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Understanding lens filters for beginners
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The Ultimate Camera Lens Filters For Beginners: What You Need to Know

Welcome to our guide to lens filters! If you’re new to the world of lens filters, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we will demystify how filters are designed and their uses.

Whether you’re looking for lens filters for protection, or photo corrections, we’ve got you covered. We’ll walk you through how to choose the different lens filters, whether a circular or a drop in square filters ensuring you have all the information you need to make an informed decision. From UV and polarizing to neutral density and graduated filters, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start using lens filters effectively. So let’s dive in and discover the amazing world of lens filters together!

Table of Contents

Why Do Photographers Use Lens Filters?

Lens filters are one of the many tools in a photographer’s kit. But why do we use them? There are several reasons:

  • Protection: UV filters act as a barrier, safeguarding your precious lens from dust, moisture, and accidental scratches.
  • Enhancing Image Quality: Certain filters, such as polarizers, ND filters, and colour filters, can improve the overall quality of your images. They reduce glare, control exposure, and add creative effects.
  • Creativity: Filters are a gateway to unleashing your creative potential. They allow you to experiment with colours, exposure, and reflections, resulting in distinctive and captivating photos.
  • Balancing Exposures: Filters like graduated ND filters are essential for landscape photography. They help balance the exposure between a bright sky and a darker foreground, ensuring both are perfectly exposed.

What Type of Lens Filter Are There?

When starting out  you do not need an extensive collection of filters. Start with the essentials, such as a UV filter for lens protection and a polarizing filter for enhancing colours and reducing reflections. These two filters alone will enhance your photography. As you gain more experience and explore different genres of photography, you can gradually expand your collection to include other types of filters.

Type of FilterPrimary UseAvailability
UV FilterLens protection, reduces haze and UV lightWidely available
Polarizing FilterReduces glare and reflections, enhances coloursWidely available
Neutral Density FilterControls exposure, creates motion blurWidely available
Graduated Neutral Density FilterBalances exposure in landscapesAvailable but less common
Colour Filters & Cooling Filters
Modify the Colour temp of the lightWidely Available
Close-up Filter
Magnifies the subject, used for macro photographyWidely Available
Sky Filters
Diminishes the light pollution when shooting at nightWidely Available
Infrared Filters
Blocks all light wave except InfraredWidely Available

Understanding UV Filters

The most basic and commonly used type of camera filter is UV. These filters serve multiple purposes, including protecting the front lens element from dust, scratches, and other potential damage.

UV filters help to reduce the effects of haze and UV light, resulting in clearer and sharper images. The filters are typically clear and are attached directly to the front of the lens. Not only do they offer protection for your lens, but they also provide added benefits in terms of image quality during certain situations. By using a UV filter, you ensure the longevity of their expensive lenses while simultaneously improving the overall aesthetic of their photographs.

During the film days a skyline filter was often used. See graph below

Comparison between UV and Skylight Filters

Filter TypesUV FiltersSkylight Filters
FunctionReduce haze and UV lightAdds a tint to the image
Colour TintClearMagenta
Common UsesAll types of photographyPortraits, landscapes

These filters are not just for beginners. Both filters protection the front of the lens while enhancing the overall image quality. By understanding the differences between UV and skylight filters and their respective benefits, you can make an informed decisions on which one fits your need.

The Importance of Lens Protection

In relation to protecting your equipment, a lens filters play a crucial role in safeguarding the front element. By attaching a lens filter to the front, you create a barrier that helps prevent dust, scratches, and potential damage from reaching the lens itself. This extra layer of protection can be beneficial when shooting in challenging environments or during outdoor adventures.

Many of you may wonder if a lens filter is worth the investment solely for protection. I’ll always answer a resounding yes. While some argue that modern lens coatings provide sufficient protection, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Accidents happen, and even the smallest scratch on your lens can compromise image quality. Investing in lens filters is a simple and cost-effective way to ensure the longevity of your lenses and preserve the value of your equipment.

When choosing lens filter important to consider the size. Lens filters are typically designed to fit specific lens diameters, which can vary from lens to lens. By selecting the correct filter size for each lens, you can ensure a secure and proper fit, maximizing the effectiveness of the filter’s protective capabilities. It’s also worth noting that lens filters can be easily cleaned or replaced if they become scratched or damaged. 

Exploring Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters are a popular choice among photographers for their ability to enhance image quality and reduce unwanted glare and reflections. A polarizer controls the amount and direction of light coming into the lens, resulting in improved colour saturation and contrast in your photos.

One type of polarizing filter is the circular filter, which can be easily attached to your camera lens. The advantage of circular polarizers is that they can be rotated while mounted, allowing you to adjust the amount of polarization according to your shooting conditions. By rotating the filter, you can maximize its effect and achieve the desired outcome.

