I would like to take long exposure shots in the day, but I just can't imagine how to do it because even fireworks (night shot) exposed for more than five seconds are too bright.

I did some research, and I guess it's because I have no filter. What do you recommend to me for night and for day for long exposure shots?


You're looking for ND (as in Neutral Density) filter. They're usually marked as ND2, ND4, ND8, ..., each step indicating 1-stop change in your exposure settings. For example if you were shooting at f/2,8, 1/100, ISO100 then adding ND2 filter will give you options to shoot either at f/2,0, 1/100, ISO100 or f/2,8, 1/50, ISO100.

Most of recognized filter manufacturers have ND filters in their lineup, including Hoya, B+W, Singh Ray, Lee, Cokin.

Should you already own a polarizing filter you might use it to get rid of 1-2 steps of light or even combine it with the second polarizer to create a variable density ND filter.

  • +1: for referencing that article. Random story: I posted a comment on that blog post on Feb 29th, 2008.
    – Alan
    Aug 18 '10 at 21:05
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    A word of caution - in theory you should be able to combine ND filters to get even longer exposures, but when you do this with Cokin filters the photos take on a pink cast. I've no idea why this is, but it is a common problem, so if you've not already bought into the Cokin system I'd go for Lee instead.
    – NickM
    Aug 19 '10 at 10:48

In addition to the ND filters Karel mentions, a circular polarizer will also reduce the light by 2 stops and, as an added bonus, cut down certain types of glare and reflection from things like glass, water, and other bright surfaces.

  • +1 Useful additional tip that might not require any extra purchases (I tend to use CPLs as lens protectors, as they're so useful outdoors anyway) Aug 18 '10 at 15:47
  • Interesting choice, though there are times I'd prefer not to have the light loss, but I can see the benefit for certain types of outdoor photography. Mind you, I use the Cokin system, so my lenses aren't normally filtered until I need it anyways.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 18 '10 at 15:57
  • I've read that you can use two (Non circular IIRC) Polarizers stacked on top of each other to create a variable ND filter. As you might be aware, two polarizering filters that are set to filter light perpendicular to each other will completely block light (try it with a couple of sunglasses!). I thought this was a unique solution. The obvious downsides are needing two non-cpls, vignetting, and possible ghosting.
    – Alan
    Aug 18 '10 at 17:24
  • I've heard of that technique as well, which I always thought was interesting though I've never tried it since I actually only have one linear polarizer. I would think the other downside would probably be effect on autofocus, linear polarizers can mess that up.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 18 '10 at 17:42
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    @Alan @John - only one linear polariser, the one in the front. CPLs are just linear polarisers with a quarter-wave plate on the back. Typically, though, this setup takes you pretty far from "neutral" in terms of colour.
    – ex-ms
    Aug 18 '10 at 18:41

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