Use welding glass as a 10 stops ND filter

Aug 20, 2017

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Use welding glass as a 10 stops ND filter

Aug 20, 2017

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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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.

Materials

  • 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
  • Tripod
  • LED Flashlight

Instructions:

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.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

5. Take your lens hood, put it on the lens backwards, and pull the rubber bands around the lens hood.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Post Processing:

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.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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.

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Open your new .dng into Adobe DNG Profile Editor (another free program, but you have to make a free account with Adobe).

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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).

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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).

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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).

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

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:

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Basic white balance correction

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

Black and white

Use Welding Glass As 10 Stops ND Filter

About The Author

This post is by Aaron Czeszynski, you can see more of his work in his Flickr stream.

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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20 responses to “Use welding glass as a 10 stops ND filter”

  1. Matt Angelo Avatar
    Matt Angelo

    I tried this and was wondering if others are getting a lot of noise when they try this? This is my first attempt at long exposure photography.
    I shoot raw through a t4i iso100 for 25 secs today and it looks ok but was noisy. Will a “real” filter be just as noisy?

    Thanks.

    1. Chris Avatar
      Chris

      The noise is generated by the sensor in the camera, not the filter. The noise is always present but normally invisible because the light overpowers it. Here there is very little light, so another filter with the same light-attenuation will make similar results. On my Nikon (D7000 and D800) there are a long-exposure mode where the camera takes to exposures, one normal and one without opening the shutter and subtracts the images. This reduces noise because the pixel most prone to generate noise stays (mostly) the same. A cold sensor will generate less noise as well.

    2. Spark Avatar
      Spark

      There is a setting (I think it’s in the custom functions) on the T4i for long exposure noise reduction. Enable that, and it’ll help a lot.

    3. Danvil Avatar
      Danvil

      If you are shooting in a high temperature enviornment and using a long exposure (25 seconds is not a long exposure) that can cause your your sensor to heat up and it will create noise. Other than that, you shouldn’t get any additional noise, because of the welding glass. If you cover up overthing, as suggested in this article, it could cause additional heat to build up. That’s the only thing that I can think of.

  2. Steve J Avatar
    Steve J

    I tried this with rubber bands around the lens hood. Unfortunately as I was using a 17-55 lens at 17mm length the rubber bands pulled the lens in to 28mm and the picture was out of focus.
    To get around this I glued a 77mm adapter ring using araldite to the welding glass which solved my problem.

  3. saikat ganguly Avatar
    saikat ganguly

    Hi,

    I am new in this welding glass field. I am having a problem , that i can not set my custom white balance. I am following exact same step. I am using nikon d3100 . In P mode the photo is getting over exposed. After setting that photo as my custom white balance , then take photo of a new led light it is still in green…… can any body help please ?

  4. nic volks Avatar
    nic volks

    I only have embedded as a profile in the drop down box in camera calibration also how do I save the dng recipe in lightroom Im using a Fujifilm s3pro, getting headaches about this and my remote release will be delivered soon!!!

  5. russ Avatar
    russ

    It is worth noting that this isn’t really making a ND filter. the N stands for “neutral”, and if you are getting a green cast that strong, your filter is definitely not neutral. sure, you can adjust the white balance, but your overall color rendition will suffer.

  6. SongsOfDragons Avatar
    SongsOfDragons

    Thank you for posting this, even if it was years ago! I was asking about this on Reddit and a commenter pointed me here. I am going to Shetland this March to watch the partial solar eclipse, and as I have shade 14 welding glass to watch it through, I was toying with the crazy idea of attempting to photograph a bit of it…

  7. Chris W. King Avatar
    Chris W. King

    This is too complicated and I wonder why no one uses curves. You can correct WB in photoshop using a threshold layer. You pick the neutral point black point and white point and your picture will look normal.

  8. Paul Harding Avatar
    Paul Harding

    Taking the photo looks like it will be the easy part.
    I have never yet taken a photograph using RAW. The post process Lightroom/Photosshop stuff later……….. impossible for me to understand. ?

  9. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    Yes!

  10. Volker Bartheld Avatar
    Volker Bartheld

    Well, if you can get the B+W 110 3.0 (http://www.schneiderkreuznach.com/en/photo-imaging/product-field/b-w-fotofilter/products/filtertypes/nd-filters/110-nd-30/) for less than 70 bucks, you’re a lucky man. This filter has a factor of 1’000 – people say you would want to take at least 100’000 (density 5, 16.6 stops). So even the B+W can not be recommended for pointing your cam directly into the sun. Other ND filter often are not dark enough or produce a tint quite similar to the welding glass.

