Neutral density (ND) filters play an important role for filmmakers and photographers because they allow you to precisely control the amount of light passing through the lens for greater creative control over your exposure. We've got them for your Phone, Camera, or Drone. Read our review of Moment's Variable VD filter to decide which stop if best for you.
Learn more about ND Filters
Filters are an essential part of gear for any creator. They will be present in the camera bag for almost every creator. While there are different filters available in the market, ND Filters are one of the essential ones out there - which are helpful in photography and filmmaking.
Whether you are into landscape photography or commercial filmmaking, ND Filters must control the ambient light. There's quite a lot to learn about the light transmission of the visible light through these filers. And we will make sure to cover everything you need to know about ND Filters here - before you make a final purchase decision.
What is a Neutral Density Filter?
A neutral density filter - is a filter that will allow you to control the amount of light that reaches your camera's sensor. An ND filter would basically act as sunglasses for bright light scenarios, meaning that the light entering the digital camera will be lower than what you would see in real life. It prevents too much light from entering the camera - which would give you great control over a scene.
It is important to note that while the sunglasses are tinted, a neutral density filter isn't. As the name suggests, they are neutral - and hence there will be no change in the color of the scene. Having no change in color while still controlling the light according to your will can help you achieve unique shots.
It is also essential to note that the filter stops will decide the amount of light that passes through. With a higher number of stops, you can achieve more light reduction - which is helpful in brighter light environments.
Why should you use Neutral Density Filters?
There are two main ways to control light in the camera settings - and having one extremely higher or lower - can affect the overall image quality. However, with the neutral density filters, we can control these settings easily, and a great combination - according to our needs - can be achieved. This is why most photographers and videographers use these filters. Let's learn about the uses a little more in detail so that you can decide if they are the right choice for your needs or not.
Shoot with slower shutter speed
The first - and - probably the easiest way of controlling light is by using the shutter speed. Having higher or lower shutter speeds won't allow you to achieve the correct exposure. Also, the effects of motion blur can't be created on a sunny day - as you will need to have a higher shutter speed to keep the exposure under control. Under these circumstances, an ND Filter would come in clutch!
One can reduce the light coming to the sensor with the help of these filters. As the overall light reaching the sensor is reduced, you can now have a slower shutter speed - that will allow you to have the motion blur effect for long exposure photography. This effect would look great with landscape photography - especially those containing motion blur of the water movement. It will create a smooth image - instead of having visible water ripples.
For the videos, it is usually recommended to shoot with a 180-degree shutter rule. However, when you are out at a beach on a bright day, it gets challenging to follow this rule. This is exactly when an ND Filter would come in clutch. The filter will allow you to achieve light reduction, which would indeed allow you to have a slower shutter speed and longer exposure.
Shoot with wide-open apertures to have a shallow depth of field
The second easiest way of controlling light is by adjusting the aperture of the lens. However, when you adjust the aperture to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor, you also lose out on the shallow depth of field of the shot. This would mean that a lot more things would be in focus instead of just the main subject in the whole image.
But - when you use an ND filter in such a situation, you can continue to have the shallower depth of field by shooting at wide-open apertures while having the shot's exposure under control. As we are already reducing the light by using an ND filter, we don't need to reduce it further by closing the aperture blades of the lens.
Also, an ND filter that can control higher stops of light would allow you to have the lowest ISO along with the slower shutter and wider aperture - meaning overall greater image quality. The usability of the ND filters is too high compared to other filters - as light plays an essential role in making or breaking the shot - and this filter can control it.
Types of Neutral Density Filters - and their uses
There are three main types of ND filters available in the market - and each one of them serves a different purpose. While the basic purpose of the filter remains to be exposure compensation, they all have different ways of usability. So, let's learn a little more about these types and their uses.
Fixed ND Filters
The first - and the most basic ND filter type - is a Fixed ND filter. You need to screw in this filter to the front element of your lens - and it will just start working. The number of stops that such a filter can reduce is fixed. So, you won't have granular controls of the light with such a filter. However, they can work great with a setup that has a fixed lighting setup.
When these filters are used in a fixed lighting setup, you can save some time that you would typically spend to get the exact lighting conditions. Also, as the optical density of such filters is fixed, you can keep it attached to your lens - if it's a setup where the camera and lighting setup doesn't move. However, if you want something more flexible, you will need to look at the next type.
Variable ND Filters
This is a step up over the fixed neutral density filters - and is one of the most widely used NDs in the market. With a variable ND filter, you can change the amount of light entering the sensor - depending on the setup you are currently in.
If you are in a setup with extremely bright conditions, you can choose to increase the number of stops that the filter is cutting out. However, if you are in an environment with low light conditions, you can decrease the number of stops cut down by the filter. This flexibility of range with a variable ND filter can help you achieve a perfect exposure time.
