Everything You Need to Know About Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Gradient filters—landscape photographers use them all the time, but often other photographers don’t even know they exist. Today’s article is about what they are and why they’re used.

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AuthorVit Kovalcik

I’ve been a freelancer since early 2012; photography is my living. I acquired my photography experience, both inside and outside the studio, during the previous years—when I was working all day and taking pictures every evening and weekend. I don’t have just one clearly defined topic; I like photographing people, but also cityscapes and landscapes.

Comments (6)

  1. I have found your articles on filters very informative; as I am still learning the pit-falls when using them. My thanks to all the contributors of these articles. Doug.

    1. Thank you, Doug, it’s great to read that!

  2. Vit, thanks for the article. However, you have missed out a significant disadvantage with rectangular filters as many impart a color cast to the image even the so-called “high-end” brands. The color cast can sometimes but not always be removed or at least reduced with image editing software. I try to minimize my use of these filters as I find it can take more work to remove/reduce color cast introduced by filters than it does to deal with exposure issues, by either taking multiple exposures of the same scene and, as you say, blending in software or relying entirely on software to fix up an image taken without the use of filters. (Noise issue noted). Ed

    1. Ed, thanks for your insight. I have probably not used the filters that much to encounter this problem – there were some slight casts, but fixable with an image editor. Of course, the solutions you propose usually work well too if you have a reasonably still scene. I am glad that you pointed out this issue, as it may be important for other potential users of the gradient filters.

  3. I’m still experimenting with ND photography, but I’m using the double polarizing filters method (previously mentioned on this site). So far I’ve found that to be pretty flexible–is there an advantage to using ND filters instead?

    1. I am glad you like the two polarizers, it is my favorite trick too :) However, they are designed for a slightly different purpose than graduated ND filters described in this article, which can selectively darken only part of the scene. The stacked polarized filters cannot do that (as well as “simple” ND filters) , but I like variable strength of the two polarizers – that is certainly their big advantage.

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