Controlling the amount of light a photo receives is crucial to success in photography. Many photographers would consider this to be the secret to success, in fact. Depending on the type of shot that you are trying to get, whether it is a portrait or a landscape shot, for example, the amount of light that you want coming into that shot is going to vary. The light will impact the shading, shadowing and coloring of the photograph, which is going to have a huge impact on the overall artistic effect of the photo.
There are some ways to naturally control the amount of light that you are going to get when taking a photograph. Portraits, for example, can utilize special lighting tools and can even be taken indoors where there is more absolute control over the lighting situation. But landscape shots have more variables at stake. So there is more that the photographer may have to take into account when taking the picture.
Using certain types of filters that can be added to many cameras/lens are a great way to accommodate for issues with lighting. Helping you to get the style of picture that you are trying to achieve regardless of the natural lighting situation.
Understanding Neutral Density Filters
First, to understand how to use a Graduated ND filter, you need to know what a neutral density (ND) filter itself it.
A ND filter is a filter that blocks a certain amount of light from passing through the lens and reaching the sensor of the camera. There are various levels of filter strength that each block a set amount of light. They generally range from 1-10, though there are some filters that have strengths up to 16. The higher the number the more that light is blocked.
These are useful for shooting long-exposure photographs. As the ND filters allow you shoot with a really slow shutter when the scene is bright. So you can capture that beautiful waterfall with a little bit of movement in broad daylight!
Moving one step further past simple ND filters are Graduated Neutral Density Filters, aka GND Filters.
Understanding Graduated Neutral Density Filters
GND filters work the same as ND Filters, but they are stronger at one end of the filter, then get progressively lighter towards the other end.
This helps when there are two very different levels of light in a scene. And like ND filters, these also can vary in the amount of light they allow in. They can even be combined with ND filters for super bright scenes.
Read on to learn more about how to use graduated ND filters.
When To Use GND Filters
The most common time that GND filters are used, is in landscape photography. There’s almost always a tricky amount of lighting differences between the foreground and background. Think capturing a lovely mountain scene with the sun setting behind it. Your camera will only be able to expose for one of those items. Either you get the lovely green trees, lakes, scenery of the mountains. Or the bright, vibrant pinks, purples and oranges of the sunset.
Because GND filters are darker on one end, you can use that end to darken the sunset while exposing for the mountain scene. Thus achieving a beautiful image, with both parts of the image properly exposed.
If you’re looking to be a bit more creative. They are also wonderful to use for black and white photos, as they help to create levels of grayscale in the photograph that could not be achieved in a standard black and white image.
Few More Things
Most filter brands offer up a system or way to attach the filters to lens. Some fit specific lens sizes, others fit into bracket that attaches to your lens. Both have their applications but if you have multiple sized lens and would like to combine various filters, then going with a system/bracket setup would be best.
But if you generally shoot with one lens or a few lens that are the same size, you can save space and money by just buying that specific filter size. Each lens generally shows the diameter on the front of the lens, such as 52mm, 58mm, 72mm, etc. There’s a bunch of em.
Also, be sure not to accidentally leave filters on the lens when you don’t need to. They can mess up normal scenes and obstruct the image. Maybe making one half of the image substanitially darker or forcing your shutter to close really slowly while you want it fast.
High quality GND filters are quite expensive, but are definitely worth the expense if you are going to be taking photographs outdoors regularly. I like to use K&F Concept brand filters.
Ultimately, GND filters can make all the difference when it comes to taking stand out landscape photographs. Utilizing tools like this can elevate your photography game to the next level! What are you waiting for!?!