    However, using single spot white balance in Lightroom, Raw Therapee or UFRaw works quite well.

    Of course, there’s also the very expensive ND Vario (http://www.schneiderkreuznach.com/en/photo-imaging/product-field/b-w-fotofilter/products/filtertypes/nd-filters/nd-vario/), but I advise against it. Too easy to fry your cam (or, worse: your eyes) with a tiny wrong turn.

    It should be mentioned, that round welding glasses have a diameter of slightly less than 52mm and are quite easy to get. So if you have an old close-up- or UV-filter for that thread diameter, you can take off the front ring with needle nose pliers, two tiny flat head screwdrivers or the dedicated lens spanner wrench and replace the clear glass with the welding glass.

    This was the equiment used for taking that image: http://bartheld.net/pom/slide044.html.

    Note that there is not “a” welding glass, but a large variety of them and most of them are not suitable for use to view the sun directly, i. e. with the naked eye (not to mention optical instruments such as long lenses).

    In Germany, this would be protection class 14 and better accoding to DIN EN 169. The NASA says (https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety): “[…] one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is welders glass of sufficiently high number. The only ones that are safe for direct viewing of the Sun with your eyes are those of Shade 12 or higher. These are much darker than the filters used for most kinds of welding. If you have an old welder’s helmet around the house and are thinking of using it to view the sun, make sure you know the filter’s shade number. If it’s less than 12 (and it probably is), don’t even think about using it to look at the sun. […]”.

    So don’t be a fool, OK?

  11. Volker Bartheld Avatar
    Volker Bartheld

    There’s something more to know about ND filters, welding glasses and the solar eclipse.

    You can get the B+W 110 3.0 (http://www.schneiderkreuznach.com/en/photo-imaging/product-field/b-w-fotofilter/products/filtertypes/nd-filters/110-nd-30/) for around 70 bucks and it has close to zero tint. However, this filter has a factor of 1’000 – people say you would want to take at least 100’000 (density 5, 16.6 stops). So even the B+W can not be recommended for pointing your cam+lens directly into the sun. Other ND filter often are not dark enough or produce a tint quite similar to the welding glass – which is easy to remove with the single-spot white balance tool in Lightroom, Raw Therapee, UFRaw etc.

    It should be mentioned, that round welding glasses have a diameter of slightly less than 52mm and are quite easy to get. So if you have an old close-up- or UV-filter for that thread diameter, you can remove the front ring with needle nose pliers, two tiny flat head screwdrivers or the dedicated lens spanner
    wrench and replace the clear glass with the welding glass.

    This was the equiment used for taking that image: http://bartheld.net/pom/slide044.html.

    Note that there is not “a” welding glass, but a large variety of them and most of them are not suitable for viewing the sun directly, i. e. with the naked eye (not to mention optical instruments such as long lenses).

    In Germany, protection class 14 and better would be suitable accoding to DIN EN 169. The NASA says
    (https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety): “[…] one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is welders glass of sufficiently high number. The only ones that are safe for direct viewing of the Sun with
    your eyes are those of Shade 12 or higher. These are much darker than the filters used for most kinds of welding. If you have an old welder’s helmet around the house and are thinking of using it to view the sun, make sure you know the filter’s shade number. If it’s less than 12 (and it probably is), don’t even think about using it to look at the sun. […]”.

    So don’t be a fool, OK?

    1. Lakawak Avatar
      Lakawak

      Ummm…14 is the common shade used for welding.

      1. Carl P. Mudgen Avatar
        Carl P. Mudgen

        I’ve never bought a welders mask with 14 already in it. 14 is readily available for high amperage welding but the vast majority of welding doesn’t need it.

  12. loisgrimm78 Avatar
    loisgrimm78

    Wow!! I tried this yesterday with a #10 welding glass but I had no idea about the flashlight trick. I’m definitely going to try this. I just converted my photo to black and white. Great article! Thanks!! :D

  13. Jeff NME Avatar
    Jeff NME

    A gold OmniView welding lens would affect the colour of the image far less than an ordinary green welding lens does. In fact, when welding the colours of everything illuminated by the welding arc look reasonably normal through a gold lens.

  14. Buckwheatzydaco Avatar
    Buckwheatzydaco

    Any idea where I can find welders glass with the dimensions 150mm x 150mm?

  15. Muhlis Avatar
    Muhlis

    Man, I’m not lying, your 9 years ago’s comment has helped me. Still relevant. Thanks!