Get Results with Graduated Filters

Whether you’re shooting traditional landscape photos or stunning portraits, the graduated filter controls that are added to Perfectly Clear 3.5 are truly useful.  Using either a linear or a radial gradient, you can now apply selective adjustments to part of your image.  Think of these as gradual adjustments, which make them perfect to enhance skies or add a stylistic vignette.

Start with Presets

The Graduated Filter controls offer a lot of options and power.  One of the easiest ways to learn the tool is to start with the built-in presets. In the graduated filter controls you’ll find a preset list, click it to see ten great starting points.  The first five are based on try radial filter for vignettes while the second group offers traditional linear gradients that are well-suited for landscape and travel photos.

After choosing a preset, click the Place Center button to move the gradient.  The red dot indicates where the gradient originates from.  Moving the center of a gradient is a good way to adjust the focal point of the image.

If you want to reduce the effect of a preset (or any graduated filter) just use the Blend slider at the top to mix it with the previous state. This is the easiest way to quickly reduce the strength of the graduated filter.

Change the Shape

At the core of the Graduated Filter are two adjustable gradients.  The Radial gradient can be used for elliptical shapes, while the Linear Gradient can be used to adjust two different areas (such as the top and bottom) independently.  Let’s break each down a bit.

Radial Gradient

The Radial gradient is elliptical in shape and lets you adjust the inside and outside of a photo separately.  Click the Radial Gradient icon to switch to this tool. Be sure to use the Place Center button to control where the Radial Gradient focusses its effect.

Now let’s adjust the shape.  As you drag the transform controls, the gradient shows as a red and blue overlay to guide you.  Red is the Inside adjustment and Blue is the outside adjustment.

  • Shape.  This controls the aspect ratio of the ellipse. A value of zero creates an ellipse with the same aspect ratio of your source image.  Dragging to the left stretches the ellipse vertically and to the right stretches horizontally.
  • Size. Use the slider to adjust the diameter of the radial gradient.
  • Feather.  This controls the amount of blending between the two adjustments.  A higher value usually works well.
  • Rotation.  If your subject is angled or you want to create a dramatic lighting effect, try angling the graduated filter for new looks.

Linear Gradient

The linear gradient offers the ability for adjusting two zones within your image. Click the Linear Gradient icon to switch to this tool. Like the Radial Gradient, use the Place Center button to control where the Linear Gradient focusses its effect.  

Now let’s adjust the shape of the linear gradient.  You’ll find three transform controls to change the shape of the gradient.

  • Size. Use the slider to adjust the center gap of the linear gradient.  This makes it possible to adjust the top and bottom of the image while leaving the center unaffected. A value of 0 is no center gap while 200 is the largest.  Be sure to explore this command when you want to let the previous edits show through.
  • Feather.  This controls the amount of blending between the two adjustments.  A higher will blend from the bottom to the top while a low value produces a harder transition.
  • Rotation.  If your subject or horizon is tilted, try angling the graduated filter for new looks.


Inside/Outside & Top/Bottom Adjustments

The power of the Graduated filter is its ability to make changes to areas of a photograph gradually.  The presets mentioned earlier are a great way to see these effects, but now its time to explore the full power.

Depending on the type of gradient selected you’ll see Top and Bottom controls for a Linear Gradient or Inside and Outside controls for a Radial Gradient.  To see the full controls click the small disclosure triangle located to the right of these buttons.

Choose the area you want to adjust by clicking either the Top, Bottom, Inside, or Outside buttons.

  • Color Temperature — Try moving the slider to the right to corrects a photo taken with a color temperature of light You can move the Temperature slider to the left corrects a photo taken with a warmer color temperature of light.
  • Tint — This overrides the white balance to compensate for a green or magenta tint. Decrease Tint (by dragging to the left) to add green to the image; increase Tint (by dragging to the right) to add magenta.
  • Exposure — This slider affects the overall image brightness.  It is like opening and closing the aperture on a camera which controls the total amount of light.
  • Contrast — This slider affects the midtones mostly.  As you increase contrast, the middle to dark areas will be darker, and the middle to light areas become brighter.  Effectively this increases the difference between light and dark areas when you drag to the right.  If you use a negative value, then image tones are inversely changed as you decrease contrast.
  • Highlights — This controls the brighter areas of an image.  Drag to the left to recover blown out highlights or to the right to brighten highlights while minimizing clipping.
  • Shadows — This affects the darker areas of an image.  Drag to the left to darken the shadows while minimizing clipping. Conversely, you can drag to the right to brighten shadows and recover shadow details.
  • Whites — This slider control clipping of the white point.  Drag to the left to reduce clipping in highlights. Drag to the right to increase highlight clipping.
  • Blacks — This slider control clipping of the black point.  Drag to the left to increase clipping in shadows. Drag to the right to decrease shadow clipping. A lower value gives you a purer black.
  • Vibrance — Vibrance is useful to adjust saturation in specific areas.  It is useful to minimize clipping as color approach full saturation. This means that it changes the saturation of all lower-saturated colors with less effect on the higher-saturated colors.  Practically it tends to affect areas of blue and green with greater affect. Vibrance is also useful in that it can prevent skin tones from becoming oversaturated.
  • Saturation — This slider adjusts the saturation of all image colors equally.  A value of -100 producers a monochrome image, while +100 doubles the saturation.
  • Sky Enhance – Bring out the colors of the sky with several great presets.  Using a linear filter is a great way to gradually blend the results for a more interesting sky.
  • Foliage Enhance – Enhance the browns yellows and greens in an image to bring vegetation and nature to life.  This adjustment works very well for landscape and travel photos.

If you get the top and bottom or inside and outside mixed up, it’s no big deal.  Just click the double arrow in-between the two buttons to swap values.  For example, this makes the top adjustments apply to the bottom, and vice versa.

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