One of the most important filters you can buy for your camera is called a Neutral-Density filter or ND for short. The purpose of an ND filter is it allows you to shoot long exposures during daytime.
Why would you want to shoot a long exposure during the day? Well, long exposure during the day is how you make an image of say a waterfall look really cool, because you can make the water look as smooth as silk. You can also make clouds look “stretchy” in the sky, which can really make for beautiful images. This image was shot at Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville, Ga using my ND filter kit and my Canon EOS 6D with my EF 50mm F/1.4 USM lens.
How does an ND filter work? Well, can ND filter contains darkened glass, which reduces the amount of light getting into your camera. I personally have a Tiffen variable ND filter that can reduce the light into my camera by 2-10 stops. This is a significant amount of light blocking capability, and as a result, I can shoot long exposures in brighter light.
ND filters come in dandy when you want to shoot sunrise and sunset shots as well because sometimes during those parts of the day, the light in the sky can be too bright. Now I am sure you are thinking, “Why wouldn’t I just use my lenses narrowest aperture setting like F/20 or F/32, etc?” Well, you can somewhat accomplish this using aperture, but what if the light is too bright and you want a shallow depth of field, then an ND filter becomes very handy to have. This next image I shot with a screw on variable ND filter with my EOS 5D Classic and my EF 50mm F/1.4 USM lens along the river in Savannah, Ga.
In addition to making a waterfall look silky, you can also use an ND filter to shoot say a lake, because with a body of water like this, you can make water that is rippling look smooth as glass by shooting with an ND filter and long exposure.
When buying an ND filter, don’t go on the super cheap side as those ND filters are usually of cheap construction an they can also cause color casting, etc. On the other hand, you don’t need to buy a $300 ND filter either. I personally bought my Tiffen on Amazon and it was around $90, and I have been very happy with it. If you want to experiment with a new style of photography, get an ND filter and then get out there and have some fun!