What is a graduated filter, and when would you use one?

Graduated filter
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

A graduated filter is a rectangle or square-shaped filter, made of glass or optical-resin, with a tonal gradation on it. This means it runs from an area of darker to lighter tone or darker to totally clear. In photography they are used to either balance exposure or add subtle color, typically in a bland sky. A graduated filter is positioned over the front of a lens, either by holding it in place or preferably by using a special filter holder. 

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Andrew James

Andrew makes his living as a photographer, videographer and journalist. For 26 years he was a specialist magazine editor, the last 13 of which were on Practical Photography magazine. A long-time expert in photographic techniques across many disciplines, he's a self-confessed photo generalist, and a font of creative knowledge to capturing just about any subject, although he has a strong leaning to wildlife and travel photography. Andrew's wide-ranging photography experience means he authors the long-running Photo Answers section for Digital Camera Magazine. His work as a journalist, guide and educator dovetails neatly into his commitment to Foto-Buzz - an online subscription community he founded, where Andrew writes articles, films tutorials and records blogs on all manner of photo-related subjects and techniques for enthusiast photographers.