ND filters for Portraits

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by niraj_kedar|1, May 18, 2016.

  1. Hi Folks,

    I am a wedding/portrait photographer and planning to buy a circular 77mm ND filter. Either a 3 or 4 stop would suffice for my work/type of use.

    My most important concerns are:

    1. Loss or sharpness

    2. Strong color shifts/casts (though i feel with 3-4 stops this may not be so bad)

    I have been reading about it for some days now and these are the options I think are suitable in a decent price range < 150$ US

    1. B+W (77MM ND 0.9-8X SC (103) - 3 stops)

    2. Tiffen (Solid Neutral Density 1.2 - 4 stops) - 45$. The IRND version costs 105$

    3. Hoya (Hoya ProND16 - 4 stops) - 97$

    I would love to hear your experiences with any of these or suggestions about better ones in that budget. I am most concerned about loss of sharpness as this would be unacceptable for a bride. I would be mounting the filter on 70-200mm f2.8 or a 24-105 f4 and possibly a 16-35 f2.8 also..

    Can you please also mention good sources/online-shops/amazon/ebay where you have had good experience.

    thanks in advance,
    Niraj
     
  2. One could argue that brides will not be concerned about some sharpness loss: no one wants their flaws revealed in knife like sharpness. So I wouldn't worry on that score.
    The main thing you are probably going to worry about is flare and color balance, although I suspect all of them will try and maintain the original color balance. Flare will depend on the coatings, so you need to see which have multicoatings and which are single coated (not so good). Additional features are nanocoatings that will make them easier to clean - not important to the image, but nice to have. In your shoes I would go with B+W or Hoya and just find the combination of coating and stops you need. Do you really need 4 stops: you do realize that it will make the image very dark in the viewfinder? I personally would go for a 3 stop max, pick slowest ISO and fastest shutter speed. You might only need a 2 stop one (not sure about this, as I find my top shutter speed/low ISO make shooting wide open without a filter usually works for me).
     
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I use a Hoya Pro1D ND 16 Filter 77mm on my EF 70 to 200/2.8 and I am very happy with its performance. I don't think I have used that filter on my 24 to 105/4 IS, but that is because I rarely use an ND Filter for Portraiture and typically if doing so, I would use it on a Prime Lens or an F/2.8 zoom. I have an 82mm version for my 16 to 35/2.8MkII and that works good too.
    I think that Pro 1D Series Filters have a lower profile than the Pro ND Series and this will probably be a useful trait when using the Filter on your wider lenses at the wider Focal Lengths to avoid an optical vignette.
    I am not sure if the Pro1D ND Filters are still manufactured, but there seem to be some still available for sale.
    www.hoyafilter.com/hoya/products/pro1digitalfilterseries/pro1dnd16
    You have not fully explained your application of the filter, but as it has been mentioned: when using my ND16 Filters in Bright Sunlight for Portraiture, the darker viewfinder is not an issue for me. I use EOS 5D Series Cameras for most of my portraiture - viewfinder optics can vary between cameras.
    WW

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  4. Pretty much what Robin said. My own preference is either Heliopan or B+W. You don't want to put extra glass in the front of your quality optics.....unless it's decent quality. It may help your image in one way, but reduce quality in another. I have good results from outlets like B&H, Adorama or Amazon.
    For the most part, I'd rather shoot at F3.5 (a 2.8 lens) and compensate with the shutter vs having to install ND filter. Most lenses are not optimal at it's widest opening...as you likely know.
    If you're determined to get something, I'd suggest to go to a brick-mortar shop and see if 2-3 stopper ND wouldn't hinder your focusing.
    Les
     
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    BTW - apropos the conversations/suggestions about shooting near wide open and adjusting the Shutter Speed to suit, or using an ND with less attenuation and the OP stating the requirement for a 3 or 4 Stop ND:
    It is possible that the ND Filter is being purchased for the specific purpose of dropping the Tv to Max. Flash Sync Speed for use with a Speedlite for Flash Fill outdoors, or dropping the Tv slower than Max Flash Sync, if using non Speedlite for Flash Fill outdoors and in either case keeping the ISO quite low.
    In this situation a 4 stop ND is quite useful, but a 1, 2 or 3 Stop ND filter, can often be found wanting.
    WW
     
  6. I agree with Robin that sharpness is not an issue. In fact, when Hasselblad was the wedding camera of choice the Zeiss lenses were so razor sharp that many wedding and portrait photographers using diffusion filters (which were available in various grades) to take the edge off. As for color shift, if there is any it will be well within what you can easily adjust for in Photoshop.

