Friday September 25, 2020

Photography 101: How to Play with Neutral Density Filter

Lights can put a lot of impact on our minds and the way we look at objects. Through the use different neutral density filter or graduated density filter  a simple home can look completely different in varied light situations. For example, a nice and cozy Victorian home can be turned into a creepy chilling house as seen in the film, The Woman in Black. Similarly, a sunny forest can be turned into a dark one as seen in the Game of Thrones. In photography there are several ways by which you can create the desired atmosphere by playing with the amount of light that enters into your camera. This article tells you what the professionals use to achieve this effect.

ND Filter

Neutral Density Filter Guide

What professionals use, is a neutral density filter that can reduce the amount of light entering through the camera lens. This enables a longer exposure time. At times, the ND filter also allows larger apertures which produces a sharper photo and a relative shallow depth of field. The secret ingredient of this filter is the controlled amount of light that it distributes uniformly throughout the image. The image contrast however, is not affected, neither is the sharpness reduced. Their light reducing ability of the ND filter sometimes make the photos appear “neutral”; hence the name. This is also why, shades of grey or neutral tones are often highlighted in the image.

Neutral Density Filter
Landscape Photography using Neutral Density Filter. Photo by Hans Braxmeier.

Variable Neutral Density Filter

Many professionals also use a variable  density filter. This means you don’t have to set and swap individual filters all the time. The advantage of using a variable density filter is, it shows the maximum and the minimum markings on the frame, so that you can adjust the amount of light entering your camera lens. An exposure variable pattern X, when you go when you go beyond these markings. In that case, the filters interfere with each other.

There are many type of ND filters available in the market, but, this X is bound to happen whenever you use neutral density filter Nikon or neutral density filter canon. Make sure to check out neutral density filter Thorlabs. Thorlabs is offering various types of filters like absorptive, reflective and variable and even a graduated neutral density filter. You can use anyone as per your convenience.

Neutral Density Filter Sample Photo
City Photography

However, ND filter is the most under-rated filter there is. It is the easiest filter to use and is hard to replicate through Photoshop or any other digital medium. We have attempted to give you a basic understanding of how ND filters work. Once you understand the workings of ND filters, you will begin to understand the importance of investing in a good filter. Not only can you manipulate light levels but you have complete control over the depth of field of photos.


What are the best neutral density filters?

Some of the best neutral density filters that you can find in 2020 are H&Y K-series HD MRC Neutral Density, Lee Filters 100mm pro Glass IRND 10 Stops, B+W 77mm – 77mm 3.0-1000x Multi Resistant Coating Nano Camera Lens Filter and Cokin Z-Pro Nuances Extreme ND 1024 10-Stop Square Filter.

Why use a neutral density filter?

The main purpose of a ND  filter is to manipulate light levels to create different atmosphere in the photograph. If you want to create compositions of various nature, then different types of combinations of exposure, aperture, and sensor must be applied.

What filters are used for landscape photography?

Landscape photography mainly uses Neutral density filter, graduated density filter and polarizing filters . There are many others, but these three are the most popular and essential ones.

Do professional photographers use filters?

Yes, professional photographers also use filter when required. The three most popular filter that they use are Polarizing filter, neutral density filter and a UV filter.



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