Are expensive Lee ND Grads worth the money? I decided to test this for my self and set up an experiment – a Lee ND Grads vs post production ND Grads. Which is better and do we always need to get it right in the camera?

During a recent photography shoot on Rannoch Moor I decided to put this to the test. My colleague had an enviable full set of Lee filters with it and I have to admit I do covet them. After much persuasion, pet lips and the promise to leave him my pension in my Will should I damage it, he agreed to let me borrow his Lee 0.6 ND Grad. This way I could set up the experiment to find out which would produce the best results and if there would be a discernible difference between a Lee ND Grad vs post production ND Grad.

So I found my spot on the frozen banks of Lochan na h-Achlaise and set my camera on the tripod to begin the experiment. I put the Lee filter in its holder on the front of my lens, after I had pretended to drop it a couple of times and amused myself as I watched the blood drained from John’s face. I’m sure the frost bite and the thought of seeing one of his set of filters end up as fragmented glass, took a few days off his life. Still, I had fun!

Once the expensive filter was in place and adjusted in such a way that it darkened just the top of the image, I took the shot. Then I carefully removed the filter from it’s holder. I say carefully this time simply because I was mindful not to move the camera’s position – nothing to do with John’s blood pressure. Now I took another shot without any filter in place. My intention with this second image was to apply a post production ND Grad and decide if I could see which image was the best. Or to be more precise, allow you to gauge which one you prefer and to hazard a guess at which is which.

Once home, I imported all the images into Lightroom and applied a 2 stop ND Grad to the second image (the one with no filter in place). I have to admit, I can see a tiny bit of a difference but the big question is – which is which? It is also worth bearing in mind that the ND Grad in Lightroom has many options compared to the fixed option of a real ND Grad.

So here’s the questions:

  • Which image has the Lee filter and which is Lightroom?
  • Is the difference worth the cost?
  • Do we always need to get it right in the camera?

You can comment below and let’s see who guesses correctly. The images are arranged in the same order as they appear in the slide sho at the top of this post.

No Filter

Lee ND Grads

Image A

Lee ND Grads

Image B

Lee ND Grads