What is a graduated neutral density filter?

A graduated neutral density filter, also known as a graduated ND filter, split neutral density filter, or simply graduated filter, is an optical filter that has variable light transmission. A graduated neutral density filter is a piece of glass or resin that is partially tinted, but not completely transverse. But why should you use them? And what type should you buy? Read on for an overview. What is a graduated neutral density filter? And how can you use it to capture beautiful images of landscapes, urban and architectural landscapes? Graduated ND filters usually use a special mount to mount it in front of the lens; this way, they block light from one part of the frame and leave the rest of the frame intact.

Of course, setting up a GND filter takes time, so I recommend that you give up the filter whenever possible. In other words, don't overdo it; if your scene doesn't have a wide tonal range, it's probably best to shoot normally and leave the GND in your bag. My recommendation? Use graduated neutral density filters when recording close-up sky scenes at sunrise or sunset (i.e. However, before sunrise or after sunset, you can safely shoot without a GND.

As you can see, the graduated ND filter reduced the sky brightness enough to render the details of the clouds, and I was also able to get a lot of details in the foreground. By the way, you can also use graduated neutral density filters during the day to allow longer exposures, so you can create interesting blur effects in your images, but I really recommend that you use standard neutral density filters for that, not GND. They're a little easier to work with, and they'll generally give you better results throughout the day anyway. Graduated ND filters come with a few different variables, and if you want to get the best results, you should pay close attention to your options.

As you can see in the image above, a soft-edge ND filter offers a more gradual transition between the light and dark sections of the filter. A hard edge ND filter, on the other hand, presents a quick transition between the two sections. A hard edge filter is useful if you have a very defined horizon line (p. e.g.

You can let the dark part cover the sky and place the degraded border over the horizon line. A soft-edged filter is designed for scenes without a straight skyline, such as a sunset over a forest or a sunrise over a city. Gradual tinting allows you to darken the sky without an obvious transition line, so you can place the border approximately above the horizon and get a good result. Secondly, graduated ND filters have different strengths.

Darker filters retain more light and are necessary for shooting scenes with huge tonal differences between the sky and the foreground, while lighter filters retain less light and are perfect for shooting scenes with smaller tonal differences. Therefore, when choosing a GND filter for a scene, you must carefully evaluate the difference between the foreground and the sky. The usual tip is to reduce the sky so that it is one stop away from the foreground, so if you decide that the sky is three steps brighter than the foreground, you can use a two-point GND filter. And if you decide that the sky is four steps brighter than the foreground, you can use a three-pass GND filter.

Working with a GND filter is easier than you think. There are a few technical details to consider, but once you've used the graders several times, it'll be very easy. Trust me. First, place the camera on a tripod and take the meter reading from the foreground.

To do this, make sure the camera is in manual mode, point it down and fill the viewfinder with the foreground. Observe the position of the exposure bar in the viewfinder. Again, look at the position of the exposure bar in the viewfinder. Calculate the difference between the first and second exposure bar using stops.

For example, if the foreground meter reading is -2 and the sky meter reading is +1, there is a 3-point difference between the two. Choose a graduated ND filter that places the sky and the foreground at a distance from each other. If the difference between the sky and the foreground is 3 stops, you can use a filter that blocks two stops of light (i.e., a GND filter with 2 stops or 0.6 points). And make sure you also choose the right type of GND filter.

Remember, if you have a hard skyline, use a hard edge gradation; otherwise, stick to a soft edge gradation. Place the ND grad filter in place in front of the lens and carefully place the gradient over the horizon line. At this point, if you've done everything right, you should end up with a well-exposed image. However, I recommend that you always check the results on your camera's LCD screen.

If the camera offers a histogram, lift it up and check if it's cropped. First of all, I recommend that you work on the sky and the foreground separately, either by creating masks in Photoshop or using graduated filters in a program like Lightroom. Then, you can illuminate the foreground to show details, dodge and burn to add depth and add a subtle vignette. Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other post-processing program that offers exposure blending.

You see, instead of using a GND filter, you can get a similar effect by taking several images with different exposures (for example,. Which method is the best? Often it's just a personal preference. GNDs offer a couple of advantages: for example, you can see the results immediately on your camera's LCD screen and you don't have to waste extra time processing your photos. On the other hand, good GND filters are expensive, plus the exposure mix can be a little more versatile.

You don't have to worry about finding irregular horizon lines, you don't have to worry about stacking up GND filters if the sky is very bright, and you don't have to worry about choosing the perfect GND filter. As long as you spend enough time practicing, you will do it very well, very quickly. Using GND filters will soon become natural and you'll feel like a real professional. Like the ND filter, the GND (graduated neutral density) filter allows less light to enter the camera.

As a graduated ND filter with a transparent half and a dark half, this allows you to reduce the part of the light. The difference between these 2 filters is that the GND filters only obscure part of the image, while the ND filter darkens the entire image. A graduated neutral density filter is medium-dark, with its density (dark) part at the top and the bottom half completely transparent (it doesn't alter anything). Like its cousin ND filter, the density of a GND filter is measured in stops.

The “graduated” part of the name refers to the transition between the dark and transparent halves of the filter. Graduated filters were used in the early 20th century, for example, to darken the skies in landscape photographs. Even though graduated ND filters can cause an overexposed sky to be properly exposed, it's not always the best choice. Despite their similar names, a graduated ND filter has a completely different purpose than a neutral density filter.

A standard (ungraduated) neutral density (ND) filter is a uniform, neutral piece of glass (doesn't affect color) (usually) that darkens a scene (the “density part”) without affecting the color of the scene (the “neutral part”). Center point filters are graduated neutral density filters that are slightly opaque in the center and transparent at the edges. Graduated ND filters usually use a special mount to mount it in front of the lens; they then block light from part of the frame and leave the rest of the frame intact. ND filters can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and densities and can be used in all types of photographic applications, from still photography, motion photography, and scientific applications.

As an alternative to split graduated neutral density filters, some digital cameras offer built-in high dynamic range (HDR) images that allow the camera to capture and then combine different exposures of the same subject when recording in RAW image format. Usually, half of the filter is of neutral density, which passes, abruptly or gradually, to the other half, which is transparent. .

Clément Vermeulen
Clément Vermeulen

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