Where to Place The Graduated Filter: A graduated neutral density filter adds density and or color to a bright sky or foreground. While they are fantastic tools and should still be used even though similar effects can be created digitally, they can be used incorrectly. Their incorrect use is revealed when the line of demarcation between the clear and dark portions are placed in the wrong part of the image. This is especially true when a hard edged filter is used. Unless the image is made at the widest aperture of the lens, where the hard edge of the filter falls in the resulting image will be different from how it’s viewed through the viewfinder. To remedy this, use the depth of filed preview button to determine the filter’s placement. With the filter placed in the holder, press the depth of field preview button and then slowly slide the filter down to line up the clear and dark part of the filter with the horizon line. If the photo is made at f16 but it’s being viewed at f4 through the lens, the end result of the filter’s placement will be different.
Check for Bright Highlights and Dark Shadows: For me, a good background is equally as important as a good subject. If the background is poor, so is the image. To help you in your quest to obtain better backgrounds, use the depth of field preview button to check for bright highlights and or dark shadows that merge with the subject. Not only will the pressing of the button help you make the proper aperture choice, pressing it will make bright highlights more obvious. The same holds true for dark shadows. If these distractions appear, change your position to get a different angle for the background. Sometimes just a small shift in height or to the left or right can mean the difference between a great photo or one that fails.
Check For Flare: Backlight can be very dramatic but it also brings its own set of challenges. The same holds true for sunrise and sunset situations when shooting into the sun. The biggest challenge for either of these two scenarios is fighting flare. Unless it’s pronounced, it often goes unnoticed in the viewfinder as it’s viewed at the widest aperture. If the lens is stopped down to f11 or smaller and the depth of field preview button is engaged, the flare becomes obvious. So the next time you’re in a situation where the potential for flare can occur, use the depth of field preview to preview its effect and take the necessary steps to remedy it.