All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters

19 March 2024

Neutral density lens filters, or ND lens filters, are a powerful tool for any photographer looking to expand their creative control. ND camera filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera lens to open up a world of possibilities, from silky smooth water in landscapes to blurred motion effects.

Here, we'll dive into everything you need to know about ND lens filters, from their different types to the ideal situations for using them.

What is a Neutral Density Filter?

Imagine a pair of sunglasses for your camera lens. That's essentially what an ND filter is. This type of lens filter is a darkened piece of glass that sits in front of your lens, reducing the amount of light that reaches the sensor. This allows you to achieve slower shutter speeds for creative effects, even in bright daylight, without running the risk of overexposure.

All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters

Types of ND Lens Filters

All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters

There are two main types of neutral density filters:

  • Fixed ND filters: These filters have a pre-determined amount of light reduction, typically measured in f-stops. A 2-stop ND filter will reduce light by two stops, allowing you to double your shutter speed compared to shooting without a filter. Higher stop filters, such as 3-stop and 10-stop, offer progressively stronger light reduction.
  • Variable ND filters: These innovative filters allow you to adjust the filter's density by rotating a ring, offering a wider range of light reduction in a single filter.

Square VS Circular ND Filters

ND lens filters come in two main shapes:

  • Circular filters: These screw directly onto the front of your lens, making them ideal for everyday use. They are easy to attach and remove, perfect for quickly adapting to changing lighting conditions.
  • Square filters: These filters are held in place by a filter holder attached to your lens. They offer greater flexibility for composing your shot, as you can easily rotate the filter for precise light reduction control across the frame. Square filters are commonly used with wide-angle lenses when circular filters can cause darkening at the corners of the image.

When to Use a Neutral Density Filter

All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters

ND lens filters shine in various situations:

  • Long exposures: By allowing slower shutter speeds. ND lens filters enable you to capture creative effects like silky smooth water in waterfalls or long streaks of light trails from cars or stars, adding a sense of movement to your image.
  • Shallow depth of field: In bright conditions, achieving a shallow depth of field, giving that blurred background and in-focus subject, often requires a wide aperture. An ND filter allows you to use a slower shutter speed at a wider aperture, creating a pleasing background blur.

How Many Stops Should a Neutral Density Filter Be?

The ideal ND lens filter strength depends on your desired effect and the shooting conditions. Here's a general guide:

  • 1-2 stops: Great for subtle effects or adding some extra leeway in bright outdoor conditions.
  • 3-5 stops: Ideal for longer exposures on cloudy days or creating moderate motion blur.
  • 6-10 stops: Perfect for very long exposures on bright sunny days or creating dramatic motion blur.
All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters All You Need to Know About ND Lens Filters

Browse ND Filters at Ted's

Take Your Photography to the Next Level

Choosing the right Neutral Density lens filter is an exciting step in expanding your photographic capabilities. With a bit of experimentation, you'll be unlocking a world of creative possibilities and capturing stunning images previously out of reach.

To find out more about other lens filter options and what they can do, check out our Camera Lens Filter Buying Guide. Visit your nearest Ted’s store or browse our online selection and find the perfect ND lens filter to elevate your photography.

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