However, with the variable neutral density filters, it might take a little more time to set it up and achieve the best results, especially when the external light keeps changing. While it takes a few trials to get started with a variable ND for the first time, you will be able to do it faster once you get used to it. Also, it is worth investing in a variable ND as you can use it in different conditions.
Graduated ND Filters
A graduated neutral density filter is basically like a Fixed ND Filter. However, the filter effect of such a filter gradually increases from one side to the other. This allows us to reduce light on a specific part of the image while not reducing it for the other part.
Graduated ND Filters are quite popular with landscape photographers who want to capture those perfect blue skies without under-exposing the entire scene. The skies in the background can be perfectly exposed while also having a great foreground exposure - with the help of these graduated ND Filters.
Such effects can still likely be reproduced in post-processing - but the image quality can take a hit as we will need to under-expose or over-expose the shot while capturing it. This is why it is easier to screw in an ND Filter to get this job done - than to work harder with the post-processing tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
When making your first purchase of an ND Filter, it is excellent to have questions to justify its worth. As a creator, we totally understand those questions. Hence, we have prepared a list of answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the ND Filters. Hopefully, you can find the answer to your questions right here.
What does an ND Filter do?
An ND Filter basically reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor to keep the shutter and wider aperture open for a longer time. Such settings will help one achieve unique shots - for photos as well as videos.
How do I know which ND Filter to use?
If you are looking forward to shooting in standard daylight conditions - with some clouds or under any shade, then a 2-5 stop variable neutral density filter would be good to go. However, if you want to shoot on a beach with a prolonged shutter speed and have a wider aperture value like f/1.4, then you should highly consider getting a 6-9 stop variable ND filter.
If you want to shoot typical landscape shots with blue skies, you should get away with a Graduated ND Filter. And if you have a fixed environment to shoot, then a fixed ND filter will also get the job done.
Is ND Filter necessary?
The answer to this totally depends on what you are shooting.
If you are shooting indoors and mainly shoot product shots, you can get away using diffusers and softboxes on top of the light. However, if you are in an environment where you cannot control the light source, it is highly recommended to get the ND Filter. And well, under such circumstances, it would rather even become necessary to have one to create perfect shots.
Can I use a variable neutral density filter instead of the graduated neutral density filter?
Unfortunately, you cannot do that - especially if you want to achieve the same effect on both filters.
While both of them are ND Filters, both are used to serve a different purpose. A Variable ND filter is used to get granular control of the light on the entire image, while the Graduated ND filter is used to get the control on light on just some parts of the image.
I want to achieve extreme motion blur effects with long exposure photography. Which ND filter would you recommend?
An ND filter - with the filter factor number ranging from ND64 to ND512 - would be great for such scenarios where we need to get the highest shutter speed possible to have those motion blur effects with long exposure photography. This would certainly mean a filter with 6-9 stops of light reduction.
Is stacking filters a possibility with the Moment's Variable ND Filters?
Yes, it is possible to stack other filters with Moment's Variable ND Filters. However, there are a few limitations.
If you want to stack other filters with a Moment VND filter, then the Moment VND will need to be on the top of the stack. This would mean that the VND filter would be further away from the lens - which means that you might be able to see some clipping with a wide lens. Also, note that the VND Filters won't work with CPL Filters.
Do you have any square filters?
Currently, the answer here is - No. We don't have any square ND filters in our store yet. But if the demand rises, we will see what can be done about this.
Is a variable ND Filter better than a fixed ND filter?
Not only is the variable ND filter better than a fixed ND filter - but it is also way more worth investing into. When you get a fixed ND filter, you can only use it for specific scenarios, while with the variable ND, you can use it under different situations.
What thread sizes do you carry for the ND Filters?
There are five filter sizes - 37mm, 62mm, 67mm, 77mm, and 82mm - available in our store for the ND Filters. 67mm is our most popular size for the Moment VND Filters as it can also be used with our phone lenses - and can help you achieve dreamy shots on the phone.
What brands do you carry?
We carry Hoya alongside our very own Moment VND Filters. We have a wide collection in our store. So, if you need any ND Filters from these brands - including ours, we got you covered.
It doesn't matter if you are a photographer or a videographer. Controlling the shutter speed and aperture in the manual settings is a part of the daily routine for almost every creator - which is why ND Filters are significant pieces of equipment. Every creator dials these settings - and to achieve the perfect settings and perfect results, ND Filter is required.
We have tried to answer all your questions about the ND Filters here - which would help you make an informed decision. However, if you still have any questions about them, you can feel free to reach out to one of our Gear Guides. They will always be happy and ready to assist you in making a purchase decision. Also, based on your needs, they will suggest you the best ND Filter!