Improving Your Photography Using ND Filters

Once you’ve gotten the hang of “Manual” (M) mode on your dSLR and gotten bored of shooting monotonous and uninteresting sunset pictures which formerly made you feel like a pro, it is time to invest in an ND Filter.

Neutral Density. It’s basically a sophisticated equivalent of shooting through a pair of sunglasses. It reduces light intensity by a few stops – depending on which grade of Filter you use – allowing you to increase your exposure time.

I bought the Omax ND-8 filter which is easily available on Flipkart.com

Omax ND-8

Long exposures work best when your subject is moving, but not moving too fast – ideally a water body or clouds; or even both together. Once you’ve found your subject, set up your dSLR on a tripod and screw on your ND filter. Using a remote-trigger to commence the exposure is recommended.

This was my first attempt. Not bad, but a longer exposure was required. If your image is over-exposed, wait for the sun to sink lower.

IMG_2983

Sankey Tank, Bangalore, India

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 12 seconds (This kind of long-exposure in daylight is very difficult to pull off. Kudos, ND-8.)

Aperture: f/22 (Your f-stop should be at the highest value possible to minimize on light entering the camera.)

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Play around with your composition and expose for longer.

IMG_2990-2

Sankey Tank, Bangalore, India

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 30 seconds

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

The following image was shot about 15 minutes after the previous one and edited using Lightroom 5. Notice in the previous images there was some sensor dust visible. That was edited out and some contrast was added to obtain this:

IMG_2992-2-2

Sankey Tank, Bangalore, India

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 120 seconds (2 minutes)

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Of course, there will be times when – despite your perfect composition, impeccable settings and best efforts – your subject will refuse to move enough.

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 300 seconds (5 minutes)

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t get frustrated. Keep trying until you’re satisfied with your shot.

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 420 seconds (7 minutes)

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

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Don’t use an ND-Filter on a cloudless evening. You’ll end up with a blank sky and you’ll have missed out on potential star-trails due to the reduction in light-stops. Scroll down THIS POST to learn how to shoot star-trails.

Waterfalls are perfect ND-Filter territory. So much so that it is now a cliche to shoot a waterfall through an ND-Filter.

IMG_5208

Lake Natron, Tanzania

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 75 seconds

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Unfortunately, the above waterfall was shielded by towering rock-formations from the setting sun. So the image looks a tad dull. I used Lightroom to change the colour temperature in the following image.

IMG_5210

Lake Natron, Tanzania

EXIF Details:

Camera: Canon 500D

Lens: 18-55mm

Focal length: 18mm

Filter: ND-8

Shutter speed: 75 seconds

Aperture: f/22

ISO: 100

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Neutral Density. Remember the name.

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