Using ND, ND Grad and Polariser filters
Often dismissed as either unnecessary or gimmicky, filters can be the most important and useful creative tools in your camera bag. But which types of filters are actually going to enhance your images, and how do you choose between the different filter systems? Here we show you how ND filters, ND grads and polarisers can transform the look of your images.
Best photography accessories for under £100: neutral density filters
ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens. While the technology is simple, the effect on your images can be amazing.
ND filters can be divided into two main types according to the strength of the filter. The cheapest and most common filters reduce the light levels by one, two or three stops, and are useful for subtle effects.
In recent years some much stronger filters have become readily available that will reduce the light by up to ten stops, making extremely slow shutter speeds possible even in the brightest conditions.
One of the most popular uses for this filter is to achieve the classic milky water and blurred cloud effect without having to wait until after dark.
But it can also be useful when shooting in situations where you want to remove people or traffic moving across the scene.
Standard one-, two- and three-stop ND filters are much easier to use than stronger ND filters because you can still meter, compose and focus with the filter in place in bright conditions.
They are useful when you want to use wide apertures in bright conditions for shallow depth-of-field effects, or for extending the shutter speed around dusk where a stronger filter would give an exposure time of several minutes.
How to use a strong neutral density filter
1 Compose your shot
With the filter on you won’t be able to see through it to compose your image, so you need to set up your shot beforehand. With the camera on a tripod, compose your image, then lock down the tripod, and adjust settings as appropriate.
2 Set manual exposure and focus
In many conditions the metering in the camera won’t be able to measure the exposure once the filter is attached, so you’ll need to work out the exposure manually. Switch to manual exposure mode and meter for the scene.
3 Attach the filter
Attach the filter and adjust the shutter speed to suit the new exposure needed. This can get pretty complicated – for each stop you need to double the exposure time. Using a nine-stop filter like the Light Craft Workshop ND500MC, you need to multiply the original exposure time by 512 to get the correct exposure.
ND numbers explained
PAGE 1: Best photography accessories: Tripods
PAGE 2: Setting up your tripod & features to look for
PAGE 3: Getting the most from budget flashguns
PAGE 4: Tips for using manual flash
PAGE 5: Using neutral density filters
PAGE 6 – Filter systems explained
PAGE 7 – Using ND grad filters
PAGE 8 – Using polarisers
PAGE 9 – Common problems caused by filters
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