Every Photographer Needs a Neutral Density Filter, Here's Why

Does every photographer really need a neutral density filter? Perhaps you asked yourself that very question when you first read the title of this article.

Not to say that you're doing anything wrong if you don't use such filters, or even that you're infinitely better off if you do. Really, this video from The Art of Photography is simply about maximizing your own capabilities with your camera. Within the realm of photography, the camera itself is simply the device that does the actual recording of light which then becomes an image. Outside of the recording device, whether that is digital or film, any subsequent tool you use to alter or adjust the image is something used purely out of choice. You choose which lens is used, you choose whether or not to use a tripod, you choose what camera settings to use.

Not unlike using a tripod, where you give yourself the ability to stabilize your camera for longer shutter speeds and better control over compositional alignment, a neutral density filter expands the range of camera settings that can be used. Typically, this is put to action in conjunction with the use of a tripod, but doesn't always have to be so. In this video Ted Forbes talks about several types of neutral density filters that can be used in addition to describing several highly effective ways to put them to use. Personally, I love the expanded control I gain over camera settings which in turn allows me to have more artistic control over how the final image looks straight out of the camera. If you've ever wondered how effective neutral density filters can be for either photography, or video, or both then this is a video meant just for you. If you have any other questions or comments about the use of neutral density filters, make sure to comment below and let us know.

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7 Comments

Well, he doesn't really go into much detail about use cases but there is some useful, if basic, information there.

Lars Daniel Terkelsen's picture

No, they donĀ“t.

David Penner's picture

You can get away without using one but it's a pain in the ass. Basically you take a bunch of photos one after another, bring it into Photoshop and stack them. There are actually some advantages to doing it too. One is less noise. Another is less chance of a color cast.

I've never fully understood the technical side of why cameras cannot do this very task on their own. Couldn't the readout of the sensor "flicker" on a sub-second timescale to have the same effect? A simulated ND mode would be a pretty cool feature on new cameras.

Olympus has some features like this, but the results are sometimes iffy. Not a fan of it myself.

David Penner's picture

My phone sorta does that and it tries to protect the highlights

Sam Hood's picture

Nearly 10 mins to tell us that you can capture the movement of water and clouds, plus videographers use them (even though his video is aimed at 'photographers')... oh and all of the marketing for his friend's filter company, which this video is really about.