For in-camera effects, such as softening water or leaving streaks in clouds, there is no better filter to use than a Neutral Density (ND) filter. ND filters are invaluable for capturing more creative in-camera effects, particularly for landscape photographers. They are especially useful for preserving the color of images while controlling exposure in bright light conditions. A filter prevents too much light from reaching the camera sensor, allowing photographers to shoot with a wider aperture for longer periods of time. By using filters, you can set the aperture at a long distance to achieve a shallow depth of field for sharper images.
As in-focus images become sharper, backgrounds become more blurred. ND filters block out all light reaching your camera, enabling you to get long shutter speeds even in bright sunlight. For example, if you're shooting waves during the day, using an ND filter will allow you to get soft and pleasant waves just like you would at night. This informative video from ZY Productions discusses the pros and cons of fixed and variable ND (neutral density) filters. ND filters work to reduce the amount of light entering the lens and are very useful for both photographers and videographers.
For still images, they can be used to achieve a higher shutter speed, allowing you to employ creative effects, such as prolonged exposures of running water. They can also be used for shooting outdoors with wider apertures when using a flash that doesn't have high-speed sync. For video recorders, you can use an ND filter to set the correct shutter speed for a given frame rate, allowing you to follow the 180-degree shutter rule. While fixed ND filters cut off light at a constant amount, the power of a variable ND filter can be adjusted, but that convenience is not without its drawbacks. Check out the video above to help you decide which one is right for you.
Fixed ND filters are preferred when photographing subjects with stable and unalterable light, such as in a studio, or in relaxed shooting conditions, where you can take your time to change filters if necessary. There are all-in-one filter kits that you can purchase with the ND filter set to manage morning, golden hour, and evening shots. There are a large number of filters available on the market and there is no doubt that it is a significant investment if you want to get the best quality filters. It can be quite confusing to know what type of neutral density filter to buy if you haven't done much research yet; there are a large number of brands, systems, configurations, and even types of filters. The choice of a fixed ND filter or a variable ND filter depends on the type of images you capture and what best suits your shooting style. When it comes to choosing ND filters, you have different options at your disposal, including fixed ND filters and variable ND filters.
When working in a studio, it's quite easy to have several fixed ND filters on hand, so you may not need the more expensive variable filters. Neutral density filters that are best for the morning, after sunrise, and somewhere around noon when the sun is at its brightest are the darkest tinted filters of higher densities. You'll also find that this system is more flexible in use as you can rotate the filter holder and slide the filters up and down in their slots to better align them with the specific scene you're shooting. Neutral density filters as well as graduated neutral density filters are therefore very useful for all-day photography. The main advantage of using a square filter system is that it contains several slots where filters can be placed. Many creators prefer ND filters for this reason as manual filter swapping offers more precise control during shooting.
One thing to be careful with when using variable ND filters is that when you push the filter beyond its maximum setting an X mark appears on the image. I used these filters for a while before realizing that I needed a darker filter that could allow for an even slower shutter speed. It took me about a year to switch to a square filter system as I wanted to use graduated neutral density filters as well. By rotating the front element of a variable ND filter you can change the amount of light that is blocked without needing to stack or change filters. Neutral density filters are therefore very useful for all-day photography. Whether you choose fixed or variable ND filters depends on your type of photography and shooting style.
Fixed ND filters are preferred when photographing subjects with stable and unalterable light such as in a studio or in relaxed shooting conditions where you can take your time to change filters if necessary. There are all-in-one filter kits that you can purchase with the ND filter set to manage morning golden hour and evening shots. It's important to do your research before investing in any type of neutral density filter as there are many brands systems configurations and types available on the market.