July 20, 2011 /

Technical Tuesday | Neutral Density & Polarizing Filters

Technical Tuesday talking about filters, neutral density and polarizing filters.

I was thinking about writing another blog post about time lapse photography because I had a great experience over the weekend filming at the National Black Arts Festival and got a couple of cool sequences that I put together into a full movie. Here is the link to the video on Vimeo if you want to view it early , full blog post coming later. Also with my great Summer adventure to Big Sur coming up in a little under a month, I will have time-lapse on the brain as I film non-stop for a few days.

Sope Creek - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Here is another quick tip for Technical Tuesday for the new photographer: have fun with filters! Shooting weddings, it’s not really a place where you use filters on your lenses. The situations are hectic with all of the events and the focus is on the bride, the groom, and the light. How about when you are just out with the family exploring nature and you have a bit of time to experiment and move a little slower? Have you ever tried a Neutral Density Filter or a Circular Polarizer?

Sope Creek - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Betty, Miles and I headed over to check out Sope Creek to see if it was a good location for a portrait session. While we ultimately concluded that it is indeed awesome but the 10-15 minute hike might be a bit much, we had fun hanging out by the water while I experimented with some filters I brought along. A neutral density or polarizer are the only two types of filters I really recommend, everything else you can achieve in Photoshop. I threw these filters onto my Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens to get a wide angle shot of the landscape and use the filters to extend my shots down at the creek.

Sope Creek - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

A neutral density filter will cut down the light entering the lens, allowing you to shoot at a slower shutter speed even during the day time. Now you will only want to do this if you are on a tripod, shooting images like water flowing or car moving so that you are able to show a motion blur like in the above image. For a wedding when you are hand holding the camera that will mean a blurry shot, so a tripod is a must if the shutter drops lower than you can reasonably hand hold the camera and lens. It’s also fun to play with something like a Polarizing filter which will cut down the reflections in glass or water. The photo above was an HDR image from 3 photos with both a neutral density and circular polarizer on the lens at the same time.

Sope Creek - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

This is another long exposure image that was captured only with the help of filters. It was about 5pm but here in Atlanta, that still means full sun, so even at f/22 at ISO 100 my shutter speed needed to be higher than I wanted to give the water a nice motion blur. After adding the two filters I was able to go down to 1/4 of a second and get some nice blur from the quick moving water.

Sope Creek - Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

That’s it for today, don’t just shoot one type of photography, have fun experimenting with everything! Besides wedding photography I shoot time-lapse, but I still have fun experimenting with landscape photography when I’m not photographing people. The things you learn from each aspect of photography can easily overlap into the other, nature and fine art composition techniques can easily translate to placing your bride and groom. Conversely, seeing the light on your portrait subjects will help you see the light in the natural world around you. Have fun, photography is meant to be fun!

Zachary Long is a wedding photographer in Atlanta who shoots various other side projects including time lapse photography and nature photography in his spare time. View our wedding photography portfolio at

Add Your Comment