Neutral density filter reduces the amount of light going into the lens, so you can take long exposures even when the light is bright.
Long exposures blur anything moving, like water, clouds, or people. This can be very useful for making choppy water look smooth, making clouds streak, or getting rid of people at a tourist attraction.
These types of filters usually cost up to $200 (especially on big diameter lenses), but with this simple hack, you can make it for only $5.
- Welding Glass – The welding glass can be purchased online or at any welding supply store. The welding glass that I got was a #12 grade. Most pieces of welding glass are tinted a color, mine is green, and I will explain later in the article about how to get rid of that horrible tint.
- 3 rubber bands- I used the thick blue rubber bands from produce
- Piece of cloth- a good size thick cloth, at least 16”x16”, depending on your camera/lens setup
- Shutter release with bulb mode
- LED Flashlight
1. Find a scene with movement in it, like water, clouds, or people.
2. Set your camera up on your tripod and compose your shot now, because once your put on the welding glass, you will not be able to see out of your viewfinder.
3.Set the camera to bulb mode, and set your f/stop to 8 or above for a good DOF. My welding glass is grade #12, so I usually have to take a 5-6 minute exposure at f/8, iso 100. ALWAYS SHOOT IN RAW FOR THIS.
4. Put rubber bands around two sides of the welding glass, parallel to each other.
5. Take your lens hood, put it on the lens backwards, and pull the rubber bands around the lens hood.
6. Take your piece of cloth, and drape it over your camera, lens, and the corners of the welder’s glass, to prevent light from leaking in through the crack in between your lens and the glass. Then stretch your other rubber band over the glass so that it wraps around the lens hood and cloth. This creates a hood, like what you see on really old cameras.
7. Take the picture, using the bulb switch on your shutter release, and use a stopwatch if you have one to keep track of the time. The picture that will appear on your screen after you take it will be slightly color tinted (mine is green), and you will have to do some major white balance correction to fix it. Don’t worry, it will turn out normal color in the end.
To remove the tint made by the welding glass, you can either do basic white balance correction, turn it into black and white, or shoot in RAW mode, and do some extra steps below before using Photoshop or Lightroom.
Pre-editing and Editing:
Put your camera on a tripod and tilt it all the way backwards until your camera is facing the ceiling or sky.
Take the flashlight, turn it on, and set it down on the filter, so that it is looking at the LED.
Take a picture on P mode in raw.
Set that picture you took to your custom white balance.
Take another picture with the LED still on top of it. This picture should look like it’s in black and white.
Put the white balance corrected picture (one that looked black and white on your camera) on your computer and convert it into a DNG using Adobe’s DNG converter. It’s a free Adobe download program for Mac and PC.
Open your new .dng into Adobe DNG Profile Editor (another free program, but you have to make a free account with Adobe).
In the editor play around with the white balance until you get a color tone you want, then name it and export it to the preset folder (the picture on the side might not look corrected, but it will be in the end).
Load the picture you originally took of your scene into Lightroom. Scroll down to camera calibration in Develop mode, click on the profile drop down menu, and select your saved profile (mine was named no green hue).
The picture will still look bad at this point, so go back up to the top and turn the tint to +150 (for green filter, for other color filters you may have to experiment a little).
11. Your picture should now look like it was taken right out of your lens. You may also want to do some work to reduce the vignetting that you may get.
Major white balance correction:
Basic white balance correction
Black and white
About The Author
This post is by Aaron Czeszynski, you can see more of his work in his Flickr stream.