Big up the blues
Master the art of choosing and using the right ND grad to bring out detailed skies
In landscape photography the sky is usually an integral part of the picture, but it can also be your biggest problem. It’s because the sky is always that little bit brighter than the landscape itself, and often a lot brighter.
It depends on the light. On a sunny day, with the light behind you, a blue sky will appear quite rich and intense, but on an overcast day, or if you’re shooting into the light, the brightness difference can be very large indeed.
If you set the exposure for the foreground, the sky will come out overexposed, and if you adjust the settings so that the sky comes out well, the landscape is underexposed.
You can’t always fix this in Photoshop. If the difference in brightness between the sky and the landscape is too great, the scene may fall outside the camera sensor’s dynamic range, so that there’s no useful detail in the darkest or lightest areas which can be recovered later even if you choose an exposure half way between the two extremes.
This is why graduated filters still have an important role in digital
The sky is always that little bit brighter than the landscape itself, and often a lot brighter… This is why graduated filters still have an important role in digital photography
photography, especially when you’re making images of landscapes. They are clear at the bottom but darkened at the top, and you position them in front of the camera lens so that the darkened area covers the sky.
It’s a simple idea. However, graduated filters come in all sorts of sizes and strengths and it’s important to use the right one for the job. They also need to be used with a certain amount of care. It’s easy to overdarken the sky, for example, or use one that’s too hard and create an all-too-obvious transition that you can’t fix later.
To show how they work, we took a trip to one of our favourite coastal photo locations, where the dramatic rock formations need an equally dramatic sky to go with them.
Flat skies look terrible in monochrome, so use an ND grad to preserve detail