9 filter mistakes every photographer makes (and how to avoid them)

10 tips for using your 10-stop ND filter: everything you need to know to ensure sharp photos

Although colour adjustment filters aren’t as necessary to digital photography as they were for film photography, there are some filters such as a neutral density (plain and graduated) or a polarizer filter that still deserve a place in every photographer’s camera bag.

In this tutorial our head of testing, Angela Nicholson, takes a look at some of the biggest mistakes photographers make when using filters, and explains how to avoid them.

Photography Tips: use a graduated grey filter

Worst filter mistakes: 1. Poorly positioned graduation

Graduated filters are available in a variety of colours including blue to boost skies or oceans and orange or coral to enhance sunrises or sunsets, but by far the most commonly used is a neutral or grey grad.

These filters are designed to darken part of the scene rather than change its colour. They are most frequently used to balance the exposure of a bright sky with that of the darker land beneath.

SEE MORE: Best graduated neutral density filter: 6 top models tested and rated

One of the trickiest aspects of using a graduated neutral density filter is positioning the graduated section.

If it is set too high the lower part of the sky will be very bright, but if it’s too low, the horizon will be dark.

Keep your eye to the viewfinder or on the LCD screen as you slide the filter slowly up and down until you find the perfect position.

Worst filter mistakes: 1. Poorly positioned graduation
Worst filter mistakes: 2. Obvious graduation, 3. Polariser with wide-angle lens
Worst filter mistakes: 4. Black cross visible with a variable ND filter, 5. Dirty filters
Worst filter mistakes: 6. Cheap ND grads, 7. Over-stacking or wrong-sized system
Worst filter mistakes: 8. No lens hood, 9. Graduation moving during focusing


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