- A Complete Guide on How to Use Neutral Density Filters
- Why You Need a Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter in Your Bag
- Graduated Neutral Density Filters vs Solid Neutral Density Filters
- How to Shoot Landscapes at Blue Hour
Image Credit: Martin Mägli. With NiSi Hard Nano IR GND 4(0.6) F13, ISO100, 1/15s
Living in the world we do of HDR and Photoshop and other fancy photography tools, there seems to be a thought among some photographers that filters like graduated neutral density filters are no longer necessary.
I disagree. In fact, I couldn't disagree more.
Using filters in the field might be a little old school, but if you equip yourself with the best graduated ND filters, you can create some pretty fantastic shots.
Here's just a few reasons why my GND filters will never leave my bag.
Editor's Tip: A graduated ND filter is one of the best photography accessories you can buy. See the difference an ND grad can make on your photos.
Graduated Neutral Density Filters are Still Better Than HDR
Image Credit: Christian Hoiberg. With NiSi Medium Nano IR GND 8(0.9) F10, ISO100, 1/30s.
Apologies to all my technology-loving friends, but even with the advances made in recent years in HDR technology, if you ask me, GND filters are still the king of the castle.
I can get gorgeous results with my NiSi graduated ND filters, and to my eye, my photos are of a higher quality than what I can get with HDR.
And I'm not the only one. Take a look at the image above, and tell me that it's not a spectacular photo...
It's even more spectacular when you compare it to the one taken without a graduated ND in place, shown below.
Image Credit: Christian Hoiberg.
What's more, you can shoot handheld with an ND grad attached to your lens (though I would still recommend using a tripod).
When shooting HDR, you can't shoot handheld lest the final composite image will show movement between shots.
Though some HDR software can work on alignment issues, it can't fix all alignment issues.
Using ND Grads is Simple
When you go the HDR route, you have to take a series of images for the final shot. That means at least three image files, and most likely, many more than that.
Since each image needs to be at a different point in a range of exposures, that means that you're not just taking multiple shots but you're having to fiddle around with the camera settings for each one.
Of course, time is of the essence when bracketing exposures because you don't want the landscape to change too much between the first and last images in your sequence.
Compare that to using an ND grad, which requires you to simply attach the filter holder to your lens, slide the filter into the holder, take a test shot or two to get the positioning of the filter and the exposure settings just right, and fire away.
In other words, why would I want to spend more time taking fewer photos and then spend more time sitting in front of my computer processing my photos for HDR when I could take higher-quality photos in the field and enjoy what I'm photographing more by using ND grads?
For my money, graduated ND filters are simply the way to go.
Editor's Tip: The quality of the ND grads you use will impact the quality of your photos. Learn about what makes a top-notch graduated ND filter.
It's More Satisfying Using Filters
Image Credit: 阿戈. With NiSi Medium Nano IR GND 8(0.9) F11, ISO100, 13s
To me, using filters is kind of like driving a car with a manual transmission.
Sure, an automatic is easier to drive, particularly in traffic. But, man, there is nothing quite like pushing the clutch to the floor and making a quick gear change.
I like the mechanical nature of it and the tactility of it as well.
You get that same sort of feeling when you use filters. It's simply a more satisfying way to take a photo.
Image Credit: 阿戈
Besides, by working to get as much right about your photo in-camera as you can, you have much better images to browse through on your computer when you get home.
With a little tweaking here and there, you can take an already nice-looking shot and turn it into something that's stunningly beautiful, and do so in less time, too.
So that's the moral of the story - not only do graduated ND filters get you better results, but they do so with less time and effort and in a way that will likely leave you more satisfied with your shots.
What's not to like about that?!