Long-time reader Laura W. asks:

Can you expand a bit more on ND filters.  I have never used any type of filter, and I know you are not a big advocate of them.  But I have read so much mixed information on them, just wondering what your take is?  Ever in Studio?  I would think not but, I have heard some arguments for.

Sure, good question.

I avoid using filters unless necessary. But sometimes it is necessary. Here’s a few examples of when that might be:

  • A protection filter (“clear”, “UV”, “skylight”), when there’s rain, sand or snow flying about. Else, I leave them off – they can increase flare and reflections.
  • A polarizer (“C-pol”, “Circular Polarizer”) when you want to enhance contrast in blue skies, and reduce reflections, eg on water. Turn. Take it off when not using it. Buy good filters – thin, if you are using wide angle lenses.
  • An ND filter (Neutral Density Filter) to cut light. Imagine this – you want a 1/30th sec exposure for panning during the day at f/2.8. Even at 100 ISO, there is no way you will get this. Or a waterfall pic, 2 seconds. Or a daytime or early evening lightning shot – the shutter should be open for maybe 10 seconds. There is no way you can do these shots – even at 100 ISO there is too light. So an ND filter cuts that light – problem solved. Or in a studio if your lights are too powerful even at the lowest setting. All good reasons to own a few ND filters that cut, say, 2 or 4 or even more stops.

Does that help?



2 thoughts on “Filters

  1. Great info! And perfect timing for me. Two questions…

    1. How do I know what is good quality and what is just expensive?

    2. Any thoughts about a “variable” or “fader” ND filter?



  2. Sam:

    1. Good question. Thin is good, but other than that, judge by brand, reviews, and tech details on the box.

    2. I have not been impressed totally, but that is limited experience. Make sure they get dark enough, and uniform in darkness, and offer the right cost/benefit ratio.

    Have fun!

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