A drone is an awesome gadget, or it can be used to shoot professional photos and videos. In this blogpost, I want to zoom into what ND Filters are, how to use ND filters and how they can improve the overall image quality when used in bright light.
Bright light, flares and reflections
When filming with your drone, it’s a given that you need to take into account too much light. You are up in the air and (white) building, water, .. will all reflect light into the camera. Especially the horizon/sky can cause too much light going in the lens, which removes details in those areas. This can result in flares and overexposed pictures and videos – something you absolutely want to avoid!
The solution is the use of an ND filter or PL filter so that we decrease the shutter speed.
What is an ND filter?
ND stands for ‘Neutral Density’ and it is a type filter that it put of the lens. The ND filter will block some of the light that comes into the camera lens so that overexposure is avoided. In general, ND filters are used by professional (drone) photographers.
Next to an ND filter, there is also the PL filter: this is a Polarising filter. It is utilised to balance the light in a picture or movie. Mostly glare is taken away with a PL filter.
When do I use which ND filter?
Depending on the situation and the day, you can use a different ND filter. The more light you want to block, the higher the filter number will be.
|Type of filter||Usage conditions|
|PL filter||Shutter speed should not be reduced, but when glare should be reduced/removed.|
|ND4 filter||During the golden hours: morning (sunrise) and evening (sunset).|
|ND8 filter||No direct sunlight, but a bright cloudy day.|
|ND16 filter||A regular bright day with no clouds.|
|ND32 filter||At noon, when the sun is at its highest point and no clouds.|
|ND64 filter||Barely used. Very bright day or very strong reflections (water).|
In general, if you buy a ND4, ND8 and ND16 filter, you have equipped for almost any condition. The ND32 and ND64 filters are much less used, unless you live in a very bright country or shooting in conditions with a lot of light reflections (water reflections, white snow in the mountains).
How to install ND filers
Installing filters on your drone may sound like a simple task, there are some elements to keep in mind.
When installing an ND filter on your drone lens, hold the gimble as too much wiggling and pressure is not good for the gimble. Another tip is to use a cloth or rubber gloves to remove the filter easily.
ND Filter brands
Popular ND filter brands for drones such as the DJI Mavic Air include:
- Sunnylife ND filter
- PolarPro ND filter
- Cinema series: best quality
- Standard series: affordable
So if you ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need an ND filter (set)?
- What are the best ND filters?
- Is there a different with and without ND filter?
An ND filter is an addition/accessory to/for your photography kit. You use an ND filter in conditions where there is (too) much light so that you avoid overexposure and unwanted reflections.
Depending on the brand and the quality of the filter you chose, ND filters are mostly affordable and can greatly increase the quality of your video footage.