Usage of Neutral Density Filters

Usage of Neutral Density Filters


Flowing streams

  • Neutral density filters is especially useful when you need to use slower shutter speed or larger aperture in extreme bright environment. Taking photographs of scenes such as flowing streams or river and waterfalls would be a lot easier with the usage of neutral density filters. As many would like to depict the flowing water as a creamy effect, this would require shutter speed of slower than 0.5 seconds.

  • However, this would not be achievable under bright sunny day as the image would be over exposed. This would be a typical scenario where neutral density filters proved to be very useful. It can reduce the amount of lights going into the camera lens and thus allowing the usage of slower shutter speed. Panning and zooming can also be done easily with the neutral density filters placed over the camera lens.

Macro photography and Portraits photography

  • Another situation whereby neutral density filters can be used effectively is in macro photography and candid portraiture. One of the best ways to emphasize and enhance the appearance of the subject in the image is by using large aperture and shallow depth of field.

  • However, under very bright environment, the usage of large aperture is limited as the picture would tend to be over exposed. By using neutral density filters, the amount of light going into the camera lens can be reduced accordingly to the level of aperture size that we would like to use.

Combination of camera filters

  • Other than that, neutral density filters can also be used together with other camera filters in split configurations. Usually, the top half is neutral density material and the bottom is any variety of colors or other special-effect filters. Beyond the split configurations, there are also neutral density filters constructed to function as variable or graduated units.

  • Graduated neutral density filters are useful for controlling overall scene-contrast ratio. This can be accomplished by selectively darkening only one portion of the scene, most often an unusually bright highlight. Bringing the highlight value down compresses the overall brightness ratio (shadows to highlights), thus permitting color film to better record both ends of the brightness scale. A few filters may be stacked together to create a stronger neutral density effect but it is far better to use one stronger neutral density filters than several weaker ones.

  • To determine which strength neutral density filters to use, decide how many f-stops decrease in exposure you require and then select according the strength of the neutral density filter that will do the job. For example, if you wish to decrease exposure by two f-stops, or use an aperture two f-stops faster than indicated by non-filtered meter readings but keep the same f-stop. To confirm the degree of exposure reduction, check the exposure before and after attaching the N/D filter.

More about film photography


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