5 Step on using Neutral Density Filter

5 Step on using Neutral Density Filter

When it come to landscape or architecture photography, one of the important gear to have is filter. There is many filter with many different variety and use. But when it come to this kind of photography, one of the most important filter for me is Neutral Density Filter or ND Filter. And this 5 step on using Neutral Density Filter.

If you never use an ND filter before, it is kinda difficult. But by time, I assure you’ll get use to it. As long you remember this step.

This article is part of series of long exposure photography.

Prep your gear

When it come to using ND filter, basically all you need are a tripod and a camera. And then attach your camera to the tripod.

Check your Exposure Setting (Use Manual Mode)

Use Manual Mode. Because if use semi or auto mode, the setting will change automatically if you use a ND filter.

Set your camera shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Here a few guidance if you’re not really sure:
ISO, Always set at the lowest (usually ISO 100). Aperture, Not to shallow, so it can focus more wider. And not so deep, so it can be more sharp. Basically just put it on the middle (I usually set it on between f/11 to f/16). It will work.
Shutter Speed, depend on the light and other setting that you use (ISO and aperture). So you can just adjust with your other setting. Use your camera meter as your guidance.

Focus your Lens

It is important to have a focus photo. And use manual focus. Or the easy way is to use auto focus first, then focused it (half the push of the shutter button), then change it to manual focus.

Put on the ND Filter

After that, its time to put the ND filter onto the camera lens. There are different kind of ND filter (circular and square) and different way to put. But its not really that hard (you’ll learn).

Determined the shutter speed for ND Filter

Even though you have previously set the shutter speed. But when you use a ND filter, you have to change it to lower speed. Since it is the main purpose of ND filter, to lower camera shutter speed.

So how many? It depend on what ND filter do you use. You can google “ND filter chart” to look for the time that fit your ND filter. Or you can look for a smartphone app to calculate ND filter shutter speed (just look for ND filter calculator).

Sometime the shutter speed needed for ND filter will be more than 30 second, which is the limit for every camera. So you have to do it in bulk mode.

Press the Shutter

Now its time to take the shot. You want to avoid camera shake as much as possible. To do that, you can use your camera timer (2 second) or you use a remote shutter. If you end up in bulk mode, you really should use a remote shutter and use stopwatch from your watch or phone to check the time. Or if you want to, you can buy a remote shutter with its own timer. It is more easier, but more expansive.

Basically that’s it. But for addition you can do this to:

  • Close your viewfinder. You can use anything as long it is dark. Some camera have its own viewfinder curtain.
  • Hang your camera bag to your tripod. It will reduce the probability of camera shake even more.


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