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3 Or 6 Stop Nd Filter

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ND Filters – In Depth Guide For Beginners

In this tutorial, I’m going to give you a guide to ND filters in photography; what ND filters do, what ND filters to buy, what effects they create so on. I’ve also created an ND filters guide that you can download and keep. This will help you work out shutter speed times using our exposure calculator and advise on what ones to buy.
If y’all’re thinking of buying or using ND filters to create long exposure effects, so this tutorial is for you.

The Guide and Exposure Calculator can be found below.

Free ND Filter Guide and Exposure Calculator

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What do ND filters exercise?

They aid y’all create images like this….

10 stop ND filter example with water

An ND filter acts like sunglasses would to your eyes, information technology blocks light coming into the lens similar sunglasses blocks light coming into your optics. ND stands for Neutral Density which ways it blocks the calorie-free in a neutral way without irresolute the colour of the calorie-free.

Why would yous want to cake calorie-free coming into your lens?

Low-cal is good, right? It’s what makes the image. It makes sense to think that if y’all block light coming into your lens you’re just going to make a dark, underexposed image.
Well, when y’all block light coming into your lens you’re are forced to expose the camera to low-cal for a longer period of time. Y’all have to open the shutter for longer to allow for the correct corporeality of light to enter the camera.

Let’due south wait at the outcome an ND filter tin accept on an image. Below is a normal picture with no filter, taken using a tripod at 1/30th of a second. You lot can see the ripples in the water and the clouds look clear, everything has been frozen for that fraction of a second. Exposure details – 1/30th sec, f22, ISO 400

1/30th second – f22 – ISO 400

i/30th second – f22 – ISO 400

And here is a shot taken only after that one using a 10 finish ND filter. The filter has allowed me to increment the exposure time to xxx seconds. I’ve still exposed the camera to aforementioned amount of light, but this one has been exposed over a longer period of time. When you do that everything that’s still, stays notwithstanding, i.e. the tree and mountains and everything that moves blurs or blends together. This shot has also been adjusted in Lightroom to pump upward the colours and contrast. Check out my other tutorial on how I adjust images in Lightroom if you wish. xxx Secs, f22, ISO 400

30 seconds – f22 – ISO 400

30 seconds – f22 – ISO 400

Let’s await at them both together. The one on the left, shot at 1/30th of a second, the one on the right, shot at 30 seconds with a 10 stop ND filter on. Over again, they have both been exposed to exactly the aforementioned amount of lite, but with the ND filter on you able to let that light in slowly which allows moving things to blur, such as the clouds, and it also allows things to blend in, such equally the ripples in the h2o. Besides notation that information technology is but the shutter speed that has changed. The aperture and ISO stay the same when you lot are doing these shots and you must shoot in fully manual style. I comprehend that in much more detail in my other tutorial ‘How to utilize ND filters’.

Landscape shot with and without filter

ND filters come up in all shapes and sizes

Screw on Type
Ones that screw onto the front of your lens, ones that need to employ a filter holder organisation and graduated ND filters, with the graduated ND filters it’due south best to use a filter holder organisation.

The screw in types are very practiced value for coin (around £10 or $15 each), you lot can get lots of different brands of these and they all do pretty much the same thing. If you’re simply starting out I recommend getting one of these types that will fit your widest-angle lens or your standard zoom lens, this will exist dandy for getting those long exposure mural shots.

Screw on ND Filter

Screw on ND Filter

77mm size filter

77mm size filter

To fit a 77mm diameter lens

To fit a 77mm diameter lens

The filter holder type
Cons – A lot more than expensive. This organisation is for a commitment to this type of photography, or for those who accept the coin to spare – the other is for a practice or play around.
Pros – Better quality. Yous can use them with other lenses simply you will need an adapter ring for unlike lens. You lot can apply ND filters in conjunction with other filters like the ND grad filters.

Filter adapter ring

Filter adapter ring

Filter holder

Filter holder

ND Filter Holder System

ND Filter Holder System


At that place are many brands and they are all pretty adept. Hither are some brand names – HiTech, Lee, Nisi and cokin, the latter beingness the more budget brand.

ND Grad filters

ND Grads are mainly used to darken down skies and residuum out your exposure.
Below is an example using a hard grad ND filter. The one on the left is a normal picture shot using the camera’s congenital in light meter. This is what the photographic camera thought was the correct exposure. The one on the right with the 2 cease hard grad ND filter. This has darkened the sky by 2 stops to give a much more than balanced exposure.

