When out with our cameras it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the moment, in the awe of a place. The light, the air the intoxication of a place.
When you get so emotionally invested it’s also easy to lose focus on the skills needed to translate that vision into an image to share.
Sometimes we don’t have time to do more than grab a shot before the moment has faded.
Maybe we haven’t got filters to even out the light between the sky and the land or a tripod to enable taking bracketed shots for layering later.
So what happens when you’ve got an image that falls short of recalling the experience?
How can we inject some mood and atmosphere back into our shot?
How do we make sure we don’t lose that precious memory? How can we share that emotion with our loved ones?
One quick facelift we can use is the Gradient tool available in most image editing programs.
Now this image above won’t win any fantastic prizes or get tons of praise in the photography forums whatever is done to it. That’s not what I want to get out of this shot.
What I want is to be able to recall that amazing feeling of being high in the peaks, the clear air, the last rays of the sun across the landscape, the receding layers of the peaks as they disappear into the encroaching mist. The knowledge that others had stood and gazed at this same view over thousands of years ever since the ice relinquished its grip on the landscape. Here, on top of Mam Tor, the Shivering Mountain.
This is a tool that can helps us bring back mood.
Gradient Tool — Five Minute Fix.
Step by Step Instructions
First of all, open your image in the editor you want to use.
Now, click on the layers tab…
…hover over new adjustment layer…
…and click on levels.
A dialogue box will pop up. Click OK in the box and you will see a new layer has appeared in the column to the right.
Click on the Gradient tool in the sidebar. The pointer will change as you move the mouse across the picture. Move the mouse to the top of the picture so you can still see the cross hair then, while holding the left button down, move the mouse to the bottom of the picture and release the button.
Your screen should now look like the one below with a properties box displayed.
The gradient you have set up will alter levels more at the top of the picture than bottom. This means as we darken the sky, the lower area will darken less and at the bottom almost no darkening occurs.
To get some detail back in the sky, reduce the output on the lower slide by moving the white slider to the left.
In my case I also moved the black slider under the histogram to the right to improve the darks.
Finally adjust the grey slider under the middle of the histogram to get the look you are aiming for.
For my image, I also made small adjustments to Saturation and Vibrance to bring out the pale warmth of the setting sun through the “add an adjustment” box and clicking on the icons
Here are the start and finish images for comparison.
If you have a go at this and find any problems, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can help.
Also, if there is a particular photographic skill you would like me to produce a step by step guide to, please let me know about that too.
There are a few more articles here on Medium where I try and demystify some of the challenges of working with digital photography. If you enjoyed this article why not take a look at those too.
Happy Creating :-)