Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Imagine if you will … a rectangular glass or resin filter, where one half of the filter has a “coating” that controls the light hitting your sensor yet doesn’t add a color cast to your image. That, my friends, is a Neutral Density Filter and you’ll find it an indispensable part of your kit.  Where a Circular Filter allows you to affect the entire visible area of the photograph, a Graduated Neutral Density Filter allows you to control the light reaching the sensor over a particular section of your composition, and to even out exposure in an image.

Often when photographing a landscape, the sky portion of the frame is typically two to four (and occasionally more) stops brighter than the foreground elements of the frame. By holding the graduated filter to the front of your lens with the dark line at or just below the horizon, you can even out the exposure so that your foreground and sky elements are closer together in their exposure value. Depending on your needs, you can choose from filters with two edge definitions. Your choices are Hard (for a defined horizon) and Soft (for when you prefer a softer blended edge between the light and dark portions of your frame).

Graduated Neutral Density come in “stops” — that is, how much light is kept from reaching the sensor.  1, 2 and 3 stop ND filters (and often 4 stops or more and even half-stops) are available in different sizes.  Check out the Resources provided below to start your research on Filters.  Through these links, you’ll find info on circular polarizers and other camera filters there as well.  You can also read Jay Goodrich’s blog posts on Filtration and Even Finer Filtration  to get a better handle on all the offerings out there.

Before you say it — yes … I know that Lightroom has its own Neutral Density filter tool.  However, it is my practice to try and  get as close as I can in camera before optimizing your RAW image in LR (or your photo editing software of choice).  The closer you get in the field, the less time you will spend sitting at your computer processing your images.  And time behind my camera is what it is all about for me!


Breakthrough Filters
LEE Filters
Cokin Filters
Singh Ray Filters
Tiffin Filters

 NOTE: If you check out my bag, bag you’ll find LEE Filters and Breakthrough Filters exclusively!