An unorthodox filter: Welding glass is an affordable way to get into long exposure photography


posted Monday, June 27, 2016 at 12:37 PM EST


Long exposure photography is a lot of fun, but purpose-built neutral density filters can sometimes get quite pricey. Mathieu Stern, who you may remember for his "weird lens challenge," has a much more affordable alternative: welding glass.

In the video below, Mathieu used shade 11 welding glass, which you can find on Amazon for less than $5. I'm sure you can save a few more bucks if you search around, but in any case that's a lot less than any ND filter will cost. To hold the filter onto the front of the lens, Stern uses a couple of rubber bands.

There are reasons that filters from companies like Lee and Formatt Hitech command much higher prices than welding glass. Purpose-built ND filters can capture true-to-life colors with high-quality optical glass that doesn't noticeably degrade image quality. Stern admits that accurate colors are not easy to expose through welding glass, as it produces a strong green color cast. A bit of Photoshop magic can be used to help clean up your welding glass images though.

Check out the video below to see sample images (which you can also see on Stern's blog) and hear a professional photographer, Thibault Roland, weigh in on the affordable welding glass technique and long exposure photography in general.

If you're interested in trying your hand at long exposure photography but don't want to shell out the money for an expensive filter and filter holder, Stern has definitely presented an affordable alternative that will let you get your feet wet. If you're interested in learning more about the Lee Big Stopper, please visit this Caffeine Priority post about my experience using it.

To see more of Mathieu Stern's work, visit his website. His videos, including his excellent reviews of unusual and affordable lenses, are available on his YouTube channel.

(Seen via ISO 1200