Lens filters essentially are used to improve the quality of pictures taken. However, they can be used for different other purposes, such as lens protection. Using lens filters can amplify pictures and allow photographers to capture beautiful pictures. The biggest pro about using lens filters is that pictures aren’t compromised by lighting conditions and harsh reflections.
Different types of lens filters
First things first; every photographer needs to familiarize themselves with the different types of filters available. Lens filters are mostly circular but they do come in other shapes and sizes, depending on the lens filter thread. Here are the different types:
1. Square filters – Used for landscape photography and come in 3×3 or 4×4. It can also hold more than one filter and can be stacked together.
2. Rectangular filters- Again, used by landscape photographers and are most popular in the size of 4×6. It is slightly better than square filters because it can move up and down.
3. Circular filters- Are extremely common and can directly screw on to the lens filter thread. Circular filters come in different widths; some are very thin while others are thick.
4. Drop in filters- Used inside telephoto lenses.
Polarizing filters are great to use when capturing outdoor scenes such as the sky or waterfalls, oceans etc. This filter eliminates reflections and glares and enhances saturating colors. There are 2 different types of polarizing filters; linear and circular. Typically speaking, DSLR cameras use circular polarizers and are mounted in a secondary ring.
UV/ Haze/ Clear Filters
Previously, these filters were used to help block light but in today’s time it’s purpose is to protect the front lens. The reason that this filter is used for protection is that it’s cheaper to replace than to fix an entire lens. DSLR’s all have UV filters so there is no need to go out and purchase this filter.
*Never stack other filters over UV filters because it could cause terrible vignetting.
Color warming filter
This filter primarily was used for film and hardly ever for digital photography. The 2 different types of color filters are:
• Color correction: corrects white balance
• Color subtraction: lets other colors through and absorbs one color.
*Editing programs such as Photoshop allow photographers to achieve these effects too.
ND Filter (Neutral Density)
ND filters are available in both circular and rectangular form, however buying a circular, ND filter is better because of its size and portability.
Photographers use this specific filter to reduce bright lighting conditions while increasing exposure and decreasing shutter speed. ND filters also have the ability to blur movement, making it a great tool for videographers/ filmmakers.
Graduated neutral density Filter (GND)
GND filters build up density on the opposite side of the filter, while ND filters are more even. The great thing about using the GND filter is that you can add multiple filters without worrying about alignment. Take caution when using GND filters, they can easily add vignetting!
Reverse graduated neutral density filter
This filter is great to use when shooting sunset pictures, simply because it creates beautiful focus points. The reverse graduated neutral density filter usually makes an image look softer at the top and darker at the horizon. It creates the perfect balance, especially with exposure levels.
Special effects filter
With this filter, you can create highlights, blurs and soft glowing effects. However, many editing programs (such as Photoshop) can create these exact effects. Therefore, the special effects filter is quite pointless to own.
A few other tips…
• Buying a cheaper filter might compromise on the results you get when photographing. It’s always good to save money and buy quality equipment that will last you a long time.
• When buying graduated density filters opt for plastic or resin.
• Using polyester filters could be an issue; they scratch easily and will have to be replaced.
• Filters are expensive so consider buying step-up rings that have smaller threads.
• Aluminum step up rings work just as well as brass step-up rings and they are less expensive.
• You will need different step-up rings based on your lens sizes. They are also available in circular and square filter holder systems.