Dibs Photography

Choosing your 1st Grad filter

One of the most frequent questions I get asked on the lead up to, during and after workshops is what type of grad should I get for my own setup. 

Well, long story short there is no right or wrong answer… Chances are you will use both the hard-edge and soft edge types, but you will most likely find one you will use more than the other. Personally, I prefer the hard grads as they suit the big flat beaches of East Anglia where I shoot most of the time and can see for miles with no hills in the way.

I would say think of answers for these 2 following questions and they may help you answer what type to go for. 

Don’t take this for a set rule, it is just a guide to help you decide what the first grad you may want to get is.

Are you mostly shooting on big flat beaches or Mountains?

The hard grad will be well suited to the flat beaches more than the mountains due to the defined horizon where the sea meets the skyline, this is due to where the Neutral density effect starts and stops on the filter itself. Where you have the mountains at varying heights within your frame and obscuring some of the skyline, a soft grad filter is to suit this image better as it slowly transitions from dark to light, thus making make the effect less evident on the mountain tops on the shot. I have included 2 identical images below, both were taken within 60 seconds of each other and edited in exactly the same way by copying the edit settings from one image onto the other, hopefully, you can see the difference.

Are you going to be out shooting sunrise and sunset or will you rather be out during the day?

The only reason for thinking about this is that you may want to consider a Reverse grad filter. The easiest way to explain this is that it is a soft grad filter, but the darkest part is in the middle and the neutral density get lighter working from the middle to the top of the filter, so when the sun is on the horizon, you darken that part of the image as it has the highest intensity of light, so it will give you the most control/balance of light for the shot. Below is an image shot using the reverse grad, the sun was creating a large burnt out area due to the brightness to the right of the mill, so the reverse grad fixed this issue as it was darker across the midsection of the frame, it was dark approximately the same height as the mill itself.

As always, when you have a question feel free to ask and remember you can get a 10% discount off anything from the Formatt-Hitech site using my DIBSM10 ambassador code

The filters I have used for this demo are listed below on the website.

Firecrest Ultra 100mm Hard Edge Grads

Firecrest Ultra 100mm Soft Edge Grads

Firecrest Ultra 100mm Reverse Grads