I receive many questions about neutral density filters and how they can be used in photography. While they have many uses, ONE use of ND filters is to reduce the amount of light entering the lens so a slower shutter speed can be used. This allows the photographer creative control over how the shot looks without requiring any post work.

Here are three examples, pretty much right out of the camera.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 – All Rights Reserved – Shot #1

Shots number one, two and three are from Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ. The first shot is made without any filter at 1/3 of a second. You’ll notice a nice blur in the water. Creatively, this is more attractive to me than freezing the water. But what if I want to go slower? If you don’t have a ND filter, you can usually get some of the same effect by using a circular polarizer. In the second shot, the shutter speed was changed to 1.3 seconds. This is much slower than 1/3 of a second and you can see that the water is more creamy and silky. If you want even more of that effect, then you need a ND filter.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 – All Rights Reserved – Shot #2

For the third shot, I used a Singh-Ray variable ND filter at about 75% strength. This slowed the shutter speed all the way down to 10 seconds. Now the water shows no ripples. It’s extremely smooth.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 – All Rights Reserved – Shot #3

This post isn’t about which of these shots you prefer. To each his/her own. The post is instead designed to illustrate the effect of an ND filter and slower shutter speeds on shots so that you can see what’s possible.

Give it a try and happy shooting.


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