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Neutral Density Filters

I’d like to talk today about the potential offered by Neutral Density filters, and how they can make your photos more unique.

Ruined Harbour II by Duncan_Smith (used with permission)

Ruined Harbour II by Duncan_Smith (used with permission)

The smooth watercolour feel in the above photo is due to a Neutral Density 64 Filter. This filter has interested me lately and this photo demonstrates one of its primary uses: to smooth out water and skies without the use of post-processing. I think the results are perfect, and I’d love to have this on my wall.

A Neutral Density Filter is one designed to block out a substantial amount of light. This enables the photographer to slow down his shutter speed and/or shoot at a faster F-stop.

Most photographers will use what is called an N2, N4, or N8 filter to smooth out waterfalls, rivers, oceans. This photographer has used an N64 filter which is far stronger, letting him have an exposure of 60 seconds at f/16 for this image. Without the filter, the photographer would have had to use f/2 to get away with a 60-second image, or less than a second at f/16.

An N64 filter allows for 1.5% of available light to enter the lens. Here is comparison table for the other filters, courtesy of wikipedia:

Filter Name F-Stop Reduction % of Light Transmitted

ND2 has an F-Stop Reduction of 1 which means 50% of the light gets through
ND4 has an F-Stop Reduction of 2 which means 25% of the light gets through
ND8 has an F-Stop Reduction of 3 which means 12.5% of the light gets through
ND64 has an F-Stop Reduction of 6 which means 1.56% of the light gets through
ND1000 has an F-Stop Reduction of 10 which means .1% of the light gets through

Options

It’s important to remember that filters are designed to fit your lens diameter. Look at the front part of your lens and check for a 2-digit number followed by mm. Common diameters are 77mm, 72mm, and 52mm.

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Robin Ryan
Robin Ryan

is a Vancouver-based photographer who works with Breakfast Club of Canada to organize free breakfast programs for children in at-risk communities. When he isn’t travelling through remote communities in British Columbia, you can find him exploring quiet mountain ranges in Alaska or the bustling streets of Madrid, never far from his camera. Connect with him on his blog for more information.”

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