Using An ND Filter For Effects

Find out how an ND filter can be used to create photographic effects under bright lighting.

| Creative

ND (Neutral Density) filters are useful in situations where you want to slow your shutter speed down, but without the filter, the lighting conditions would mean that the image would appear to be over-exposed. 


What does an ND filter do?

It's a bit like when you go outside on a sunny day; you use sunglasses to make the light from the sun less harsh on your eyes. An ND filter acts as sunglasses for your camera so it's not 'blinded'. 


Using An ND Filter For Effects: Without ND filter

Image taken without an ND filter 

How does an ND help in bright conditions?

When you use a slow shutter speed in bright conditions, a phenomenon called 'blowout' occurs. This is when too much light is allowed into the cameras, causing severe exposure to the point that nothing can clearly be seen in the image. This can be demonstrated by setting your camera on a tripod, putting it on shutter speed priority and gradually stopping the speed down until the image becomes blown out. To achieve slower shutter speeds without the scene blowing out, the use of an ND filter is necessary. 


Using An ND Filter For Effects: Image taken with Cokin ND8 filter

Image taken with a Cokin ND8 filter 

What situations is an ND filter most useful for?

ND filters are primarily used to enable you to blur water and get that silky, still effect. Because they allow you to slow your shutter speed down you can create images where water is blurred even in bright sunlight. They also allow you to use wider apertures in bright sunlight to achieve out of focus backgrounds. 


Using An ND Filter For Effects: Hoya ProND200

Image taken with a Hoya PROND200 filter


Are there different varieties of ND filter? 

Yes, ND filters are available in different strengths, classified based on the amount of light they block. An ND filter is often classified in terms of density, 0.1 being the least dense and 800 (sometimes even higher than this) being the most dense. 

The light blocking capacity of an ND filter is also measured by the reduction of f/ stops. The more f/ stops and ND filter will reduce, the less light it will allow to pass. The more stops a filter can reduce, the wider you can shoot without the image becoming blown out. The darker the ND filter looks, the more light it will block. 


Which one is right for me? 

This depends entirely on the situation in which you are shooting. When working on bright days to blur water, quite a strong ND filter will be required. Both Hoya and Cokin, depending on the filter system you are geared up for, produce a range of ND filters from grade 2 right through to 100 or even 1000 for working in extremely bright situations where the shutter speed might be minutes or even hours. Take a look at both Hoya and Cokin's ranges to see which one will be ideal for your needs. 

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Euan65 Avatar
Euan65 5 316 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2017 11:49PM

Taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, 8s exposure at f/8 and 49mm equivalent, using a Hoya ND1000 filter.

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