    The bigger issue here that I agree on is that a three or four stop ND filter is going to make the image in the viewfinder unusably dim in most situations. You would have trouble composing, it would be difficult to manually focus and there would probably not be enough light for AF to function. You might be able to see if you're shooting in full sunlight, but you shouldn't be shooting portraits in full sunlight.

    Assuming your goal is to open up the aperture as wide as possible to drop the background out of focus, I agree that you need to drop the ISO as low as possible and set the shutter speed as high as possible, although you do run up against maximum sync speed. The next step is to move somewhere shaded, which should get you where you need and give more flattering light at the same time.
     
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The bigger issue here that I agree on is that a three or four stop ND filter is going to make the image in the viewfinder unusably dim in most situations. You would have trouble composing, it would be difficult to manually focus and there would probably not be enough light for AF to function.
    Based upon my experiences using an ND4; shooting generally in low light; having shot many Weddings and Portraits - and noting that the OP specifically stated the use for the ND Filter was for weddings and portraits: I do not concur.
    An ND4 will render a scene originally at EV 15 (i.e. typical bright daylight) to a scene of EV 11. I experience no difficulty using any of my EOS Cameras (presently: 500; 400D, 20D, 5D and 5DMkII) with AF or MF and Focus Confirmation at EV 11 and when using the 24 to 105 (an F/4 lens).
    An ND 4 will render a scene originally at EV 11 (i.e. typical bright indoors/office scene or very overcast outdoors daylight) to a scene of EV 7 – again I experience no difficulty using my EOS cameras with AF or MF and Focus Confirmation at EV 7 and when using the 24 to 105 (an F/4 lens).
    ***
    I think that it would be a very rare occurrence that any Photographer would want to use an ND filter for Portraiture in a scene which originally is less than EV11 – but let’s, for the sake of the conversation, assume that someone does . . .
    An ND 4 will render a scene originally at EV 5 (typically the darker/darkest home interior with dim lights) to a scene of EV 1 (which is a very dark scene).
    This is an image I just made of a scene with lighting at EV1.
    I used an EOS 5D and the 24 to 105/4L.
    I had no difficulty seeing into the viewfinder to frame the shot and were there were hard contrast edges the AF worked effectively: although (as expected) in shadow/and low contrasts areas the AF was ineffective:
    [​IMG]

    I did the maths in my head, so you might like to check that the scene is actually at EV1, if not it is very close – the shot was pulled at F/4 @ ½ second @ ISO3200 and it is the JPEG SOOC.
    ***
    You might be able to see if you're shooting in full sunlight, but you shouldn't be shooting portraits in full sunlight.
    Based upon my experiences having shot many Weddings and Portraits - and noting that the OP specifically stated the use for the ND Filter was for weddings and portraits: I do not concur.
    Much of a Wedding and Portrait Photographer’s life is spent shooting Portraiture in "Full Sunlight", because there is neither another option, nor always the ability to control/direct the position of the Subjects: and quite often in that circumstance one uses Flash as Fill.
    WW
     
  8. thanks for sharing such good thoughts..
    As William said, I many time do not have an option to move in shade. At other times, I actually want to shoot in the sun to get the environment. I agree that a 2-3 stops is good enough to have for my application.
    The use I am talking about is outdoor portraits of bride/groom/couple with the background/environment around them under exposed while the subjects are lit using either flashes or strobes. This will likely be a scenario where I take two pictures. One which I call the template without the couple/subject in it and then with the same exposure, introduce the couple and an my lights on a stand or held by an assistant. The template is needed when I merge these 2 in post and remove the source of light and its holder.
    Flare may be an issue if I am shooting with the light source/sun in my view. It may not be otherwise. What do you think. When I wrote about sharpness, i meant, the image should not be so soft that it appears "ghosted" or blurred to the point that its unusable. I have had this problem with a filter that I borrowed from a friend. It was a ND4. Dont remember what make it was. My mistake I didnt state that in the OP.
    So I think I am tending towards 2-3 stops. Hoya or B+W? Anyone has any luck with filter kits. Someone suggested me this on B&H: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/674665-REG/Tiffen_77NDK3_77mm_Digital_Neutral_Density.html
    These are uncoated ones.
     
