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Creating a graduated neutral-density effect

From: Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

Video: Creating a graduated neutral-density effect

HDR Photography really eliminates the need for a Split Neutral Density filter because, for example, we no longer need to worry about holding back the sky in order to preserve detail there. We simply capture multiple images and blend them together. And yet, you may want to create a similar effect that you might achieve with a Split Neutral Density filter. And we can accomplish that with a Graduated Neutral Density effect in HDR Effects Pro. Let's take a look. This adjustment is found in the Finishing section, so I'll click on the Finishing section to expand those controls. And then click on the triangle to the left of the Graduated Neutral Density Effect to expand those settings.

Creating a graduated neutral-density effect

HDR Photography really eliminates the need for a Split Neutral Density filter because, for example, we no longer need to worry about holding back the sky in order to preserve detail there. We simply capture multiple images and blend them together. And yet, you may want to create a similar effect that you might achieve with a Split Neutral Density filter. And we can accomplish that with a Graduated Neutral Density effect in HDR Effects Pro. Let's take a look. This adjustment is found in the Finishing section, so I'll click on the Finishing section to expand those controls. And then click on the triangle to the left of the Graduated Neutral Density Effect to expand those settings.

Here, we're able to adjust the tonality for the upper and lower portions of the image. So, for example, if I wanted to darken up the sky, I could reduce the upper tonality value, and if I wanted to brighten the sky, I could increase that value. I'll go ahead and dark the sky down just a little bit. And then we can adjust the lower tonality, once again, brightening or darkening the lower portion of the photo. I'll go ahead and create an exaggerated effect, just so that we're able to see the effect of the other controls a little more easily. The Blend option allows us to determine the smoothness of the transition or the distance across which that transition occurs.

If I reduce the Blend value, then I'll have a shorter transition between the upper and lower areas. If I increase the value, I'll have a smoother and larger transition. I'll go ahead and leave the value relatively low for the moment so that we can see a little better, the other two controls. If I adjust Vertical Shift, it adjusts the transition between the upper and lower areas of the image. In other words, where exactly are we going to transition between our upper tonality adjustment and our lower tonality adjustment? We can also rotate the effect.

Now, in this case, I have a straight horizon, or at least I hope it's straight, and so I wouldn't want to rotate the gradation in this case. But in many cases, you may very well need to rotate the effect in order to match up with a key subject in the photo. In this case of course, I would tend to have a relatively smooth blend between the upper and lower areas. I can shift it down a little bit so it gets closer to the actual horizon line. And then I might fine tune the actual adjustment that I'm applying to the image. In this case, not darkening the sky up quite so much, for example.

But as you can see, this adjustment is considerably more powerful than a simple filter that you would put in front of your lens, because we're able to exercise so much control over the tonality for the upper and lower portions, as well as the transition between those areas of the photo.

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Up and Running with HDR Efex Pro 2.0

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Tim Grey
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