Graduated filters are often used in combination, but rarely like this…
01 Use a tripod
It’s always a good idea to use a tripod when shooting through graduated filters because they need to be positioned very carefully. This is especially true with this particular technique, because both the degree of overlap of the filters and their position in the frame is important.
02 Filter selection
Graduated filters come in different strengths and it’s always good to have a selection. This Lee filter kit comes with 0.3ND (one-stop), 0.6ND (two-stop) and 0.9ND (three-stop) filters and you can use them individually or in combination – and that’s what we’re going to do next.
03 Normal combinations
The usual reason for using ND grads in combination is to create a stronger overall effect. If we put the 0.9ND and 03.ND filters together, as we’ve done here, you can see that they work together to darken the sky much more than if either of them were used on its own.
04 Sky too dark?
If we use these two filters with our sunset, they are about right for toning down the sun on the horizon, but they make the sky above it much too dark. With sunsets it’s a narrow strip above the horizon that needs darkening, not the whole sky.
05 Reverse one grad
Try turning one of the filters upside down. As you move it across the other filter, you’ll see a darker strip appear where the graduated sections overlap. If you’re careful you can align this darker strip with the sun just above the horizon.
06 Switch to Live View
The effect of graduated filters is obvious in the finished picture but not always easy to see in the viewfinder, so you may prefer to switch to Live View as you position the grads. Take time over this, because it’s hard to cover up mistakes later.