Neutral Density Filter Tutorial

Neutral Density Filter Tutorial

When I started with photography, I got handed an ND filter and I was pretty much not impressed at all. 🙂 I was told it would make my pictures darker… awesome… I had a 1000D at the time with a top Iso of 1600 that looked terrible. So my question was: Why would anybody want to let less light in the camera? That is the question I want to answer in this post. So here is my neutral density filter tutorial.

let’s go. 😀

What is an ND Filter?

An ND filter (Neutral Density Filter) is actually very simple. Its purpose is to let less light onto your camera sensor for a slower shutter speed, while not changing the colors! There are also graduated ND filters but for now, let’s focus on the normal ones. When you want to buy a Nd filter you will see that they are divided into different densities. Like ND2x, ND4x, ND8x and so on. Sadly the numbers on them don’t describe the F stops. That would have been too easy. I could now brag about what these numbers mean but instead of that, I made an easy and understandable list.

ND Filter Type f-stop Reduction
ND2x 1
ND4x 2
ND8x 3
ND16x 4
ND32x 5
ND64x 6
ND128x 7
ND256x 8

I hope that was easy to understand. 🙂

Now your question might be, WHY would I want that. There are three reasons, why you would want to use one.

What is an ND Filter for?

1. You want to shoot long exposure at daylight or at sunset. Often when you do that you wouldn’t get a very long exposure. Because either it’s daytime or because you aim your camera directly at the sunset, which is made out of light and sun. 😀 So what you do is put an ND filter on top of your lens and eh voila your camera gives you more time. Neutral Density Filter Tutorial


2. You are in a location with a lot of light (like snow or a salt lake). Snow and any other bright surface reflect light, a lot of light is actually awesome for pictures right? But imagen you walk through the snow (or salt lake) and all the light reflects back, the situation is just super bright your shutter is already at 1/4000 your aperture is at f/22. It’s a nightmare your bokeh doesn’t exist anymore and the portrait you wanted to shoot is now a flat overexposed piece of trash… No, but seriously you can use your nd filter like a sunglass for your camera, so you still can shoot some beautiful pictures.

Neutral Density Filter Tutorial

3. You want to shoot with flash… so why the f… would I use an ND filter? Very simple. Imagen you want to shoot in a skating park at noon. So you want to overpower the boring noon sun. Now you have a lot of light, but you could just crank the aperture up to f/19 and done. Your picture is perfectly exposed… But you would have lost the depth of field. As a good upcoming photographer, you would like to have at least some bokeh to separate your subject from the background.

what is an nd filter

Which ND Filter to Use?

That is a good question. And there is no right answer to it. 🙂 It always comes down to the situation and what you like. But at least I want to give you something like a rule of thumb. To get a little bit of a clue.


An ND8x wouldn’t dark your image a lot. It won’t give you the extremely long exposure times, but it is usually enough to turn the shutter speed down to 1/3. slow enough to get this motion effect in the water. Which by the way looks awesome.

what is an nd filter


Neutral Density Filter Tutorial

An ND64x filter will give you a shutter speed of about 15 sec. in a normal light situation.

Little End Tipp.

If you now want to buy one there are two things to look for:

  1. Don’t buy a cheap one. I usually always try to go with the cheapest version 😛 but the cheap ND filter often has different shades of grey (not 50) on them so your picture will never look even. If I would be you I would at least through 60€ on the table.

  2. There also variable ND filters. In my opinion, a variable is never as good as a fix one. But for a start, they are good enough. Just keep in mind that when you turn them to maximum, they will start to become uneven too.

    Neutral Density Filter Tutorial
    This is what I mean with uneven. pretty unpleasant isn’t it.


Keep two things in mind. The first one is that these examples are very wage because your shutter speed really depends on how much light you have available. The second one is, there is no right or wrong there is only what you want your picture to look like. 🙂  However, if I would be you I would just get an ND filter right now, and start experimenting. I told you all the technical stuff you need to know about it, but the best way to get great results is to practice. 🙂

That’s already it I hope you liked my Neutral Density Filter Tutorial and there was something new to learn for you in this post, and if you have any kind of questions or opinions please let me know in the comments and I will get to you as fast as I can.

Till then have an AMAZING day.

Cheers Aaron.

8 thoughts on “Neutral Density Filter Tutorial

  1. Babacar

    Hi Aaron,
    I just wish I run into this post long time before I had my camera and took so many pictures without knowing all of this.
    Thank you very much for putting so many lights in my brain so I can fully utilize my camera now. A post I will surely share with my friends
    Great article

    1. Aaron

      Hi Babacar, Thank you for the great feedback. 🙂 I’m always happy to help if you have a question. Feel free to look around and share. 🙂

  2. Melissa

    You have some very helpful tips on photography. My daughter is into photography. I think she would really enjoy this site. I will be letting her know about it.
    Unfortunately my ability to take pictures is not so great. But looking through your site gave me some great ideas of what I was doing wrong and how to fix them. Thank you

    1. Aaron

      Hi Melissa, thank you for the great feedback. 🙂 

  3. Jack Taylor

    I just recently got into digital photography and wish I came across your site when I first got started. I saved your website to my favorites for future reference. I still have a lot to learn but it sure is a great hobby. Especially with todays digital technology. Thank you for your Neutral Density Filter Tutorial.


    1. Aaron

      Hi Jack, thank you for the great feedback and feel free to look around on my site.

  4. Andrew Bromley

    I can understand getting the right light for taking pictures, but i have never heard of the Neutral Density filter before. The pictures that you have taken using it look really sharp, obviously living up to it’s credibility. Are they readily available to buy in photography shops or do they have to be ordered specially ?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Andrew, thanks for the good feedback 🙂 If I would be you I would have a look at amazon because you will pay twice as much when you go to a store. and yes they are available in all kinds of shapes and densities.

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