A Simple Guide To Lens Filters

Last Updated on July 10, 2022 by PixelPluck

Introduction To Lens Filters. A Simple Guide To Lens Filters.

READ THE UPDATED VERSION HERE: Detailed Guide to Lens Filters in Photography

Filters, those glass disks that can be screwed onto your camera’s lens, are a popular accessory. Here are some of the different kinds of filters you can buy and play with:

1. Warming

Some filters produce what photographers refer to as a warming effect. This filter can help make up for the lack of color in midday light and tries to add some reddish-orange color to the scene. Usually, these are coded in the 81 series as in 81A, 81B, and 81C. Just ask for a warming filter.

2. Cooling

These do just the opposite of the previous type. They add blue to the scene to reduce the reddish-orange color. These fall into the 82 series for daylight conditions.

3. Neutral density

Another type of filter reduces the amount of light available. This neutral density (ND) filter (neutral because they have no color, and density because they block light) comes in handy for things such as achieving the spun-glass effect from moving water. The filter blocks an f-stop’s worth of light or more, making a slower shutter speed possible and increasing the blur of the moving water. You can use ND filters to operate at a wider aperture to blur the background in portraits, too.

nd filters explained

4. Neutral density, take two

Sometimes a photographer wants to photograph a street scene without cars driving through the photo. By stacking neutral density filters, it’s possible to create such a long exposure that no cars are in the scene long enough to register in the image. Obviously, camera support of some sort is required. (Hint: The ground’s pretty stable, too, unless you’re visiting California.) Having a camera capable of extremely slow shutter speeds is also necessary.

5. Split neutral density

Another version of the neutral density filter is a split neutral density design. This filter provides half neutral density and half clear filtration, preferably with a graduated transition from the light blocking half to the clear half.

Lee Filter System
Lee Big Stoppers

The main use for a split ND filter is for occasions when half the scene is brighter than the other. The most common example of this is a bright sky against a significantly darker foreground. This condition is typical of midday lighting conditions.

6. Polarizers

Polarizing filters can reduce the glare bouncing off shiny surfaces in your photos. Simply attach the filter and view the image through your LCD. Rotate the polarizer until the glare disappears. Polarizers can also help deepen the contrast of the sky from certain angles. This is a must if you are shooting landscapes near lakes and rivers.

Circular polarizer
Notice the details and contrast in reflection.

Do not buy cheap filters as they will leave a color cast over the image and will reduce the clarity of the image to great extent. Check trusted brands with great optical quality like Lee Big Stopper, B&W Filters, Hoya Filters, Marumi Filters, etc. You should check the size of the filter on your lens before buying the filter. If it’s not compatible then you will need converters. Lee and B&W filters are comparatively expensive and are used by professionals.

For a hobbyists and even some serious photographers Hoya is a great choice and is highly rated among the photographers community. What filter do you use and what’s on your wish list? Let us know in comments. Happy Shooting!

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