Phototips on Saturday: graduated neutral density filter
Some time ago I did a post on filters that assist with varying the shutter speed (see here). In that post I didn’t discuss the role of graduated neutral density filters. I will cover this topic over the next two Saturdays. Today the focus is on graduated neutral density filters and next week I will examine reverse graduated neutral density filters.
I have used graduated neutral density filters for some time in my landscape photography. You will come across soft and hard graduated neutral density filters. The hard version has a well defined ‘edge’ where the ‘graduation ends’. In contrast the soft version could be described as having a more diffuse ‘edge’.
The purpose of the graduated filter is to ‘even out’ the exposure so that the dynamic range in the scene can be captured. So the ‘darker’ bit of the graduated filter covers the brightest bit of the scene being captured (normally the sky in landscapes and seascapes).
The hard option is particularly useful when the scene you are making an image of has a straight line where you want the effect of the graduated filter to end (e.g. a horizon in a seascape). As you might guess, the soft version would be useful with a scene where the division between sky and land is more jagged (e.g. a mountainous scene).
While software like Lightroom has a graduated filter I find it is most useful to try and fix the variation in brightness in camera rather than relying on post processing.
While I own 1 stop, 2 stop and 3 stop graduated neutral density filters it is the 3 stop version that I find most effective. The 3 stop version is also called 0.9 (ND8).
Next week I will talk about the reverse graduated neutral density filter and how you may want to use this filter.