LEE Filters Classroom

Back by popular demand, the Iso100 LEE Filters classroom: How to use grad filters, what are they? How to use ND filters, how to do a long exposure photograph & the all important exposure table.


I get a lot of messages and questions regarding the use of the Lee Filter range, as they are what I primarily use for my landscape photography. So I think its a pretty good place to open the classroom and begin lesson 1!

What is a graduated filter, and how does it work?

A Graduated filter is a sheet of resin or glass approx. 10x15cm that slides into a filter holder positioned on the end of your lens. It is used to ‘stop down’ the amount of light that passes through the top half of lens into the sensor of the camera, controlling the light and allowing you to capture a well exposed image. Generally, if you point a camera at a sunset without the use of graduated filters, your ‘top half’ (sky half) will be dramatically over exposed and ‘blown out’ or ‘clipped’. The use of a graduated filter will ensure the correct exposure of the entire scene by ‘stopping down’ the excessive light in certain parts of the scene – in this instance, the sky.

Graduated filters come in a many densities, ranging completely from:

  • 0.3 (1 stop)
  • 0.45 (1.5 stops)
  • 0.6 (2 stops)
  • 0.75 (2.5 stops)
  • 0.9 (3 stops).

These densities come in both soft graduated, and hard graduated. Landscape photography uses both soft and hard grad, depending primarily on your scene, for example, one would opt to use a hard grad for a straight horizon, ie: seascape – as the hardness of the grad runs perfectly in-line with the horizon, but a soft grad would be used for shooting mountains or the city, as it is uneven, and the soft graduation will gently balance the exposure in the scene.

To attach the Lee filter system you need 3 components:

  • Adaptor ring: Ranging in every size to suit your lens, this screws onto the end of your lens.
  • Filter holder: Which clips onto the adaptor ring. This comes with 2/3 slots.
  • Lee filters: Slide filters into the holder. I would advise not using any more than 3, as vignetting will occur.


What is a neutral density filter, and how does it work?

A Neutral density filter is a tinted square of glass or resin that slides into the filter holder, it is used to reduce the exposure of the entire scene evenly. This way, you can handle almost any lighting situation easily…

Lee ND filters have no colour cast and do not change the hue of the image, which is a vital plus to this brand, other brands colour cast. The beauty of the ND filter is that it allows  larger apertures, with longer shutter speeds, without over exposure… For example, I would use a Lee 0.9 ND to slightly blur the movement of water, to create that ‘misty’ look.

These filters come in a range of densities, ranging completely from:

  • 0.3 (1 stop)
  • 0.45 (1.5 stops)
  • 0.6 (2 stops)
  • 0.75 (2.5 stops)
  • 0.9 (3 stops)

These come in both resin and ProGlass. Pro Glass filters absorb more infrared and ultraviolet light than traditional ND filters. Result is a less discoloured shot in adverse lighting conditions.

ISO100: LESSON 3, HOW TO USE LEE ‘LITTLE (6 stop), BIG (10 stop) & SUPER STOPPER (15 stop)’

So, whats a ‘LEE Stoppers’?

One of my favourite pieces of equipment. The LEE Stopper range is a series of 6,10 & 15 stop ND filters that allows you to greatly extend your exposure times. It allows anything that is moving to become motion blurred, capturing the movement, and keeping stationary objects sharp – you can see exactly what im on about if you view my long exposure gallery, taking note of the water and sky, and how you can really see the movement… These Stoppers can also be used in conjunction with other ND and GND filters.

The use of a tripod and a remote shutter is a must when using the LEE Stoppers, as it requires lengthy exposure times and a steady camera. Using the LEE Stoppers is more technical than the other Lee filters… And so, It is vital to follow the next steps, in order:

  1. Set up your scene, ensure you have it well composed.
  2. Focus your scene and flick the focus to manual, and close your viewfinder.
  3. Meter your scene, and set up your ISO and aperture, and set your shutter speed to BULB.
  4. Now you can slide your Stopper into the slot closest to your lens, ensuring the foam on the rear of the stopper is against the holder.
  5. Always use a tripod and a shutter release cable.
  6. Take the shot!


Managing the cast of the denser stoppers is a very easy thing to manage in camera as well as in post. In camera, simply set the white balance to K 10,000. In post, simply adjust your tint and temp to your satisfaction!

Exposure guides:

The LEE Stoppers give the most amazing results when used correctly, nailing the exposure time may take a couple of test shots to get right, so to help, I have included the official LEE Filters exposure guide:

LEE exposure guide


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