You Can Use Your Hand as a Graduated ND Filter for Landscape Photos


Here’s a simple trick for landscape photos: when shooting a landscape photo that needs a hard edge graduated ND filter, you can use your hand. Yes your hand! It’s a technique I’ve been using in my own work recently.

I haven’t purchased a graduated ND filter because I’ve relied on Lightroom and Photoshop to even out the exposure of skies when I need too. But I am liking the result I’m getting by using my hand. Here is an example of a situation in which I would use this technique:


You can see that the sky is totally blown out — it’s way too bright, compared to the log. Although the water looks very bright as well it is still less bright than the sky. A hard edge graduated ND filter here would be perfect to place along the edge of the water/treeline since its a hard edge already.

But I don’t have one. So I used my hand:

I leave my hand there for about a third of the exposure at first and then adjust from there. I normally do exposures over 30 seconds, but you can use this technique for shorter times as well.

I use the live view mode to position my hand and then an external remote to trigger the shutter. Here are a few more photos in which I used this technique to properly expose both the sky and the scene:





Of course you have to be careful not to bump the camera. Of course, a graduated ND filter may be the way to go in many situations, but this is a nice trick to have in mind if you forget your filter or don’t have one (like me)! Happy shooting!

About the author: Paul Rutherford is a freelance photographer based in Boston, Massachusetts. He chooses to focus on sports photography, both action and portrait, landscapes, and editorial work. A core belief of his is that amazing images can be found anywhere, independent of the caliber of athlete, location in the world, or subject in front of the camera. You can find more of his work on his website. This article was also published here.