Graduated filters are perfect for toning down bright skies, but they have a problem. Any object sticking up into the sky gets ‘graduated’ too! But Color Efex Pro control points are the answer…

All the filters in Color Efex Pro have opacity control points. You can use them to hide the filter effect in areas you don’t want it, or add them to apply the effect only in specific areas. They use Nik Software’s clever ‘U-point’ technology, which automatically masks the adjustment based on the tones underneath the control point.

This becomes a lot easier to understand when you see it in practice, so I’ve chosen this seaside scene with a bright sky and a boat in the foreground – just the kind of subject that poses problems for conventional graduated filters.

Color Efex Pro control points

01 Pick a filter

Color Efex Pro control points

I’m using one of Color Efex Pro’s neutral density graduated filters – the Strong Dark Skies preset, to be exact. You can see the effect on the image in the main window.

02 Tonal adjustments

Color Efex Pro control points

Over on the right in the tools panel you’ll see a series of controls for adjusting the filter. I’m not going to bother changing these because the effect looks just about right already. The problem is, though, that the top of the boat is darkened too, which makes the filter effect look rather obvious.