Understanding the Various Camera Lens Filters

A camera lens filter is an accessory that allows photographers to have more control over the images they capture. These filters can either be round or square in shape, made of glass or plastic, and can either be screwed or clipped in place in front of the lens. Although, filter effects can be copied in common editing software techniques, actual filters will give much better results and some are very difficult to reproduce. Here are some popular filter types with their various uses and advantages that can help you create better images.

Filter Types:

Linear and circular polarizers – these filters reduce glare and boost saturation. Usually used in landscape photography where skies, greenery, and water are the main subjects.

Neutral Density (ND) filters – this is often colorless or gray in shade and modifies the intensity of all wavelengths or colors of light in equal measure, while leaving the color hues intact. With an ND filter, you have more options to play with the exposure settings. For example, if you want to have a motion blur effect of a waterfall and there is bright sunlight, you can use this filter instead of decreasing aperture size (to lessen the amount of light entering the sensor). This means you do not have to sacrifice depth of field to capture the image.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters – this is great for lessening the possibility of vignetting and helps control light gradients. This kind of filter is divided into a darker side and a lighter side and the division in the middle, which blends these two shades, varies from soft to hard. This is often used for landscapes that show a dramatic change in lighting, such as a bright sky above a dark row of trees.

UV/Haze – a very useful all-around filter and protects the lens as well. This was often used with film cameras to cut the atmospheric haze that could be captured in the image. Since digital cameras are much less sensitive to UV rays, this filter serves the purpose of general protection of the lens.

Cooling/Warming filters – these filters are used to alter the white balance of the scene. They have cool or warm colored tints. Ideal for underwater images, landscape shots and images that make use of special lighting.

Polarizers or polarizing filter – this enhances landscape images by cutting down on the intensity of reflected light that goes through to the camera’s sensor. Much like polarized sunglasses, it makes the sky and water seem a deeper blue, and makes the trees and other plants, and even rocks a more vibrant color saturation that increases the visual appeal of images.. It reduces glare and reflections from water and other reflective surfaces as well as decreases the contrasts between the skies and the ground.

As advantageous as polarizing filters can be, be careful because it can also greatly diminish the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor by at least 2 to3 f-stops, which is about ¼ to 1/8 amount of light. You might need to compensate for this by using a slower shutter speed or using a bigger lens opening.  Moreover, using polarizers in wide angled lenses may create unbalanced or skies that look visibly darker than usual.

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