How to Use an ND fil­ter

Practical Photography (UK) - - Coastal Masterclass -

If you want to achieve the sort of milky seas and scud­ding clouds found in many pro coastal shots you will need to take very long ex­po­sures. Your choices then are to shoot be­fore dawn or af­ter dusk, or to make use of neu­tral den­sity fil­ters. These fil­ters come in stop rat­ings, which give the ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion you will be able to make when they are placed in front of your lens. A 10-stop fil­ter will turn a ‘nor­mal’ ex­po­sure of 1/60sec into a 16-sec­ond ex­po­sure. Shut­ter speeds of sev­eral min­utes can be achieved by stack­ing mul­ti­ple fil­ters on the lens.

Cal­cu­late your ex­po­sure

ND fil­ters are rated in stops and you can down­load charts that will show you the new ex­po­sure time. If you ex­ceed your cam­era’s max­i­mum shut­ter speed use the ‘bulb’ set­ting.

Com­pose your shot

Set up your shot with­out the fil­ter in place and take a reg­u­lar me­ter read­ing of the scene. Once you’re happy, at­tach your ND fil­ter(s) to the lens.

Take your shot

To avoid cam­era shake with long ex­po­sures, use the self-timer or a re­mote trig­ger re­lease. When mak­ing very long ex­po­sures it is good prac­tice to cover the eye­piece in or­der to avoid light leaks.

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