December 08, 2011
Shoot and Edit: Week 48 – Holiday/Christmas…EDIT (Guest Tutorial – LR Gradient Filters and Free Download)
Welcome to the 48th week of Shoot and Edit: Part 2. Click HERE for all the details and upcoming prompts/themes (also including previous editing tutorials). This week’s theme or prompt was to show us one “Holiday/Christmas” SOOC shot (this was just a suggestion, you can show us any SOOC shot). Hopefully you linked up with Jill’s blog earlier this week.
This week, Cedar, who blogs over at Cedar’s Photography, volunteered  to share a creative lesson with us. For those of you that use Lightroom, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. Any case, please give Cedar a warm welcome!

I feel really honored to write a tutorial for Shoot and Edit.  I have learned so much about editing (and taking) pictures from Ashley and Jill since I joined in in March:
Spring Edit…so far back; though Sunflower’s style has not changed!
I never thought I’d have my own tip to share.  I hope you can find it useful.  The basic idea is to use a Gradient Filter in Lightroom to add a color tint that impacts the whole picture, similar to a color fill layer in Photoshop or Elements (though with a lot less control and options). I could not find the technical specs on how color is applied with the color gradient and brush, but it is not solid color…possibly soft light or something similar. 

First, this is not about “oh, I need Lightroom so I can do this,” it is about making Lightroom do something that the other editing programs (even the free ones) who work with layers do with ease.  I discovered this because I would be happy with my edits in Lightroom, but I would want to add a color tint, or warming/cooling filter and NOT want to move over to Elements just for a layer of color. 

Second, you do need to know a few basics about the Gradient Filter to make this work. The Gradient Filter was created to do the same adjustments your basic sliders do globally or your adjustment brushes do in specific spots, only over a broader range in such a way that it fades out naturally.  The effect will begin where you start with the cursor, start fading where you leave the first line, and gradually fade until having no effect where the third line ends up.  The closer the lines are together, the faster the transition will be.  This is typically used to darken/punch up a sky while transitioning slowly to the horizon.
It really is a handy little tool, and I found this Gradient Filter Tutorial to explain it all.  Also, Matt Kloskowski from Lightroom Killer Tips created some great presets of graduated filters to deal specifically with enhancing blue skies that you can download for free. 

Okay…on to my tip!  If you start at one edge of a picture (it doesn’t matter which edge) and drag all three lines to the other side and off the edge the effect of the filter covers the whole picture.  For most of the adjustments available in the gradient filter, this is unnecessary.  You can make the same changes in the basic panel–exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, and sharpness–with more ease and in the exact same manner. However, if the adjustment you are making is color, I have found two ways this is very handy.  

In theory, adding the color tint is similar to adjusting your colors/tint with the white balance sliders.  Sometimes, though, I just cannot get it to work.  In the past, I would transfer to Elements to add a soft light/low opacity fill color or a warming/cooling filter.  I have found that by choosing a color square that is a very light pink, I can get a similar effect to Ashley’s pink layer in her Nice and Easy…or a cream/orange makes a nice warming filter…or blue a nice cooling filter.  The nice thing about this method it that once I apply the filter I can fine tune it by adjusting the hue or saturation in the color picker box and watch the adjustment apply instantly, stopping when it looks just right. 

The second reason I like to use a gradient color fill is to add a tint to my black and whites.  Once you convert to BW, adjusting the white balance won’t add a color tint.  Do you recall this photo from a few weeks ago?
It got quite a few complements, even being showcased on Tones for Tuesday. (Thank you!) But here is the original image:
Not quite something to print.  However, the only adjustments I made was run the BW preset that comes with Lightroom–B&W Creative – Look 4 and add a pink filter. 

Now if you’ve gotten this far, you may be wondering if you can’t just do this with a color adjustment brush.  The answer is yes, of course.  I personally find it easier to drag the three lines off to the side than paint the whole picture with a brush, especially since I forget to turn off auto-mask and my density isn’t always at 100%, but for others a brush might be the answer.  It sounds simpler. 

But in the interest of always knowing two ways to do something…the important things to know about using the gradient filter for fill color is this: 
  1. If you hold shift while dragging it will all drag in a straight line, not wobble all over the place.
  2. If you don’t want to hold shift because you want an angle, you have more control the farther you are from the center pin.  It works kind of like some kind of physics device where the center point moves everything faster and the edges are for better fine tuning. 
  3. When you are done the pin for editing will be completely off of your picture…and possibly hard to find again for later adjustments.  For this reason I choose to go from right to left so the pin is in the middle on the left.  Then if you choose to come back to it at a later time it is easier to find and select.  (For portrait photos it is easy-peasy, for landscape I sometimes have to hide my left menu to see the pin.) 
  4. As you drag the lines, try to keep them as close together as possible without having the end line overlap the start line (which is something you can actually do.)  The closer they are together, the closer your pin, which is attached to the middle line, will be to the edge of the picture. 
  5. In the color box you have only two adjustments you can make…you can drag the little box all around or you can use the h (hue) box to change the hue number and the s (saturation) slider to adjust how much of that color is applied.
If you want to pick a color from your picture…which you might not for this reason but at other times…you pick the color selector (the little box/eyedropper) and then WITHOUT releasing the mouse button go to hover over the picture until you find the color you want.  This is different than how it worked for me in Elements so it is only this week that I learned how to do this (from Scott Kelby’s book on Lightroom 3).  I like choosing backgrounds for my print/collages from a color in the picture. 

Enough information?  Just one more thing.  I created a set of presets to make it easy for you, several different colors and different saturation levels.  They are labeled by their color, hue, and saturation. Then all you need to do is run the preset, select the gradient pin, and adjust the hue/saturation to taste. When you apply the preset it will look like this…with a white pin.  I could see the pin without hiding my left panel, but found it easier to select by hiding the panel.  You have to select the gradient tool (the portrait rectangle in the upper left) in order for this pin to show.
When you select the pin, the gradient will become selected and adjustable and the pin will be filled with black to indicate it is the selected pin.
So feel free to download my fill color presets and give them a whirl.  Here is an example of what some of them do.  I’m sure green is not a good choice for a picture of Sunflower, but the set seemed incomplete without all the main colors.  Cream, which is orange-ish and pink are my favorites.
After you’ve applied a color filter, you may choose to edit exposure/brightness, etc. on the gradient instead of in the basic panel IF the changes you are making are solely because of the color.  That way if you decide to delete the gradient (which you do by selecting the pin and hitting delete, backspace on the PC) the other adjustments are also deleted without you having to remember they existed. 

One last FYI, a preset with a gradient filter will replace all other gradient filters, so you can only use one preset at a time.  However, you can have more than one gradient filter; you just have to add it manually.  You could create a preset with more than one gradient filter in it; I just did not do so. 

Thank you for letting me share!  I hope you all can have some fun with it! 
Wasn’t that an awesome tutorial. Thanks so much Cedar! Considering that next week’s prompt is “Bokeh Lights,” I think we can quickly apply this lesson!
Good to WOW

By the way, don’t forget to add your edited photo to our good to WOW {EDIT} Flickr Group (for those of you that prefer to upload and visit that way). When adding your photos to the group pool, be sure to include the Week #, the Theme and EDIT in the description section. You may upload one photo per week. I also want to point out that we are all here to improve our editing skills. When offering constructive criticism (either on Flickr or within blog comment sections), be sure to point out at least one thing you really like about the edit before offering any advice for improvement.