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    If the camera is facing toward the sun, Flare is more likely. Also, usually, Flare is more likely as you approach the Wide Angle Focal Lengths. HOWEVER, an issue with the Lens Hood of Zoom Lenses(#1), is that they must not allow any optical vignette at the WIDEST Focal Length, therefore by definition these Lens Hoods are not the most efficient at the middle or telephoto Focal Lengths - so beware, for example, with the sun slightly in front of the camera you might get flare at the middle Focal Lengths.This is the one of the two main reasons why I mentioned that I rarely use an ND Filter for Portraiture on a Zoom Lens, preferring to use a Prime Lens negates this issue of Lens Hood inefficiency. The other reason for my choice of a Prime Lens, is to be able to access larger than F/2.8 - my point being that if I am going to the trouble of using an ND Filter to attain a very large aperture, I might as well go the whole way to allow a bigger than F/2.8 Aperture. In any case, my experience is that Flare will be the most concerning when using your 16 to 35, so watch out for it. With a bit of practice one can shade the lens with one hand or, if you have an assistant then s/he can hold a big umbrella to provide shaded position for the camera and reduce/eliminate Flare.
    ***
    Another issue can Ghost Images - these usually are move prevalent at night time, but I have encountered them in day time shooting. Ghost images usually happen when there is a very bright area, usually a small area such as a street light or candle situated in a dark area of the scene - the Ghost Image is caused by an internal reflection between the lens and the filter and the (Ghost) image is inverted.
    ***
    If I understand correctly the technique that you want to employ you need to make two shots: and in the second have the assistant and the Flash Head(s) might encroach into that frame. BUT you need the Flash Heads to be quite close to the Subjects, because you need adequate Flash Power to use the Flash as the Fill Light against the Sunlight - AND - you want to have WIDE shot as the result. I have seen that technique done a few times - and it is a lot of work to get right. Obviously you feel the need for it and I wish you luck in your endeavour.
    ***
    Personally I am not keen on Tiffen Filters - I tend to generally use Hoya, but I would not criticize B+W in any manner. I cannot see the logic in buying a set of three filters for the purpose that you outline - just buy one good quality ND and get on with the job.
    ***
    As previously outlined, I would usually choose to carry a 4 Stop ND for this type of work: I like the added advantage/flexibility of the range of Av I can choose to use and still get a Tv to Max Flash Sync at Base ISO.
    As a practical example:
    > The scene: full sun at Beach Wedding
    > Typical Ambient Exposure for the background/middle ground of this scene (Scene is at EV =16) is: F/22 @ 1/200s @ ISO200
    > Max Flash Sync Tv = 1/200s
    > Lowest ISO = ISO100
    Therefore:
    1. ND 4 allows: F/4 @ 1/200s @ ISO100 and, for my purposes, F/4 is "just OK"
    2. Obviously for a "normal" daylight scene (scene is at EV = 15) and keeping the same Flash Sync (1/200s) and the Base ISO (ISO100) an ND 4 allows me to get to F/2.8, which, for me, is "nice".
    3. And - if there is a light cloud cover (Scene is at EV 14) and keeping the same Flash Sync (1/200s) and the Base ISO (ISO100) an ND 4 allows me to get to F/2 which for me, is "really nice".
    4. But choosing 3 Stop ND or a 2 Stop ND will push the maximum aperture attainable, smaller by one or two stops, respectively, in each of those lighting scenarios.
    WW
    Footnote (#1): there might be others, but, the only zoom lens I know which seeks to addresses this shortcoming of the Lens Hood is the EF 24 to 70 F/2.8 USM: this is achieved by the Lens retracting into the Lens Hood, as the lens zooms out (zooms to the WA).
     
  10. If flare is your main worry then just ensure you have a good multicoated filter. I use B+W, but Hoya are probably just as good.
     
  11. I agree with Robin that sharpness is not an issue. In fact, when Hasselblad was the wedding camera of choice the Zeiss lenses were so razor sharp that many wedding and portrait photographers using diffusion filters (which were available in various grades) to take the edge off. As for color shift, if there is any it will be well within what you can easily adjust for in Photoshop.​
    Over 20+ years I shot several thousands of portraits and a hundred or more weddings. I never used a ND filter for those purposes but used a Sailwind ProSoft #1 routinely.Made the bride's skin flawless and took a decade off the bride's mother.
    Obviously YMMV
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
     
  12. Thanks again @William, @Henry, @Robin and everyone else for sharing your experiences. I will mostly go with the Hoya 2 and 4 stops multicoated. Plan is to get the 2 stop first and over time the 4 stops depending on my experience of the first one.
    @William, @Henry, if you dont mind, can you pl share links to your wedding/portrait portfolios.
     

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