Let’s get straight down to business.
Put in it’s simplest terms, you can think of a grad filter for your lens as you would think of a pair of sunglasses for your eyes.
The only difference being that a grad filter is darker at the top and clear at the bottom, rather than the same shade from top to bottom.
The reason for this is that they are used to darken one half of a photograph without darkening the other.
A typical grad filter will look a little something like this:
To show the effect this has on a photograph, take a look at this short video:
As you can see, the filter is pretty much acting like a shade for the sky which was otherwise too bright for my camera to record.
So when and why do you need to use a grad filter?
The main purpose for a grad filter is to even out the exposure in a photo where half of it is brighter than the other.
In landscape photography this usually describes the difference in brightness between the sky and the foreground.
The video above was shot around sunset. I had set my camera up so that the darker foreground was exposed correctly but this meant that the sky was far too bright and the highlights were turning almost pure white.
A perfect case for my grad filter to step onto the scene and save the day!
It darkened the sky just enough so that the detail and colour came back and I was able to capture my shot in one frame.
What if you don’t have a grad filter?
If you don’t happen to own a grad filter, what can you do about a sky which is too bright to photograph properly?
Or what if you do have a grad filter and the sky is STILL too bright?
You need to take a look at what I call the Fake Grad Filter Technique which is a method of taking two shots in your camera (one with the sky exposed correctly and one with the foreground exposed correctly) and then blending them in photoshop in a way that replicates the effect of a grad filter.
Many of the exposure blending techniques out there require extra plugins or are extremely technical, but my Fake Grad Filter is actually really easy and one of the simplest blending techniques you’ll see. So go ahead and check it out now.