The Handmade ND Filter

I’m a little embarrassed to say that this photographic tip hadn’t occurred to me until I read John Neel’s post at the Pixiq blog. It’s a technique that literally any photographer can do, and it doesn’t require any special equipment at all. And it’s genius in its simplicity. It’s useful to help render bright, washed out skies darker, richer, and with more detail. It’s a homemade neutral density filter—no, it’s handmade, because all you need is your hand. Here’s how it works. Starting with a long exposure—like 30 seconds in order to give yourself time to work carefully—you use your hand to burn in the sky, essentially blocking exposure from that part of the frame in order to make it appear darker in the finished picture. It’s a technique that originated with large format film, and it’s clearly a great one to have at the ready. Read all about it at

Leave a Comment