Grey Grad Filter vs Neutral Density Filters

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Julia, May 31, 2013.

  1. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2013
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Hi guys,

    I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the benefits of a grey grad filter compared to a neutral density filter. I understand how they work, basically, and how they differ build-wise, but why would I go for a grad filter instead of an NDF?

    I own a NDF and use it primarily for those water shots where I want a smooth surface or on the beach where the flowing water turns into mist around the pebbles.

    My NDF is very strong and allows me up to 20-30 seconds of capture time even during the day with full sunlight.

    Now, why would I need or prefer a grad filter in the same situation? I'm not a pro photographer, just an enthusiast and I wonder if the investment into an additional set of grad filters is worth it.

    Would love your input.
  2. szanda

    szanda Mu-43 Regular

    Landscape shots, but today, grad filters aren't that needed anymore because of digital post-processing.
  3. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2013
    Stuttgart, Germany

    But wouldn't the grad filter allow me to darken the sky, for example, while allowing longer exposure of the ground without completely blowing out the sky? I know you can simulate grad filters, in Lightroom for example, but the image itself still wouldn't be as "nice" without the filter, right?

    Just wondering why in this case a NDF filter wouldn't do the trick, too.
  4. vchaney

    vchaney Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 22, 2010
    The ND grad allows you to balance up the exposure not just darken the whole image. You would be able to get longer exposure of the ground without blowing the sky. With the ND filter you would need to PP the sky to darken it or lighten the grind to get a more balanced exposure.

    Hope that helps.
  5. szanda

    szanda Mu-43 Regular

    The thing is, that you can expose to the "ground" and the clouds and sky won't be overexposed, it deals with high contrast landscapes. But I found that dynamic range of current cameras is so good, that I can apply same effect in raw editor or ps plus I have more control. Of course completely overexposed areas can't be recovered, but in these extreme situations I always do multiple exposures and then combine images so the results are even better.

    I was trying to find nice example image and I got lucky on wikipedia, this is great example: File:GND demo-white-marked.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia but as I said before, you can do multiple exposures or play with RAW file.
  6. Julia

    Julia Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2013
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Thanks to the both of you. I think I'm starting to understand how a grad filter could be used with the stuff I take pictures of.

    Might pick one up and experiment a bit.
  7. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Real Name:
    I think we've become too dependent on PP. If we "get it right" in-camera then we require less processing to produce quality images. Using a graduated ND filter, or bracketing the exposures produces better information to work with in PP. Even the best sensors have far less DR than the human eye - capturing the widest possible range requires taking the extra steps of either a grad ND or bracketing.
  8. rklepper

    rklepper Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    Real Name:
    Plus it is more fun. :)

  9. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    Post processing doesn't replace a graduated filter but comes pretty close. The more dynamic range a camera has, the easier it is in post process.

    That being said. You can't really replace using a ND filter during day light to get shallower depth of field, nor can you replicate the polarizer effects easily.

    I would argue that nowadays you need to have these two with you, and if you forgot to carry a graduated filter, it's not the end of the world.

    It is my preference to spend less time post processing. So if I got the sky to look good in camera when I have a graduated filter with me, great!

    If it's a hassle to carry, just bring a 58mm polarizer with step rings.