One question I get asked a lot is whether I use graduated filters when shooting sunrises and sunsets. Well, the answer is 'Yes I do, but not always'. When I'm out in the predawn darkness, trudging around in the mud, I don't really feel like changingand mucking about with filters, so the alternative is to achieve the same effect during post processing.
To do this in software we need to take some bracketed shots, making sure you have at least one shot exposed for the foreground and one shot exposed for the sky.
Exposed for the foreground:
Exposed for the sky:
Now, let's get to work.
I use Paintshop Pro. Adobe users, you will have similar features, just slightly different.
STEP 1. Starting with your darker image, paste in a copy of your lighter image as a new layer
STEP 2. Right-click the top image and select 'New mask layer'.
What you'll end up with is something like this:
STEP 3: Click on the mask layer to select it.
Now everywhere we paint black on the mask will allow the darker image to show through. To get the same effect as a graduated filter, I'm going to use the gradient fill tool to paint a gradient in the mask layer
Well, that's better, but the tops of the buildings and the trees are too dark.
In real life, we'd rotate the graduated filter a little, so let's do the same with our gradient fill:
Perfect! And here's the result:
You can use this technique for any situation where a graduated filter would be used: