WHAT IS A NEUTRAL DENSITY OR ND FILTER?
One of the biggest hurdles I experienced when I ventured into photography was that while the internet would have comprehensive articles filled with technical jargon there weren’t that many posts in plain English, or Reddit style ELI5 “Explain Like I’m 5 years old” posts.
I didn’t have that many photography friends yet and my learning curve would have been reduced if I had a place that could explain things in a more practical manner.
I’m still in the process sorting out the writing style that will define my articles but I will try to keep them short and sweet, and try to explain why you should consider the tools I use in a way that is relatable for both beginners and advanced users.
What is a Neutral Density (ND) filter? What does an ND filter do?
An ND Filter reduces the amount of light that passes through it. It filters out or blocks unwanted light from reaching the camera’s sensor.
An ND filter is a darkened piece of glass that is (ideally) designed not to change anything other than the amount of light that passes through it.
Other factors such as the color of the light should not be affected.
Think of how your sunglasses reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyes or how car window tints reduce the amount of light that reaches the interior of your car. There will be instances you encounter in photography when you will want or need to reduce the amount of light for different reasons.
Some quick examples of when you’d want to use an ND filter:
- a longer shutter speed (for time-based effects). Example – those photos you’ve seen of waterfalls or waterfronts where the water looks super creamy and smooth
- using a wider aperture (for depth of field effects). Example – shooting portraits in bright light at wide open apertures, but the photo is still overexposed even when using the fastest shutter speed available and the lowest ISO available
TLDR; ND filters are most useful in bright conditions where there is a lot of available light and you want less of it.
For your drone or for your cameras, here are some picks I recommend:
DJ Mavic Pro / Pro Platinum
PolarPro DJI Mavic Pro/Platinum Filters – Shutter Collection – Cinema Series – Neutral Density Filters
These are the ones I own, and highly recommend over the Vivid Collection. I actually use the ND16 and ND32 ones the most since I have been flying in desert/beach type areas with lots of sun and little to no cloud cover.
In my recent experiences, the ND32 has been a life saver for in the mountains when snow covered everything as white snow actually reflects a lot of light. This is a similar reason why skiers and snowboarders prefer googles with lenses that have high visible light transmission (VLT) ratings.
PolarPro DJI Mavic Pro/Platinum Filters – Vivid Collection – Cinema Series – Neutral Density Polarizer Filters (ND/PL)
PolarPro DJI Mavic Pro/Platinum Filters – 6PK – Cinema Series – Neutral Density and ND/PL Filter Set
PolarPro DJI Spark Filters – Shutter Collection- Cinema Series
PolarPro DJI Spark Filters – Vivid Collection – Cinema Series – Neutral Density Polarizer Filters (ND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PL)
Polar Pro Filters DJI Spark Filters – 6PK – Cinema Series – Neutral Density and ND/PL Filter Set
NiSi – NIR-VND-82 Variable ND 1.5-5 Stop Filter, 82mm From Ikan, Black
Breakthrough Photography – 77mm X4 6-Stop ND Filter – Neutral Density Professional Photography Filter With Lens Cloth, MRC16, SCHOTT B270 Glass, Nanotec, Ultra-Slim, Weather-Sealed