Adding Mood with a Photo Filter

The Photo Filter in Effects is often overlooked. It’s not as flashy as some of its brethren filters. The likes of Dynamic Contrast, Vintage and Sunshine effects continually grab our attention. However, the Photo Filter is a very powerful filter and should be part of your stylization toolbox.

Last summer I spent a bright, moonlit night along the gorgeous, rugged coastline of Lagos, Portugal. It was an incredible treat to have this section of coast all to myself! As I processed one of the photos from this trip, I used contrast and color effects to punch up the rocks and mosses.

However, the scene started to lose the ambience I’d felt when there. The cooler tones and overall sense of calmness wasn’t coming through.

00-Starting-Point

I knew a Photo Filter with a cool tone could return that ambiance I was missing. I added a Photo Filter to the filter stack with the Add Filter button.

01-Choose-Photo-Filter

The Photo Filter is added with a default 80A filter; a rich, cool blue. It’s very appropriate for this scene and I do not change the color tint of the filter.

02-Photo-Filter-Default-Preset

The effect is a little too strong and has dulled the colors of the rocks too much for my taste. I move the polarizer slider to the right, watching the preview window as I manipulate the slider. I settle on a value of 34. The value isn’t important – it’s the effect on the photo that is.

03-Adjust-Sliders

Increasing the polarization helps a lot. The colors of the rocks are richer and the sky is a nice, cool blue. The foreground rocks need some work. I want to reduce the Photo Filter effect in this area and recover the greens of the mosses.

I select the Masking Bug from the tool well (1) and position the bug in the lower portion of the photo (2). Next, I rotate the bug so the Photo Filter effect is removed from the lower left corner of the photo (3). I then increase the feather (4) for a smooth, gradual fade. Lastly, I don’t want to completely remove the effect, so I lower the opacity of the mask to about half strength (5).

04-Masking-Bug-Gradient

04-Masking-Bug-Gradient-Overlay

Voila! This single filter has transformed the mood of this photo.

Parting Thoughts

The Photo Filter may not be flashy, but it is versatile. Add mood with warm or cool tones. Create your own faded, matte and vintage looks. Also, with all of the masking tools and blending modes  at your fingertips, you can shape a Photo Filter to accentuate just the parts of your photo you want.

I almost didn't get this photo. After a first failed attempt to reach the base of the cliffs of Lagos, I nearly gave up. I'm so glad I didn't. Another late night hike and I found the access stairway that got me down to the boat launches. Of course, these are deserted at night.

I almost didn’t get this photo. After a first failed attempt to reach the base of the cliffs of Lagos, I nearly gave up. I’m so glad I didn’t. Another late night hike and I found the access stairway that got me down to the boat launches. Of course, these are deserted at night.

About the Author

Scott Davenport is a photo educator, published author and landscape photographer based in San Diego, California. He is passionate about photographing the ocean and is much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. You can see more of Scott’s work on his website, http://www.scottdavenportphoto.com

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