How to fake an ND Grad filter with LIGHTROOM

Flash of inspiration

This technique came to me one night – just watching sunset on a road bridge and thought about it. It applies to Tilt Shif lenses mainly – but I’m sure you can do it with a normal lens, or telephoto. Maybe not an ultrawide 16mm though.

The Problem

So you invest £2000 on a 17mm TS lens and realise you can NEVER use an ND grad on it… the end of the lens is like a tennis ball, you just can’t fit the darn things on.

So you have to use HDR to get balanced shots, which can mean using 6 or 9 shots once you’ve done your shifting. The problems are, when shooting with a 5D4…

  • Masses of hard drive space – 6 or 9 40Meg RAW files, ouch
  • Need to use HDR – can introduce problems if you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Time… wow, even on a powerful computer you’re waiting around

But yeah – I’d been doing this ever since I got the 17mm TSe

The Idea….

It’s far from genius really.

But I found this whilst shooting light trails over the M62 – the camera levelled on a tripod.

  • I could get the whole scene in 2 shots – a low shot and a high shot
  • The low shot was dark mainly – had the road in it
  • The high shot was bright mainly – had the sky in it.
  • I WAS taking HDR brackets at the time then thought…

Would LIGHTROOM stitch 2 shifted shots at different exposures… and would there be a tide mark?

The source files

The first shot is the lower one – this is 30 seconds, so you get long light trails – and lots of them

LIGHTROOM Grad - how to fake it using 2 photos in lightroom

Next, I shifted the camera up to get mainly the sky – but leaving a bit of road for Lightroom to blend with. This was just 6 seconds long so we got a nice dramatic sky.

So here goes – highlighted them both and did a Panoramic Blend.

I’ve obviously done a few tweaks with lightroom to get it a bit brighter.

So here is the unedited blend

As you can see – lightroom just did its thing and got it right!

A video on how it’s done

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