Thursday, July 31, 2008

The new grad ND tool

Lightroom 2.0 now has a new tool that allows for the very easy creation of simulated graduated neutral density filters. I used to do this all the time in Photoshop, but now we can do this far faster and far more convenient in Lightroom. Below I discuss an example of its use mixed with the new camera profiles. To prime you all, here is an the before/after view (larger in the link):

As you can see the left image is the default ACR 4.4 rendering (I only rotated it 1.5 degrees or so to level the horizon and upped the blacks). This image was taken right after sunset in Canyonlands National Park using my super backpacking friendly D50. On the right the same image, but with the camera landscape profile applied and two grad NDs. I also changed the white balance to cloudy. As you can see. Left - quite boring. Right - very nice saturated colors. The grad NDs can be applied by clicking on the little icon that looks like an actual grad ND filter. Without the grad ND filters, the image looks like this now:

First I applied a quick transition +0.8 exposure grad ND as in the image below.

Then I applied a broader -1.0 grad ND to darken the sky:

This trick allows one to create quite complex gradations. I added a tiny tweak of the curve and added a little clarity and vibrance and saturation.

Here is the final result (large in the link):

Canyonlands dusk


  1. Wow, that is neat. I wish Aperture had that ability.

  2. Hi,

    First, I wanted to thank you for your blog. It has been a huge source of information and inspiration.

    I have a question. What do you mean when you say "... On the right the same image, but with the camera landscape profile applied ..."

    How can you apply the in-camera profiles to Lighroom? I am using a Canon 40D and I usually shoot in the "Landscape profile", but Lightroom is not able to pick it up, or so I thought... Can you please explain how you are able to apply camera profiles in Lightroom?

    Thanks a lot,


  3. Hi Simon,

    to apply the landscape profile, you need to install the new camera matching profiles that Adobe just released. When they are installed in the right location, you will get multiple options in the camera calibration part of Develop. They will very closely match your in camera jpeg or Canon's DPP. Lightroom will still not read your in camera develop settings but at least you can now emulate them. Good luck!

  4. See also my previous post where I show the effect of these profiles.

  5. thanks a lot for your quick reply, I will give this a try.

    I just started playing around with Lightroom 2. Version one was already great, but this is a huge step forward again... I love it already...