How to add a graduated filter effect to a photo

If you are a type of person who likes photography, you certainly often go out for tours and shoot landscapes. When you take photos of beautiful scenery, you may encounter such an issue. The exposure for the foreground is set properly but the sky in your photo winds up being somewhat blown out. To prevent this from happening, you can put a graduated neutral filter before the camera to reduce the light on the upper part of the lens. This will balance the light levels between the sky and ground, ensuring all areas in the photo will be well exposed. Sometimes, you don't have a graduated neutral density filter at hand. Then, how to deal with the photo that is taken without the grad ND filter? As a matter of fact, you can take advantage of photo editors to apply a simulated graduated filter effect to your photo to darken the sky. There are plenty of photo editing programs that come packed with graduated filter tools. But many of them are not suitable for photo editing beginners. If you are looking for beginner-friendly software to help you get the job done, please continue reading this post. In this post, I'll introduce an easy-to-use app to you and show you how to add a graduated filter effect to a photo with it.

Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Add a graduated filter effect to a photo with Photo HDR

As the name suggests, Photo HDR is a piece of software that is specialized to merge differently exposed photos to make a single HDR photo. More than being a HDR photo creator, it is a photo effects app, offering an insanely wide range of parameters and decorative objects to tune the visual aspects of the photo.

Open the program and you will be greeted by a sleek and clean window. Once three photos of the same scene with different exposures are loaded into the program, the HDR technique will be soon applied to them. Click on "Next" and you will be taken to a new window. This is a window where you can adjust the effect of the digital photo. The window consists of three panels. A set of predefined effects are located in the left-side panel. You can see the small preview thumbnail of each effect. The middle panel, taking up most of the window, is a preview area where you can see the result of making any change to the photo in real-time. A series of parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can modify the contrast, saturation, and brightness. What's more, you can compress the dynamic range and tone-map the HDR photo. In addition, you are allowed to modify the local contrast, adjust the sharpness of the photo, mix the color channels, and reduce the noise level in your photo. Other parameters are vignette filter, Lab adjustment, vibrance, graduated filter, and soft light.

On the whole, Photo HDR is a photo effect editor that allows you to fast make a HDR photo and enhance the photo quality by using its in-built filters. Thanks to the minimalist design and intuitive settings, Photo HDR can be easily mastered by both less experienced users and professionals. If you want to create stunning photos, Photo HDR deserves a shot.

Let's dive into the part of how to use Photo HDR to add a graduated filter effect to your photo.

How to add a graduated filter effect to your photo with Photo HDR

Step 1.

  • Throw your photo into the working space saying "Drag and Drop Your Photo here". You can also import the photo by clicking on the "Add" button. To remove the imported photo, click on the "Remove" button next to the "Add button". 

Step 2.

  • Click on "Next". Go to the right-side panel and scroll down to the "Graduated Filter" section". Click on the "Graduated Filter" button to activate the function of adjusting the parameters. The parameters in this section are strength, angle, feather, center x, and center y. Below are the explanation of each parameters


This parameter controls the strength of the graduated filter effect. Increasing value will increase the strength of the graduated filter effect and the filtered area will become darker.


This parameter controls the direction in which the graduated filter effect is applied.


This parameter controls the width of the gradient's feathering. Increasing the value will make the edge of the gradient smoother.

Center X and Center Y

The two parameters move the center of the gradient's feathering horizontally and vertically respectively.

  • Drag each slider to adjust the effect until it suits your needs.

The "Graduated Filter" section of Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Step 3.

  • Press the "Save as" button to export the photo to a desired location.

It is as easy as pie to apply a graduated filter effect to your photo using Photo HDR. You may wonder if it is possible to get this effect in Photoshop. The answer is yes. Let's take a look at how to use Photoshop to create a graduated filter effect for your photo.

How to create a graduated filter effect in Photoshop

  • Fire up Photoshop. Click on "Filter" on the top menu bar. Then, select "Camera Raw Filter".
  • The "Camera Raw" panel pops up. Click on the "Graduated Filter" option at the top of the panel.
  • Hover the mouse cursor over the sky. Click and hold the mouse button. Drag to define the area you want to apply the graduated filter effect to. Then, use the direction arrow cursor and rotation cursor to adjust the range of the area. The filter effect will start at the green dash border of the overlay and gradually diminishes to nil at the red dashed border.
  • Go to the right pane and use sliders to adjust the parameters. You can pull the "Temperature" slider and "Tint" slider to make the selected area cooler or warmer. You can also move sliders to adjust the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, etc.

Create a graduated filter effect in Photoshop

  • Click on "OK" to close the panel. The graduated filter effect will be soon applied to your photo.

The graduated filter effect has been applied to the photo


Professional photographers always use the graduated neutral density filter to assist in taking landscape photographs. It keeps the sky from becoming washed out and losing colors and details. If you don't have such a filter at your elbow, use Photo HDR to add a graduated filter effect to your digital photo in post processing. If someday you find other great software to handle the task, please let me know in the comment section below.

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