In this paper, c-plane stepped- and graded- InGaN/GaN multiple quantum wells (MQWs) are grown using plasma assisted molecular beam epitaxy (PAMBE) by in situ surface stoichiometry monitoring (i-SSM). Such a technique considerably reduces the strain build-up due to indium clustering within and across graded-MQWs; especially for QW closer to the top which results in mitigation of the quantum-confined Stark effect (QCSE). This is validated by a reduced power dependent photoluminescence blueshift of 10 meV in graded-MQWs as compared to a blueshift of 17 meV for stepped-MQWs. We further analyze microstrain within the MQWs, using Raman spectroscopy and geometrical phase analysis (GPA) on high-angle annular dark-field (HAADF)-scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) images of stepped- and graded-MQWs, highlighting the reduction of ~1% strain in graded-MQWs over stepped-MQWs. Our analysis provides direct evidence of the advantage of graded-MQWs for the commercially viable c-plane light-emitting and laser diodes. © 2016 Optical Society of America.