Graduated Neutral Density Filter, also called as Grad ND filter is one which has got two halves. The first half of this filter will be a neutral density one and the second half will be a clear section. The main purpose of such a filter is to overlay the bright part of the picture scene into the dynamic range of the sensor. It is one of the favorite filters of Landscape photographers. Graduated Neutral Density Filter is mainly used to correctly expose the brighter part of the picture scene, especially the sky. Thus helps to expose picture correctly. They are available in different shapes and sizes.
Different Types of Grad NDs
Graduated Neutral Density Filter comes in two types
1. Soft Edge
2. Hard Edge
If you observe an abrupt change of brightness in the scene(one section more bright compared to other), then you can make use of the Hard Edge one. This will help in reducing the harsh light (additional brightness) from the extra brighter side. In this way, the final photograph will look more pleasing.
If the transition from the brighter side to the darker side is smooth in the scene then you can make use of a soft edge Graduated ND filter.
How to use a Graduated ND Filter?
One can use these filters both with an SLR camera as well as with a point and shoot camera. In the case of a point and shoot camera, you will have to hold it in front of the camera. For certain models of digital camera, you may get some additional accessories, which will help you in mounting filters in front of the lens.
The image on the left side is taken without using a Grad ND filter, whereas the image on the right is taken with a 0.9 Grad ND LEE filter. Feel the difference.
For, SLRs you can directly mount it on your filter thread if it is a screw in type or you can connect the adapter and slide the grad ND filter, if it is a rectangular sheet. If it is a rectangular sheet then you can adjust the separation of the darker and brighter side. So, in my opinion, it is better to go for the rectangular sheet type with the adapter.
The darker section on the filter should be placed on the brighter side. In the case of soft edge filters there will not be a clear demarcation of these two sections, whereas in the case of hard edge ones; one can clearly see the separation. Carry both Soft edge grads and Hard edge grads with you when you are doing landscape photography. Some of the well-known manufacturers of Graduated ND filters are Lee and Cokin.
When to use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter?
If the lighting conditions are not so good and you have got a highly bright section in your frame then you can make use of a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. When you are taking the photo which contains a bright sky then you can make use of this filter. This will help in reducing the brightness of the sky. Also, when you are shooting a sunset, you can use this filter to brighten the foreground artifacts.
Do not use a Graduated ND Filter for normal lighting condition. If you add a graduated ND filter under normal light then the picture will look dull. Don’t use this filter if the seaparation between darker and lighter portion is a curved one. You can also use it indoors, to lighten the subject of interest and to darken the window.
If you are interested in learning more about Camera Filters, Read Understanding Camera Filters.
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