number of sliders will appear.

For the time being, don’t touch any of them. The first step should always be to position the filter in the right place.


Step 2 – Position the Filter

There are no restrictions on where you can place your filter. In this example, we are using an image that was designed for a big business philanthropy mix. In the image below, you will see that we have created a wide graduated filter. A wide graduated filter is created by holding down the left mouse button and dragging it to the left or right.

The lines on this image are important because they indicate the type of graduation. As you can see, there are a lot of spaces between the lines. This shows that this is a smooth graduation.


Step 3 – Making a Narrow Graduated Filter

Now that we have created a wide graduated filter we are going to make a narrow graduated filter. This will give us a harder graduation with far more contrast. If you have an image with a sky that is far too exposed or far too underexposed, this is the option for you.

You follow the same process as before, but this time, you will release the mouse button much earlier. You can drag the central pin around to place the graduated filter exactly where you need it.

In the image below, you will see a wide graduated filter placed next to a narrow graduated filter. We have changed the exposure so you can better see the contrast. You can change the colors around using the sliders on the graduated filters panel.


Step 4 – Using Multiple Graduated Filters

More often than you might think, you will find that you need to work with multiple filters at the same time. Thankfully, Adobe makes this easy to do. You can place as many filters as you like over a selected image. To avoid becoming confused and to get the effect you want, you should think about the effect you want to create before you start working with your image.

Once you have decided on an effect, and specifically where you want to draw the viewer’s attention to, apply the first filter. Your first filter should determine the darkness/lightness of the area of the image you wish to create a focal point.

Only after you have made this decision should you start to decide on other options, such as color washes, lens blurs, and sharpened edges.


The graduated filter tool is a woefully underrated tool. Anyone who has worked with Adobe Lightroom before is well aware of how effective it can be. Anyone who uses Lightroom regularly knows how crucial it is to a successful image. You will find this to be a regular tool in your arsenal whenever you fire up Lightroom.

What do you think is the most useful function of the graduated filter tool?

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