How to apply a graduated filter to the digital photo

Are you fond of traveling? If so, you must often take landscape photos. When shooting a landscape, you may come across this common situation. You set an appropriate exposure for the foreground but the sky ends up being overexposed. Generally speaking, to avoid this happening, you can place a graduated neutral density filter in front of the camera to reduce the light on the upper parts of the lens. Thus, the sky will be darkened and more details will be brought out in the clouds. Sometimes you forget to take the graduated ND filter with you on the photography outing. Then, how do you process the photo that is shot without such a filter? The answer is using the graduated filter tool in photo editors. This tool simulates a real graduated density filter and creates a graduated filter effect. Although there are a lot of photo editing programs with graduated filters on the market, most of them have steep learning curves. If you are a photo editing beginner and looking for an easy-to-use photo editing software to handle the task, please continue reading this article. In this article, I will introduce to you a beginner-friendly photo effect editor and show you how to use it to apply a graduated filter to a photo.

Photo HDR by Vertexshare

Apply a graduated filter to the photo with Photo HDR 

Having a suggestive name, Photo HDR is a photo post-processing app that aims to create a HDR photo by merging differently exposed shots. Moreover, it provides a wild range of decorative objects and parameters to adjust the visual aspect of the photo.

Launch the program and you will be greeted by a sleek and clean window. Photos with different exposures will be merged into a single HDR photo as soon as they are loaded into the program. Click on "Next" and you will be taken to a new window. In this window you can alter the attributes of the merged HDR photo. The window is composed of three panels. A series of preset effects are located in the left-side panel. You can see small preview thumbnails of these effects. The middle panel takes up most of the window. This is a preview area where you can see the result of making any adjustment to the photo in real-time. A collection of parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can change the exposure level by adjusting the contrast, saturation, and brightness. What's more, you can fine-tune the local contrast, dynamic range compression, and tone mapping. In addition, you are allowed to use Lab adjustment to boost colors and definition. Besides, it is possible to sharpen and denoise your photo. Other parameters are vignette filter, graduated filter, channel mixer, vibrance, and soft light.

Overall speaking, Photo HDR works as a simple HDR photo creator as well as a versatile photo effects app. Coming packed with a variety of tuners, it enables you to apply basic adjustments and special effects to your photos in a flash. Photo HDR is a great app to keep at hand if you need to improve the quality of your photos to create stunning photos. Owing to the simple layout and intuitive settings, Photo HDR is suitable for all user levels.

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

How to apply a graduated filter to your photo with Photo HDR

Step 1.

  • Drop your photo into the box "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. Let me give you an explanation of each parameter.


This parameter is used to control the strength of the graduated filter. The higher the value is, the higher the strength is.


This parameter is used to rotate the direction in which the gradient is applied.


This parameter is used to control the width of the filter's feather. The higher the value is, the wider the filter's feather is.

Center X

This parameter is used to move the center of the filter's feather horizontally.

Center Y

This parameter is used to move the center of the filter's feather vertically.

  • Drag each slider to adjust the effect of the graduated filter.

The "Graduated Filter" section of Photo HDR

Step 3.

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

Super easy to apply a graduated filter to your photo with Photo HDR, right? Apart from Photo HDR, Photoshop is another option to create a digital graduated filter effect in your photo. Let's see how to add a graduated filter to your photo in Photoshop.

How to add a graduated filter to a photo in Photoshop

  • Throw your photo into Photoshop. Click on the "Layer" icon at the bottom of the right-hand pane to create a new blank layer. There is another way to create the blank layer. Click on "Layer" on the top menu bar, go to "New", and select "Layer". Click on "OK" in the dialog box.

Create a blank layer

  • Select "Gradient tool" in the left-hand toolbar. Click on the foreground square. In the pop-up "Color Picker" panel, choose a color, let's say, blue. Close the panel.
  • You can see a gradient pattern below the top menu bar. Click on it and the "Gradient Editor" panel shows up. Select "Foreground to Transparent" in the "Gradient Editor" panel. Close the panel. Select the "Linear Gradient" option next to the gradient pattern. Make sure the "Dither" box and the "Transparency" box are checked.

The "Foreground to Transparent" option

The "Linear Gradient" option

  • Click at the top of the sky and hold the mouse button. Draw a line until it reaches below the horizon. The blue gradation will appear over the photo and on the thumbnail of the new layer.
  • Go to the "Layers" tab in the right-hand pane. Select "Multiply" in the drop-down menu of the blending mode. Set the value of "Opacity" to around 50% to reduce the hardness of the color.

Select "Multiply" and set the value of "Opacity" to 51%

The changed photo applied with the graduated filter in Photoshop


A graduated neutral density filter is a handy utility for balancing the light levels between a brighter sky and darker ground. Sometimes the graduated ND filter is not with you. Then, you can use a photo effect editor like Photo HDR to apply a graduated filter effect to your photo. If you have any questions about the usage of Photo HDR, don't hesitate to let me know down in the comments.

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