We continue our Mastering Filters series today with an in-depth discussion of 5-stop solid ND filters. As a whole, ND filters allow you to control the exposure, thus increasing the length of time you can leave the shutter open, even during daytime shooting. The results of using a 5-stop solid ND filter can be quite breathtaking, as I think you’ll agree by looking at the featured image above!
Creating breathtaking images like that with a 5-stop ND filter is a lot easier than it might seem. Let’s explore a little bit more about 5-stop ND filters and see just what sort of benefits they provide you as you explore the world of long exposure photography.
Wide Range of Subject Matter
There’s no shortage of subject matter to photograph with a 5-stop solid ND filter. With one of these filters, you can photograph streams, waterfalls, and rivers such that they have smooth, milky water as seen above. You can also lengthen light trails on passing cars as seen above, such that their headlights and taillights stream across the width of the frame.
For more advanced subject matter, you can use a 5-stop solid ND to enhance camera movements like panning and swiping - the filter allows you to extend the shutter time, thus enhancing these effects. Additionally, a 5-stop filter is ideal for shooting in low-light conditions, such as at dusk - the filter extends the shutter speed to 15 seconds, allowing you to create highly dramatic movement effects.
What’s more, you can photograph these subjects at a wider aperture, thus minimizing diffraction on your long exposures. Additionally, with a wider aperture, you can enhance bokeh and soften backgrounds that might otherwise distract the viewer’s eye. Better still, pair your 5-stop ND filter with strobes or other light sources to get even better lighting effects on your subjects both indoors and out.
Timing is Everything
Of course, photographing the subjects listed above requires a certain amount of time to get the effects just right. When you use a high-quality solid ND filter, you can shoot in all sorts of lighting conditions using varied times because it’s 1.5 density darkens the whole image, giving you access to slower shutter speeds than normal.
For example, in bright light, a 5-stop filter can turn a 1/250 second exposure into a 1/8 second exposure, thus allowing you to get dreamy long exposures even in the daytime. In low light situations, such as under overcast skies, a 1/2 second exposure becomes a whopping 16 second exposure with a 5-stop solid ND. Just think of the photography possibilities with that kind of filtering power!
What’s more, you can pair your 5-stop solid ND with a variable ND filter for even more possibilities for effects. By adding a variable ND, you can more easily eliminate reflections from the scene, such as the sun reflecting off the water, while increasing the density up to 13 stops. You could also choose to go with a combination of a 5-stop solid ND filter plus a Duo polarizer for 13 stops of filtering power.
Build Quality is Important
Just like any photography gear you buy, it’s critical that you pay attention to the build quality of the filters you purchase. Many photographers mistakenly believe that one filter is just as good as the next, but this could not be further from the truth. As with camera lenses, with filters, you definitely get what you pay for.
If you want the best results, look for a filter like the Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 5-Stop Solid ND. These filters are made from high-quality, polished glass that get you clear, sharp images that maintain neutral color fidelity. Singh-Ray’s filters are known for being well-built so they stand up to the uses and abuses of everyday photography adventures. What’s more, you want to find a filter manufacturer that offers multiple sizes to fit a variety of lenses. Singh-Ray ticks that box as well, offering 25 different variations of their 5-stop solid ND filter, from circular filters to square, thin rings to standard rings, and a range of sizes from 49mm to 105mm circular filters and 84x84mm to 150mm x 150mm square filters. Custom sizes are available as well.
So, as we’ve detailed here, the possibilities for expanding your photography are virtually endless with a 5-stop filter. From indoor portraits with artificial lighting to long exposures in the city of passing vehicles to smooth, milky waterfalls in the forest, the 5-stop solid ND filter can go anywhere you’d like and help you get images with unparalleled sharpness and clarity. Just be sure when you select a filter that you choose a brand, like Singh-Ray, that’s got a reputation for building a quality product.