ND hard grad filter example

And so, using the filter holder system, you lot can add a ten stop ND filter together with the ND hard grad, add some Lightroom and Photoshop trickery to it and y’all tin go a shot like this.

2 stop hard grad ND filter and a 10 stop ND filter

2 cease difficult grad ND filter and a 10 stop ND filter

Different strengths of ND filters

ND filters are created in stops. A stop in photography is either halving or doubling the amount of light due east.chiliad. making the pic 1 stop darker or 1 stop lighter. In the instance of ND filters, yous are ever halving or reducing the amount of light. Then a one stop ND filter will be stopping the light by 50% or one-half. A 10 terminate filter is stopping the light past ten halves in a row. You accept to exercise it sequentially, that’s important.
Remember when you’re doing long exposure shots it’southward only the shutter speed you want to exist changing. If you lot have a 2 second exposure without a filter, then you put a 1 stop ND filter on, you take effectively halved the amount of light coming into that photographic camera. So to counter balance this you have to increase the amount of time you lot let light into the camera, in this case by doubling it. Run across table below.

Adding a 1 stop ND will half the light

Adding a 1 stop ND will half the lite

That’southward the basic principle of ND filters, they end light coming into your camera which forces you to compensate by letting in light over a longer period of fourth dimension. The tabular array below shows this with a 1 second exposure adding unlike strengths of ND filters. Notice how the new exposure times double sequentially. E.g when you lot add a 4 terminate ND filter you have to double the original exposure 4 times.

Different ND filters with calculated exposure times

Different ND filters with calculated exposure times

Different numbers for stops

Just to confuse you more, different manufacturers will advertise different numbers for stops. For instance, instead of saying a 2 stop ND filter, they might say it has an ‘optical density of 0.half dozen’ or a ‘ND factor of four’. To assistance yous out with this here is another table giving you all these dissimilar numbers which mean the same thing.

Stops, Optical Density and ND Factor equivalent chart

Stops, Optical Density and ND Factor equivalent nautical chart

My best advice for you is to simply stick to the stops, how many stops does the ND have.

What filter is best to utilise?

For long exposure shots like beneath with clear water and blurred clouds you will want a 6 stop or 10 stop ND filter as this will give yous an exposure fourth dimension of at to the lowest degree 30 seconds and upward to 4 minutes. The higher finish filters will enable y’all to get those long exposures.

Shot using a 10 stop ND filter

Shot using a 10 stop ND filter

Then for shots like the one beneath you volition want a ii end filter. This was shot at 1/15th of a 2nd in the middle of the solar day. Because there was a lot a light I needed to stop the light down slightly then I could open my shutter for longer.

Shot using a 2 stop ND filter

Shot using a 2 finish ND filter

Equipment you will demand

A skillful sturdy tripod is a must. You’ll need a bit of weight then it holds your photographic camera firmly and all the same for long periods of time.
You will also need a cable release or remote trigger. This is so you can use your camera on a setting chosen bulb. I’ll teach you all about seedling in the side by side tutorial when I’thou out and about. Y’all tin can get these quite cheaply of the cyberspace, merely type in ‘cablevision release for …..your camera model.
I besides recommend y’all avert variable ND filters. Information technology’s harder to judge your exposure times with these types and on its strongest setting you lot tin sometimes become lines going through the image. I would recommend getting a 10 finish and a 6 stop filter to become you lot started. You lot’ll have loads of fun with them.

At that place are lots of different ND filters brands and kits out there. Nosotros want to recommend to y’all what we remember are the best whether you are on a budget or non. Nosotros have only recommended companies that nosotros or our colleagues employ.

Recommended Nd Filter Kits

When is all-time to utilise an ND filter?

If you desire that glass looking outcome in the water y’all demand the water to be adequately still and calm, just slight ripples is perfect. Large crashing waves and rough seas will not work that well for this smooth drinking glass issue. Also have a few clouds in the heaven, this volition give the shot texture. A fully overcast 24-hour interval will just requite you a grey sky and although clear skies can expect adept a bit of texture upwards at that place adds to the shot. And attempt to catch the sunrise or sunset. Midday lite will be as well white and may even be as well vivid to get a 30 2nd or higher up exposure.

And there you get, ND filters explained. Don’t forget to check out the ‘How to utilise ND filters tutorial’, where I’ll be out in the field using them. Y’all can besides download the costless Guide to ND filters via the link beneath.

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About the Tutor

Hi, I’m Marc Newton and I’m a photographer, educational speaker, writer, instructor of photography and the founder of The School of Photography. Follow my personal work on Facebook and Instagram.