Long Exposures – Using 9 or 10 stop ND Filters

The Neutral Density filter is a very handy filter to have in your camera bag. Although it doesn’t get used that often in our Travel Photography it certainly should be near the top of your list of “must-have” creative filters.

The GOBE ND512 has a 9-stop light reduction equal to an ND optical density of 2.7

The GOBE ND1000 has a 10-stop light reduction equal to an ND optical density of 3.0

So, what is an ND 2.7 & ND 3.0 Neutral Density Filter?

Both of these filters have the same purpose except the ND 2.7 reduces about 9 stops of light from reaching your sensor/film and the ND 3.0 reduces about 10 stops of light. To calculate the reduction of light of any Neutral Density Filter simply divide the number by 3 e.g. ND 2.7 / 3 is 9 stops. We essentially use these filters to create a smooth water effect in an image to give it mood and emotion although it also has other benefits.

In the middle of the day, you will sometimes find that the light levels when shooting are too bright to allow you to shoot at slow shutter speeds even when stopped down to the smallest aperture (usually F22) and the ISO is set to its lowest (usually 50 or 100). Although the shutter speed will be reduced dramatically it usually will not be enough to get the effect you want especially when shooting the following –

  • Waterfalls – where you want that dreamy blur look of the water cascading over the waterfall.
  • Seascapes – to create the misty look and soft flat look in seascape shots.
  • Clouds – for images that you want blurred/streaky clouds.
  • Reduce the visibility of moving objects  For example, removing people from shots in busy thoroughfares.

There are quite a few brands on the market but beware as you can get some weird effects with some brands and therefore we recommend that you stick with the well-known brands such as Hoya, B+W, Tiffen, Formatt-HiTech, Singh Ray, NiSi , *GOBE, and Lee. If you live in Australia you can buy NiSi filters here. We haven’t noticed any colour cast on images taken with the ND512 filter, however, the B+W ND110 does have a slight red colour cast but this is easily corrected in post-processing.

*Use the coupon code ‘widescenes’ to receive a further 15% off all GOBE products

The filters are also generally quite expensive so make sure that you keep it clean and scratch-free. Make sure you keep it in its original plastic container or in a soft filter holder. Also note that with the increased exposure time, every spec of dust on your sensor is amplified so you may need to do a bit of cleaning of the image in your post-processing.

The image above was taken in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. As soon as we saw this image we knew it would be a great shot using the Hoya ND400 filter (9 stop). We took several images as the water wasn’t always extending as far into the foreground as we wanted. In Photoshop we simply opened the images we wanted to use as layers and using masks we painted through the water in the foreground to give it more blur and making it a better image.

We have released a free E-book which includes a step-by-step guide to using these filters for long exposures and a handy printable pocket guide to using the filters.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

Like this post? You may also enjoy our Newsletter. You can receive new posts direct to your inbox by subscribing here.

Please Note: We may receive commissions when you click links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews or recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice.