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Understanding Basics of ND Filters

Article by- Chinar Tekchandani and Prithviraj Banerjee

An appropriate analogy to understand ND filter is to relate it with sunglasses that don’t change the colour of light. However, these sunglasses are for your camera and not your eyes. ND filter, also known as neutral density filter is a filter that decreases or modifies the intensity of light entering the camera. It is placed before the lens or dropped into a filter slot.

What does an ND filter do?

This filter is usually an important tool for landscape photographers. It comes with different densities of darkness, so the ND filters that we have currently are ND3, ND6 and ND10.

ND filter can have multiple uses. One of those uses involves the aperture and the other one involves the shutter speed.

  1. Aperture- Most of the time, more light is better for landscape photographers however sometimes, pictures clicked in broad daylight can appear to be over-exposed. This filter allows photographers to shoot their wide aperture lenses with apt amount of exposure. This permits shallow depth of the field and selective focus effects under very bright lighting conditions.
  2. Shutter speed- With ND filter, the amount of light entering the camera reduces. With reduced light, the shutter speed decreases. A slower shutter may cause hazy images of moving subjects in the field. This quality of ND filter can be used when you want to emphasize the movement of your subjects. Some of these subjects include waterfalls, fast-flowing rivers, vehicular traffic, etc.

The meaning of numbers on ND filters:

These filters have different levels of darkness or intensity. It’s easier to have an ND filter that tells you about the number of stops of light required to darken your exposure. Unfortunately, the filter factor or the optical density numbers are not equal to the number of stops by which the light is reduced. There are charts available online that you can refer to when you’re shopping for ND filters.

Another way to understand it is, for every stop of ND filter, you have to halve the amount of light entering the camera. When light is halved, you need to double your shutter speed to maintain the same exposure.

Below is a tabular form that shows how an ND filter affects the exposure time:

Original Shutter SpeedND Filter StopsNew Shutter Speed
1s01s
1s12s
1s24s
1s38s
1s415s
1s530s
1s61m
1s72m
1s84m
1s98m
1s1016m
1s1130m
1s121h
1s132h
1s144h
1s158h
1s1616h
1s1732h
1s1864h
1s19128h
1s20256h
1s21512h
1s221024h
1s232048h
1s244096hr (170 Days 16 Hours)

We have given below some examples of images with ND filters to give you a clear understanding

Image credits : Prithviraj Banerjee
Image credits : Prithviraj Banerjee
Image credits : Prithviraj Banerjee

16 thoughts on “Understanding Basics of ND Filters”

  • Vedant Shailendra Panhale 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Amazing photos.

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    • Admin
      Admin 5 months ago May 20, 2021

      Thank you!

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    • PrithviRaj Banerjee 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you sir

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  • Amogh Deshmukh 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    That was helpful 🤘🏻

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    • PrithviRaj Banerjee 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you Sir …

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  • Sreeram 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Thank you

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    • Admin
      Admin 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you! We are glad you find this blog helpful!

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  • Jeebak 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Good insight. Thanks a lot for sharing. So when I am on field, how to decide which ND to use for what scene and once selected how do I focus? Hoping that this will be covered in the subsequent part of this ND filter series.

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    • PrithviRaj Banerjee 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you Jeebak for commenting and viewing.
      Very nice point about focussing, most of the times we use manual focus while doing landscape and in this case it is important that we 1st focus on the nearest object and ensure that the focus is right and then apply the ND FIlter. It may be a square one or a circular one.
      As we understand that ND filter is like sun glasses, so depending on the light condition we will decide which ND to use.
      Eg: Afternoon 12 if you have harsh light ND10 might be best and towards the evening ND6.

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  • Jayaraj Kuttappan 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Good read. While I have a ND filter, I haven’t really put it thru the paces. Using this info, I will now try and experiment few things

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    • Admin
      Admin 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you so much! We are glad to know that you find this blog helpful!

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  • ADVAIT PUNEKAR 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Thank You very much Prithvida for such a valuable information.I am following ur pics all are really mesmerizing . Awaiting to meet you again and get more on field knowledge during this Monsoon on one more beautiful location.

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    • Admin
      Admin 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you so much! We are glad to know that you find this blog helpful! And do sign up to get priority access for our photo tours and workshops.

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    • PrithviRaj Banerjee 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you Advait for viewing and reading the blog. Yes we will soon unlock and have a few workshops with few participants so that we can maintain social distancing and follow all precautions.

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  • RAKENDER PINGLE 5 months ago May 20, 2021

    Very nicely explained …look forward to reading more such blog. Thank you for the effort taken.

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    • Admin
      Admin 5 months ago May 21, 2021

      Thank you so much! We are glad to know that you find this blog helpful!

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