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Does a Graduated Filter Really Work?

Discussion in 'Pro/Adv Discussion' started by Octoruss, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. Octoruss

    Dec 17, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Hi All,

    I recently posted in another thread here the question of how best to get a shot with a bright sky but shadows on the ground. I do some residential photography in Florida, that has a bright sky, but usually lots of shadows on the ground. I want to get the correct ground exposure but also capture the beautiful bright blue sky without it being washed out.

    One of the suggestions was to use a graduated filter. Which makes sense, especially if you read the description: "The GND is a great tool for properly exposing the sky without underexposing the ground.".

    But then I got to thinking, where within the lens does the camera actually get its exposure setting? Is it only one point (center of the lens?) in which case the filtered top and unfiltered bottom wouldn't work? Or does it calculate the exposure at multiple points (top, center and bottom? At the individual pixel level?)

    Want to know the answer to this before I potentially lose $50...
  2. Trinimon

    Aug 30, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I used grad NDs all the time in my regular photo work but haven't tried it with my drone as yet. It makes sense if you're shooting video and framing 3/4 but if your shooting video and constantly changing camera orientation then your videos without sky properly framed will be dark at the top of the frame. Might look wonky esp if shooting directly down.

    With photography and your main task is to frame your shots with sky in it, I don't see it not working. You should be shooting in manual exposure mode to begin with. Frame your shot and manually adjust the exposure to the correct setting and take your pic. It's not like the old film days when you have to guestimate what the camera's meter is going to set. You get to see your exposure on your tablet so you know what you're getting at any set exposure.
    #2 Trinimon, Sep 22, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2016
    YYZ and Slimwest1 like this.
  3. YYZ


    Jun 20, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Totally agree with Trinimon.

    For still photography, it's cheaper/easier to bracket and blend exposures in POST. I never use filters for stills because they knock down your shutter speed by 2 stops at minimum. Drones really need fast shutter speeds to keep things sharp during hover.

    I still use ND filters for video all the time, and they are very helpful. Graduated filters will limit you to shooting a single scene where the sky is brighter than the ground. I can't imagine how painful it would be to takeoff, shoot a scene, land, change filter, and takeoff again for different scene. Find an ND that is in the middle somewhere and correct exposure a little in POST.