5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter

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When it comes to landscape or architecture photography, one of the important gear to have is a filter. There are many kinds of filters with much different variety and use. But when it comes to long exposure photography, one of the most important filters for me is the Neutral Density Filter or ND Filter. And these are 5 steps for using a Neutral Density Filter.

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

This article is part of series of long exposure photography.

Prep your gear

When it comes to using an ND filter, basically all you need are a tripod and a camera. And then attach your camera to the tripod. By the way, the one I have is a NISI square filter holder V5-pro and NISI NANO IR ND3200(4.5) 100X100MM

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter

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 an ND filter.

Set your camera shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Here are a few guidelines if you’re not really sure:

ISO is Always set at the lowest (usually ISO 100).

Aperture, Not too shallow, so it can focus wider. And not so deep, so it can be sharper. Basically, just put it in the middle (I usually set it on between f/11 to f/16). It will work.

Shutter Speed, depending on the light and other settings 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 autofocus first, then focus it (half the push of the shutter button), then change it to manual focus.

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter


Put on the ND Filter

After that, it’s time to put the ND filter onto the camera lens. There are different kinds of ND filters (circular and square) and different ways to attach them. But it’s not really that hard (you’ll learn).

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter


Determined the shutter speed for ND Filter

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

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

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



Press the Shutter

Now it’s time to take the shot. You want to avoid camera shaking as much as possible. To do that, you can use your camera timer (2 seconds) or you use a remote shutter. If you end up in bulk mode, you really should use a remote shutter and use a 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 easier but more expensive.

5 Steps for using Neutral Density Filter


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

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



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