Have you ever taken photos and wondered why the exposure doesn’t seem right? Are you getting washed out skies or too dark of a foreground? One of the key tricks is to use a graduated neutral density filter (aka graduated ND’s or ND grad’s).
Camera’s are only able to capture a certain amount of dynamic range within a file. In simplistic terms, dynamic range is the amount of light captured between the highlights and shadows. Once a camera’s dynamic range is exceeded then either the whites will be blown out or the dark areas will be completely black. This is commonly known as clipping.
For example, capturing a scene with a bright sky often leads to a well exposed foreground but the sky will appear to be washed out. This is the most common scenario. The other scenario is that your subject will be too dark, e.g. a building silhouetted against a bright, correctly exposed sky.
Now as human’s we are able to see a much larger dynamic range due to how we interpret the scene and how our brains work this out for us. Camera’s are getting far more advanced, but they’re not quite there yet.
As I previously mentioned, one of the best ways to combat this issue is to use a graduated ND filter.
What is a graduated ND filter?
They are pieces of resin or glass that have a dye in the top half of the piece, this dye is neutral as to not effect the colour balance of the image. What this dye does is reduce the amount of light that is able to hit the cameras sensor during any single exposure. Filters come in varying strengths and types.