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Brian Liepe: Neutral density filters, commonly referred to as NDs, are just another set of tools you can use to adjust your exposure. They are usually used when shooting outdoors. If it's just too bright to open up your aperture for shallow depth of field, place an ND filter in front of your lens either by threading one on or by using a matte box that can holds neutral density filters. Just as a side note, different lenses have different filter diameters or sizes, so you can buy a filter that matches your lens.
Some lenses have a symbol called a ligature that indicates the diameter of your filter size. The density or the amount of light NDs filter out are usually fixed to one stop increments. So if you're shooting on set and you have too much light, you put an ND in front of your lens and it's not quite the amount of reduction you need, you've got to go grab another one or just adjust your camera settings, which you may not want to do. So if you're wasting time by swapping out different NDs, you can use something called a variable ND. These are so cool and super valuable.
Variable NDs are great for DSLRs because they allow you to adjust your exposure without changing your aperture or your shutter speed or your ISO. You have the ability to change your exposure without fixed increments. You can just spin the ring and easily achieve the amount of exposure you need. You can see here that the exposure changes and nothing else does, my aperture, my shallow depth of field all remain the same by me just spinning that ring.
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