What’s Better? ND Graduated Filters or HDR

What’s Better? ND Graduated Filters or HDR

Last week I did a video on camera accessories for landscape photography and whilst I was out in Grizedale Forrest it got me thinking about how much I actually needed to carry some of it so I decided to compare my ND Graduated filters to HDR.

What’s the difference?
HDR (High Dynamic range) –  A method of photographing where you take multiple exposures and blend them together in editing software

ND Graduated filter – A piece of glass that is darkened at the top. You hold the filter in front of the lens and balance out the light/dark areas

I figured that the best way to compare it would be to have a comparison image from just the camera and lens to show what effect the filter/HDR has. Scroll down to see which photo is from which set up. I want you to make your decision without my opinion

You have 3 choices:   1. Standard exposure   2. ND Grad filter    3. HDR

Scroll down for the answer





Ideally you won’t have a definite answer to what you think was HDR and what you think was photographed with the filter. I’ll run through each photo now.


The test photo

The trees are properly exposed but some of the detail is lost in the sky

2 stop soft ND Graduated filter


Both the trees and sky are properly exposed

Get the photo right in camera

Extra thing to buy
Extra thing to carry
Extra thing to break



HDR  – 5 photos stitched together


Details in both the trees and the sky

Quick and easy to set up
Don’t need to buy extra equipment

Cons :

Takes more time to edit
Won’t stitch together properly if there’s movement


Which ones better? I think the end results are pretty much the same. I do prefer to use the filters though, the process is a lot more enjoyable as you have to balance out the scene yourself rather than rely on the editing software. But I do both, there are some occasions where time is limited or the weather conditions don’t suit adding more equipment to your camera, giving the wind an extra thing to cause camera shake with.

What do you prefer?


You can see how the photos were taken in this video from my YouTube channel – Adam Kappa

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