Sometimes you just want your wide exterior and landscape shots to jump off the screen. This deceptively simple trick can help you accomplish that.
In an excerpt from one of Larry Jordan's fantastic webinars, he shares some tips for using gradients and blend modes to add some punch to images that otherwise look flat and uninspired. Check out the excerpt below:
This, of course, is basically a digital version of a graduated neutral density filter, something that has been used extensively throughout photographic history for this exact purpose (as well as a few others). While graduated ND filters are a good addition to any filter kit, especially if you shoot outdoors a lot, sometimes you don't have access to one when you need it, or you didn't realize that you needed one until your footage was already shot. In those cases, there's no need to worry because the post production version of this effect looks great, and is infinitely more customizable than shooting with a glass filter.
The best thing about this technique is that it's simple, non-proprietary, and completely free. You can create your own custom gradients in Photoshop (or even in most NLEs) within seconds, or you can just download pre-made ones and then add them atop your footage with the "overlay" blend mode, which is available in pretty much every modern NLE. To further customize this effect, you can manipulate the positioning of the gradient so that it lines up perfectly with the horizon in your image, and you can use the opacity control to dial the intensity of the effect up or down.
Have you used gradients to mimic graduated ND filters in post? If so, share your workflows and the results with us down in the comments!