Can I use a full, non-graduated ND filter positioned halfway (or another appropriate distance) over the lens to approximate a hard-edge graduated ND filter, or will the transition be too sudden?


2 Answers 2


The edge will blur out pretty well -- the first Cokin grad ND filter had a hard transition, and I found it worked pretty well. The filter is so much closer to the lens than the subject (unless you're trying this with extreme macro work) that the edge of the filter will be nowhere near in focus.

The problem I'd be more concerned with is the potential for focus shift in the covered versus uncovered area. Using the old Kodak Wratten gels (paper thin, and at one time actual gelatin -- I don't know if they still make them or if they're still gelatin) there wasn't much to worry about, but the thicker plastic filters have a much longer optical path. Even clear glass often shows a change in focus or a difference in image size between the "through" and the "around" side of the picture.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And a difference in white balance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would work but would be best (i.e. softest) with a wide-open aperture and/or a longer lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – user456
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless you're shooting with a very short lens or shooting something very close up it won't make that much of a difference, really -- the filter is, say, 5mm from the front lens element and the plane of focus will be (usually) a metre or more distant. DoF doesn't begin to cover that on a normal-ish or longer lens, even at f/32. On the other hand, no amount of stopping down will solve the focus shift, image size change or (tx, @Shizam) white balance shift problems. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Stan et al. It would just be a stop-gap until I got a hard-edge, I have a soft edge and a full coming soon. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 17:38

Yes you could do that, but it wouldn't really be a "graduated" filter, it would just be a partial frame ND filter.

Would the transition be too sudden? Probably, but that is entirely dependent on the look you wish to achieve.

Keep in mind though, that this is not going to work well with round, screw in filters. Also, even a "Hard-edge" graduated filter has a gradient, and will be a much softer edge than you will get from a full ND.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 'Also, even a "Hard-edge" graduated filter has a gradient' - yes, I thought that might be an issue. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could stop it a little early and do the grad part in Photoshop. \$\endgroup\$
    – grm
    Commented Aug 6, 2012 at 23:33

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