Geló Tutorial #6 - Make your skies "pop" with grads / by James Moore


Grads are an essential tool for photographers working with Large Format, Medium Format cameras and DSLRs. Many will pack these (usually expensive) glass grads to darken skies to balance the ranges of exposure (the difference between the lights of skies and darker areas in foreground) without one cancelling out the other. Grads too can be used to add colour to skies; to give them a boost in colour or alter the tone altogether. This is used to great effect by landscape photographers to add atmosphere and character to their images.

Filtered glass grads can be tricky to use, and the key with such tools is that the image uses the effect well enough for it to be a convincing treatment without looking too "cooked" or filtered.

Of course, with the advent of digital photography, grads can easily be added using software like Lightroom and Photoshop. In Geló we can now add grads to images directly after taking the shot, on location or later on as part of your image post processing.

Geló's grads are gesture based, so you can drag out the height and angle easily. Using the RGB settings you can customise the effect, and coupled with blend modes you have a huge array of options not normally available with the real world glass grads.

This shows how grads can be used to make an image "pop" - that is give it a bit more visual impact with a relatively simple addition.

Using this shot of a tree - photographed at dusk, there was a bit of colour in the sky as well as some haze. The higher reaches of the sky are still quite light, and it would maybe require an additional 20 minutes for the conditions to change. Of course you can wait around which is a good practice with photographing sunsets and sunrises; but if you're out with the dog (as I was) or others who are not of the same persuasion, adding a grad later is a handy compromise.

Loading the image in we've have opted for a deep purple colour, set to GRAD gel mode and OVER blend mode. This means that colour will be added over the existing tones rather than tinting or lightening them (we'll cover this later). Retaining the COLOUR setting as well as NORMAL contrast to maintain the original image makes the effect more convincing; again it's worthwhile flicking through the settings to see what suits your image best.

Dragging the grad out (using the adjust tool), take this around a third of the height of the image. This keeps the grad tight and the effect quite pronounced. Dragging it lower and further down the image makes it more gradual, with more coverage but not as strong. Again it's all personal taste but the app let's you play with grads to achieve the look you want.

You could try this with different colours. Obviously certain colours are more convincing than others but I think deep oranges or blues could work well. additionally a pale pink or yellow dragged upward could add to the warmer tones at the bottom of the sky.

This additional colour could be added by saving and reloading the gradiated image back in to apply the new effect.

Why not play around with grads upwards and downwards, with the different blend modes and see how they can work with your images. If you're posting online we'd love to see some of your images tag them #geloapp will help find them!

Next up - Creating faux light leaks with Grads for a super custom lomo lo-fi effect.

You can download Geló for iPhone and iPod here...