Graduated Neutral Density Filter – A Beginners Guide


hello and welcome to another episode of
mujahid’s photography this is mujahid and in today’s episode we are gonna talk
about graduated ND filters how and when to use them.
so let’s do it. So I often get asked by beginner photographers
about graduated ND filters if they should be investing in filters and if
they do how to use them and when to use them. So in this episode what I’m gonna
do is I’m gonna show you some examples of photos that I took using graduated nd
filters, but but, first we need to talk about graduated nd filters what they are
and what the purpose is? In landscape photography
most landscape photographers want to take photos during golden hours when the
conditions are a bit tricky. The background where the Sun is setting or
rising is quite bright whereas the foreground, the rocks, the elements in
front of you sometimes are in the shade shadow, or they are a bit dark because
there is not enough light. During the sunset or sunrise time. So what happens
is that when you take a photo to expose the sky properly the foreground becomes
very very dark and it is a lot of frustration. And if you make the exposure
right for the foreground, which is the rocks or the bush in front of you, or any
other natural elements, then the background becomes too bright and that
my friends is a big frustration. So as you can see on your screen right
now we use graduated nd filters in this case there are various types of filters
available in the market reverse graduated ND filter ,horizon filter, soft
graduated ND filter, also called a soft edge filters and hard edge filters.
But we are going to talk about soft and hard graduated ND filters in this
episode only because they are used most often. Now this is a hard graduated ND filter
the reason is that it blocks the light from the top till the center and the
transition from the dense to the clear part is abrupt. Hard, no filtration,
it’s clear. As compared to the hard graduated ND
filter this one is a soft edge or soft grad ND and the reason is that it is
dense on the top and as it transits towards the center portion of the filter,
it becomes a bit soft. Hard, soft, and it eventually goes in to clear. So this is a
side-by-side comparison this one is hard graduated ND filter, this one is soft
filters blocked light by three stops each so there is no difference as far as
filtration of light is concerned, but this one will filter three stops from
the dense portion and it will eventually become soft. Whereas this one, the hard ND
filter, will block three stops from the top and three from the center as well. So
the question is when should I be using a hard graduated ND filter? And when should
I be using a soft graduated ND filter? So let’s look at a few examples to find
that out. This photo that you see in front of you
right now was taken at Arniston at sunrise time. It’s an absolutely
beautiful scene and this was taken using a hard graduated ND filter. And the
reason I say a hard gratitude ND filter is because the horizon over here is
straight. What I did was that I put the hard portion of the graduated ND filter
on the horizon here, and the clear portion over here. I’m actually creating
this wall over here then this thing is leading you towards the back it’s an
absolutely gorgeous side. I have got only a hard grad on to block the light from
the top. So you saw the video clip just now and as you can see that the hard
graduated ND filter was used to take this photo. Let’s try to put a hard
graduated ND filter in adobe light from here right now and reenact the scene. So
I’m going to use a hard gradual ND filter I’m gonna under expose it a
little bit, for the sake of this video. And I’m going to put the graduation
right in the center, ok, so this is how a hardware used ND filter looks when you
are putting it in front of the camera on location. Okay so here’s another example of me
using a soft graduated ND filter in a bit of a tricky situation.
The horizon over here is straight, but then we have a big boulder on the left
hand side. Faced towards you is in shade and you don’t want them to be
darker by putting in graduated ND filter on. The horizon is not straight
so we have a straight horizon on the sea and then we have got this big boulder so
what I have done is that I have you I’m using a soft graduated ND filter so that
this big boulder behind us is not completely.
So in order to reenact the scene I’m gonna put a soft graduated ND filter on
the photo right now. Now make it a bit dark. I’m gonna spread it over here. So
if it was a hard graduated ND filter, it would have been something like this, but I
use a soft graduated ND filter which is dense on the top part but soft towards
the center and I used it at an angle like this. As you can see now we have
hard graduation on the top portion, then in the middle is a little bit soft, and
towards the boulders is getting softer. This is how I actually put a filter in a
real world situation when I am shooting the scene. So now let’s quickly have a look at how
we can use graduated ND filters so let’s say you have the scene in front of you.
It is a seascape and the Sun is rising and pouring this beautiful light on the
clouds, and all you have is clouds the sea meeting the sky on the horizon on a
straight line and you want to use a hard graduated ND filter. Now what are you
gonna do in this situation. Put your camera in aperture priority mode, focus
on the brightest portion in the sky, and note the reading. And then you focus
somewhere in the foreground most probably an element that you find quite interesting
and it is in shadow, focus there in aperture priority mode and note the
shutter speed again. So let’s say the shutter speed of the sky was 250th of a
second that is 1/250. And let’s say the foreground’s shutter speed was 30th of a
second which is 1 divided by 30. Now it’s almost three stops difference between
foreground and the background. In this case you will use a three stop hard
graduated ND filter. Where will you align the hard graduated ND filter? Right on
the horizon. Now you are going to turn your camera into manual mode keep their
personal value the same, let’s say f-14 keep the ISO value the same, but choose
the shutter speed 30th of a second which is for the foreground. When you
choose 30th of a second for the foreground the hard graduated filter
will block the light by three stops from the background, which is the sky. If for
some reason you have a 2 stop graduated ND filter, and do not have a 3 stop
graduated ND filter, i will suggest that you under expose the photo a little bit
maybe by one stop so if you are using 30th of a second then use 60th
of a second instead so that the sky doesn’t get overexposed. If for some
reason you are using a 4 stop graduated ND filter, I have never tried it but I
will say that you over expose the photo a little bit and
instead of using 30th of a second maybe use 15th of a second which is one stop over 30th of a second. Easy-peasy. The idea behind the filters is to take the
best photo on location so use your discretion play around a little bit and
get the right photo in the camera while you are there shooting at sunset or
sunrise. This way you will come back home as a happy photographer. So I hope you
enjoyed and learn from this video, if you did please, press the thumbs up button
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9 Replies to “Graduated Neutral Density Filter – A Beginners Guide”

  1. Great video! Lee provides a free app to calculate the shutter-speed using 6 – 10 – 15 stops filters. Its also very easy to see the number of stops between the fore- and background AND a timer!!!

  2. Thank you so much… you hav explained very well. By the way, I would like to know… whether is it necessary to use ND filter for sunrise or sunset photos?.. I having 10 stop ND and 3 stop graduated ND Filters…

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