Check Which ND Filter You Want: Fixed ND or Variable ND?

ND Filter
Image by skeeze

Ok, so it's not one of the great debates of the photographic world, but the humble ND filter (or neutral density filter) has been an important part of the photographer’s kit bag for a very long time.

Variable NDs are the new kids on block, and are a relatively divisive subject, and as is often the case – the pros and cons divide up into quality v convenience.

Consider this: sometimes having a good grasp of sunset photography can provide you with a decent preparation outline for taking ND filters out into the field. That's where we have a great course on offer – Amazing Sunset Photography – for you, including modules such as “Long Exposure Technique”.

With neutral density filters becoming ever more popular its time to look at not only what an ND does but also which is most suitable to you.

What Is An ND Filter?

Many of you will know this but to newcomers to photography, an ND is a piece of dark glass or acrylic that we put in front of our lenses to reduce the exposure.

There may be many reasons for doing this, allowing a wider aperture in bright light, slowing down shutter speed so that a flash will sync or most commonly slowing down shutter speeds to blur motion such as a waterfall.

Neutral Density filters are also used in video making where it is important to keep the shutter speed low.

Traditionally these filters reduce exposure by fixed amounts,

  • 1 stop,
  • 2 stops, and
  • 3 stops.

Beyond that, the ultra ND filters reduced exposure by 6 stops and 10 stops. More recently we have seen the arrival of the variable ND filter. These are effectively two polarising filters sandwiched together and work like using a single polarizer. By turning the front element, you decrease or increase the amount of light passing through and hence have more control over the amount of light you wish to decrease.

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Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here

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