Variable Neutral Density Filters (Part 2)

Neutral Density Filters

Variable Neutral Density Filters
(Part 2)

Variable ND filters are best known for helping you do long exposures and selective focus in bright lighting conditions. Did you know they can also improve your portrait photography? In this video, I explain how to use this filter while taking portraits using flash.

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Did you catch part one of this video, where I introduced the variable neutral density filter and explained how it can be used to do long exposures and selective focus in bright light?

Video Transcript

Most people think that a variable neutral density filter is only useful outside for things like landscape and nature photography. Did you know that you can use this filter with portrait photography too?

Hi, I’m Julie from Ultimate Photo Tips, and today I’m back with a follow-up video to my introduction to the variable ND filter. I want to share a lesser-known use for this filter with you, and that is for portrait photography.

In portrait photography, you often want to darken the background to make the subject stands out. The easiest ways to do that are to either stop down the aperture or to increase the shutter speed. However stopping down the aperture will increase the depth of field – something you often don’t want in a portrait. And increasing the shutter speed could lead to problems if your shutter speed gets faster than your flash sync speed. In that case your flash has to work harder, and will be outputting less light. That’s where our variable neutral density filter comes in! By cutting down the light coming in through the lens, you need less lighting power, and don’t need to stop down your aperture as much, to achieve a well-exposed subject relative to a more under-exposed background.

To get your shot, work out the aperture you want to get the right depth of field for a soft background, and then use your variable ND filter to reduce the light until your shutter speed is at your optimal sync speed. Finally, work on polishing your flash lighting to correctly to expose your subject.

Variable Neutral Density filter
Check out
variable neutral density filters
at B&H

There you have it! Another bit of gear for your shopping list! For more great photo tips that won’t cost you anything, come on over to, and make sure to sign up for my newsletter while you’re there. That’s where I share ideas and inspiration that I don’t share anywhere else.

Happy shooting, and I’ll see you next time!



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