Within Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS4, there is a remarkable feature that essentially replaces the need for graduated neutral density filters.
These filters are designed to darken a bright sky to prevent it from becoming overexposed when the bottom portion of the image - a landscape or cityscape - is exposed correctly. A digital sensor (and film) can't handle extremes in contrast very well - meaning that you can't get a good exposure when you have both very bright highlights and dark shadows in the same picture.
ORIGINAL - Malbork Castle
© Jim Zuckerman
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Due to the limitations of what is called the "dynamic range", which is essentially the ability to show detail, you have to choose which area of the picture will be property exposed: the highlights or the shadows. Our brain has no trouble seeing complete detail in a contrasty scene, but capturing it in a photo is challenging.
This CS4 feature allows you to darken the sky AS IF YOU HAD USED A GRADUATED NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTER. See the two images of Malbork Castle in Poland. The ORIGINAL photo shows that the sky turned out much too light when the castle was exposed correctly. In the AFTER image, I applied an ND filter effect in Adobe Camera Raw, and now the photo is exactly what I would have wanted.
The accompanying screen capture shows the dialog box with a red arrow pointing to the icon that gives you access to this feature. When you click on the icon, you can then drag the cursor down the thumbnail image of your photo until the reduced exposure is exactly what you want. With the sliders on the right, you can then tweak the exposure, contrast, etc. to your liking.
This feature is not available in Photoshop CS3, and you must shoot in RAW mode and not JPEG to be able to do this.
Screen Capture - CS4 Grad Filter
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Jim Zuckerman
Few people are able to spend most of their time pursuing their passion in life. I'm one of them, and I feel blessed to have had a love affair with photography since I began taking pictures.
In 1970, I decided to abort my intended career as a doctor in favor of photography and have never regretted it. Photography has enriched my life more than I can tell you. My career has taken me to over 60 countries, and I've seen and photographed wondrous things.
I specialize in wildlife and nature, international travel, and digital effects. In addition, I also shoot nudes, photo- and electron microscopy, children, and other subjects that stimulate my visual or emotional sensibilities.
For 25 years, I shot a medium format camera, specifically the Mamiya RZ 67, for its superior quality. When I would lecture, I’d project the large, glass mounted transparencies, and it was really an incredible experience to see the brilliant color saturation and resolution of these slides. However, I went digital in 2004 because the technology finally equaled or surpassed medium format. I now shoot the Canon 1Ds Mark II digital camera with a variety of lenses.
I am the author of 12 books on photography. My work is sold in 30 countries around the world, and my images have appeared on scores of magazine and book covers, calendars, posters, national ads, trade ads, brochures, and corporate promotions.
For many years I've led photography tours to exotic places. These include Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Burma, Greece, The Czech Republic and Slovakia, Spain, Morocco, and Peru.