After visiting the website “Entre réel et numérique”, I’ve discovered a great new tool that was introduced in the latest Adobe Lightroom 2.x: graduated filter. I’ve been playing once or twice with it before, but with no real patience to perseverate to get something that has a pleasant result.
I’ve decided to give a try after watching the below video, which simply convinced me about the relevance of this powerful new tool for editing picture
Then, I’ve started to give a try and test it on a few pictures I’ve made in the last days (see previous post here on JHG Photo about HDR tutorial in Lavaux, Vaud, Suisse). I’ve decided to compare it with what I’d have get from HDR, which is a technique I’ve spent lot of time learning during the last years. I also wanted to compare it here with you so you can also have a side by side comparison and make your own opinion on it.
I have to admit that I’m extremely pleased with the graduated filter option, which is probably something that need more attention from landscape photographers. On the below example, I’ve decided to play it frankly, with 4 filters, from to bottom (blue tones, purple tones, orange tones and finally neutral with increased exposure on the Swiss Lavaux vineyard).
The HDR below has been made with one single RAW in 3 different exposures (-2EV, 0EV, +2EV), treated with Photomatix Pro and then in Lightroom.
I’ve listed here few of the pro and cons I’ve noticed from using both techniques:
- Graduated filters on Lightroom are very easy to be used by all, and within a few minutes, you can get to something pleasant on your landscapes (or whatever else type of photography). It also simplifies the photo workflow, with non destructive work. It however tends to be heavily CPU intensive, since computer is slowing down after adding the first filter
- HDR can be heavy to handle when dealing with several scenes, with many TIFF and exposures, but it’s a proven mechanism and is very simple to follow. Could be time consuming for beginners, but it provides instant results at first try.
- Local vs. Full zone
- With graduated filters, you can work with local zones and make a quick retouch in a simple quick. To make the entire picture, you will only be able to get half of it, so not necessarily wise to use it if you need to work the entire photo.
- HDR is providing powerful results on the entire photography, but is not able to make local touch up. You need to work with curves or selective local zone tools for making it.
- Accuracy of results and Quality of the output
- HDR with Photomatix provides a very wide range of options for “amazing” type of results, which sometimes is close to design and graphism. This is most of the time what makes the people looking at your pictures saying “waw!”
- HDR works very nicely with daylight situations, and makes sure that every single spot on the photo has great lightning and contrast.
- HDR is however providing sometimes more “random” results with tricky situations (serious contrast between highlights and shadows).
- HDR tends to provide great results with sky (such as the previous photo on the Crazy Eiffel Tower), but sometimes a bit less with green and brown tonalities (forest, stones…).
- Graduated filters tend to have very smooth type of results: it provide subtle render, working especially well with the sunset situations.It also tends to prove great results when having very distinct elements on the picture following the rule of third: Mountain on the bottom (2/3), sky on the top (1/3)
- Graduated filters, as its name is self mentioning it, are working within half of the zone we draw it, and has opposite impact on the other half: this provides subtle degrade, however it also has an impact on the rest of the pictures which is either before or after the filter. This is very difficult to use in the middle of a picture without impacting the rest of the photo. In this case, you need to work with the Adjustment Brush only which might take you more time.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the graduated filters, and I think I’ll use this technique more and more, especially when having landscape situations with sunset/sunrise or with very distinct zones as you can find in the Swiss mountains. I’d be very happy to read your comments on this, especialy if you have experienced both of them! Here are another few pics using the Graudated filters. Enjoy the view!