Neutral Density lens filters or ND filters are highly likely to be the culprits behind your favourite landscape photos.
These multipurpose filters allow you to reduce a known amount of light from entering your camera sensor. Essential for sunny days, ND filters allow you be very creative with a range of different uses. Here’s 11 of them:
1. Shoot waterfalls
For the definitive blurred waterfall shot, keep your exposure between 1/4sec to a full second to record the water’s motion that will still preserve some detail.
If it’s the middle of a sunny day use a strong ND filter like the ND1000 with a 10 f-stop reduction. An ISO of 100 and aperture of around f/16 is a good starting point.
2. Smooth rivers
The long exposure gives flowing water a silky smooth look. Making a tranquil looking photo out of even the most raging rivers.
For rivers and streams, a shutter of 1/2sec is ideal. The longer the shutter, the more blurred the effect. If you’re deep within a shady forest, an ND8 filter will cut out enough light to create the desired effect.
3. Make waves
A variable ND filter is perfect for capturing more abstract shots of waves. The effects give the photo an almost physical feel of movement and speed especially with a surfer riding the wave!
1/2sec will include some white cap motion, while several seconds will render waves smooth and milky.
4. Streaking clouds
Streaking clouds look pretty incredible with the use of an ND filter and can really add intensity to an otherwise mundane sky.
You’ll need an ND1000 filter, and exposures of around 30 seconds, depending on how fast the clouds are moving.
5. Widen apertures
It’s often impossible to use wider apertures in daylight. A variable ND filter is a great choice to screw on to the end of your lens, as you’ll be able to change how much light you cut out to suit the environment. If it’s really bright, take it all the way to 8 exposure stops! – The wider aperture also helps you control the bokeh in brighter conditions when normally it would be impossible.
A variable ND filter allows you to get down to a desired f-stop of around 2.8 even in bright conditions giving you much more control for portrait shots with gorgeous bokeh!
6. Balance landscapes
If scenes are washed out by harsh overhead sun, introduce an ND2 filter to filter out just a stop of light.
An ND2 will filter out 50% of the light to your sensor, meaning a shutter speed of 1/250 second would become 1/125 or twice as long.
7. Shoot the sun
Taking solar photos is possible at a minimum with an ND1000, but you’ll need to use the lowest ISO and maximum shutter speed (think 1/8000s) and aperture that your camera allows.
Don’t forget you can add two ND filters together to block more light and make it easier to shoot the sun, two ND1000 filters for example will equal a 20 f-stop reduction. Although ideally you would really want to use a solar specific 18 stop lens filter that blocks infra red light as well as ultra violet light. Make sure to use live view to compose your photo and never look at the sun through the viewfinder!
8. Darken scenes
On adventurous days in the outdoors, ever changing light conditions can limit your creative options. To save buying multiple filters, a variable ND Filter is a great solution.
With 1 to 8 f-stops of light control, you can twist it round until you’ve chosen your degree of density and shoot with the effect you require without changing your filter!
Combing the alluring colours of twilight with the motion of water and anchoring it with the scene of the coastlines sand and rocks leads to mesmerizing photos.
By using an ND1000 and a shutter of a few minutes. In Bulb mode, set a narrow aperture and low ISO, then fire the shutter to reduce the movement of the sea to a surreal misty effect.
10. Sultry Sunsets and Sunrises
It’s not just moving subjects like clouds or water that ND filters are made for. Shoot a distant mountain range on sunset or sunrise with an ND filter and you’ll be rewarded.
The long exposure allows the changing colours of the sunset or sunrise to be exposed as a mixture of colours in your photo. As if mixing all the colours of a sunset on a paint palette. The changing colours from pink to dark red might come out as a bright orange in your photo.
Use any ND filter from an ND64 (6 f-stop) down. The larger density ND filters will need too long an exposure and the mix of changing colours will be missed.
For more stories and tips follow our Instagram.