Skip to main content

Naming of neutral density filters for DSLR photography

Planning to invest in a decent filter system to include in your photography gear? I am sure the nomenclature might have confused you a bit. In addition to my own ND filters set, I got lucky to be able to borrow a few grad filters from my friend who is a professional wedding photographer This allowed me to fiddle around a bit with different level of optical density and thus served as the photography inspiration behind this post. 
                               
naming neutral density dslr filters
Long exposure shot using a neutral density filter
The naming of the neutral density filters (either gradual or non-gradual) is a kind of myth, but this short and sweet post will make it easy for you. Some filter manufacturers name them as per optical density of the filter while others focus on f-stop number. The table below relates optical density, filter factor and f-stop number for neutral density filters.
Optical density of filter:

0.3 0.6 0.9 1.2 1.5 1.8 2.1 2.4 2.7 3.0 

Filter factor:

2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024

F stop:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Example: 0.9 ND filter. This means it is a 3 f-stop ND filter. Similarly, a 10 f-stop ND filter would have an optical density of 3.0. So we have got the basics of neutral density filters, let's now talk a bit about the main motive behind spending money on density filters. There are certain aspects of photography which require a use of ND filter. For example: 
1) Outdoor portrait photography: Neutral density filters help for outdoor portraits in broad daylight. Example: Sun is behind your model or subject. In this case, a balance between ambient light and subject exposure can be achieved by using a fill flash and ND filter. Fill flash will prevent shadows on the subject face and pop out the subject more. Another way can be setting exposure to the background which would require a very high shutter speed and great flash power. 
2) Landscape photography. Shooting in harsh daylight sun can be made possible by using ND filters of higher optical density. Capturing sunset over the beach using ND filter gives a nice and silky effect to waves and leads to properly exposed sky. ND filter actually allows a longer exposure as it minimizes the amount of incoming light. 
Pro Tip: If you find it hard to focus post attaching a higher value ND filter, focus before on a point (either manually or auto) and then switch your lens to manual mode. Slide the filter in front of your lens and boom. Another way can be bumping up the ISO all the way to allow your camera focus through the filter and then lowering it back. There is a huge debate about using screw on density filters vs square shaped filters which require a holder system such as Lee SW150. 


If you found this post helpful or informative, share the photography love. :)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Canon CR3 raw format guide

A raw image file is like a digital negative without any lossy compression and minimal processing applied to it. A digital camera shooting images in raw format provides output in the best possible quality, which means files are larger in size and take more space. The benefits offered by shooting raw format overpowers the slight storage hassle though. Few of the well known raw formats include CR2, NEF, RW2, RAF, PEF, ARW, etc.  In this post, we will talk about the new compressed raw format introduced by Canon starting with its mirrorless series of cameras.


History of Canon raw formats
Back in the early 2000s, Canon cameras produced raw photos in CRW format. Example of cameras shooting in CRW include Canon D60, Canon D30, Canon 10D, and Canon EOS 300D. Most of the cameras released after the year 2004 shoot raw photos in CR2 format. Examples of CR2 format Canon cameras include 350D, 6D, 7D, 5D, 5D Mark II and many more.
In 2018, Canon introduced its new mirrorless camera known as the EOS …

Relation between ISO, shutter speed, aperture and light in photography

Photography is a word having Greek roots, which basically means "drawing with light". When I started doing digital photography a few years ago, this did not make sense to me at all. How can you make a picture just using light? Only light matters? My pictures were either black or completely washed out all the time, but I didn't feel like giving up. It took me a fair amount of time to understand controls such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO which was the outcome of non-stop reading and a lot of mistakes. Coming back to the concept of light, it started to make sense after attending a film photography workshop. The dark room with very dim or near to zero red lights was a whole new point of interest. My partner and I made a pinhole camera out of a pumpkin. 
The workshop made me understand how important light is when taking pictures, and the rules apply to both film and digital photography. Basically, the value of shutter speed and aperture directly affect the amount of li…

Darktable vs Lightroom Classic CC

I first heard about Darktable software in 2016 and actually was quite fascinated with the name itself.  Within a few hours of hearing about it, I went to the official Darktable website and downloaded it on my Linux machine. Have been using it for quite a while now alongside Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and hence decided to write this small review post. If you are looking for a free Adobe Lightroom alternative, this might be or might not be for you depending on what you need.  Darktable is a free open source post-processing software which can do non-destructive RAW photo editing and photo management. Non-destructive means it does not change the original RAW file, all the edits are written to a sidecar file. It has evolved through so many phases of bug fixing and operating system compatibility. The latest version is available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. Being an open source software it doesn't surprise me that it is available in 21 language translations. That's the power of op…