We use polarizing filters in a variety of situations. In landscape photography, a polarizing filter can help to deepen the blue sky, make clouds appear more distinct, and reduce reflections on water or rocky surfaces. In portrait photography, polarizing filters can reduce skin shine and bring out the natural colours of the subject’s surroundings. The versatile of the filters has no bounds, it can also be used in street photography, architecture, and other genres to control reflections and improve saturation.

Polarizing filters are essential for those who want to enhance their images and have more control over the light entering their lenses. Purchasing a good polarising filter and mastering it can help you produce breathtakingly colourful images with better contrast and clarity.

Understanding Neutral Density Filters ( ND Filter)

Neutral density filters, commonly known as ND filters, reduce the amount of light that enters the camera. Useful when there is too much light, example a bright sunny day or when you want to create a stunning motion blur. ND filters come in different strengths, measured in f-stops, which determine the amount of light that is blocked.

ND filters darkening the entire image, allowing for longer exposure or wider aperture settings without overexposing the photo. Most often used in landscape, architecture, and long exposure photography. By using an ND filter, you can achieve smooth silky waterfalls, blurred motion in crowded city streets, or capture the soft, dreamy effects of moving clouds.

Quality ND filters maintain the overall image quality and colour accuracy while reducing the amount of light. They are typically made from high-quality optical glass or resin materials and feature multi-coating to minimize reflections and lens flare.

Some of the higher F-Stop ND filters shift the colour spectrum. 

Understanding Different Types of Neutral Density Filters

There are various types of ND filters available, each offering different strengths and effects. Let’s look at the most common types:

  • Solid ND Filters: These filters have a uniform density throughout, reducing light equally across the entire frame. They are ideal for situations where you want to achieve a specific exposure reduction, such as capturing long exposures in bright daylight.

  • Graduated ND Filters: These filters have a gradual transition from dark to clear, allowing you to balance the exposure between the sky and the foreground. Useful in landscape photography, when there is a significant difference in exposure between the sky and the ground.

  • Variable ND Filters: These filters offer adjustable density, allowing you to control the amount of light reduction by rotating the filter. They provide flexibility in various lighting conditions and are popular among videographers and photographers who require quick adjustments on the go.

It’s essential to understand the specific use case and desired effect before choosing the right ND filter for your photography needs. Experimentation with different strengths and types of filters can unlock a world of creative possibilities and help you achieve stunning and unique images.

Type of ND FilterStrengthUse Case
Solid ND Filter1-stop to 15-stopCapturing long exposures in bright light, glass like reflection on water
Graduated ND Filter1-stop to 4-stopBalancing exposure between sky and foreground in landscape photography
Variable ND FilterAdjustableFlexibility in various lighting conditions

Learning to using ND filters requires some practice and experimentation to master. Understanding their strengths, limitations, and the creative possibilities they will allow you to create stunning images that stand out.

Unlock the World Of ND Grad Filters

Graduated neutral density (GND) filters are a common in landscape photography. GND’s are used to darken the sky in the photos, allowing for an even exposure and preserving detail throughout the photo.

GND typically feature a gradient transition from dark to clear, with the dark portion positioned on the top half of the filter. This design enables photographers to control the exposure and achieve a more natural look in their landscape images. By reducing the brightness of the sky, GND filters prevent overexposure, particularly during sunrise or sunset shots where the sky can be much brighter than the ground.

It’s important to position the filter correctly to achieve the desired effect. The dark portion should align with the sky, while the clear part covers the foreground. By carefully positioning the filter, you can enhance the overall composition.

GND Filter StrengthEffectUsage
1-stopSlight darkening of the skySubtle balancing of exposures
2-stopModerate darkening of the skyEffective in most landscape situations
3-stopSignificant darkening of the skyUseful in high-contrast scenes

Whether you’re capturing a vibrant sunset or a dramatic mountain range, GND filters are a great resource for landscape photographers. By helping to balance exposures and preserve detail in both the sky and the foreground, these filters enable photographers to capture the full beauty of a scene. Experimenting with different strengths of GND filters will allow you to achieve the desired creative effect.

Unlocking the World of ND Filters: Hard vs. Graduated ND Filters 

Hard ND filters are like your solid shade, blocking an even amount of light across the frame. They’re fantastic for scenes with a consistent horizon, like a sunset at the beach. On the flip side, graduated ND filters have a gradient with smooth transitions from dark to clear. These are your go-to when you’re dealing with scenes where the sky is about to hide behind a mountain range, or an uneven horizon. Both have their roles, and understanding when to use them will elevate your photography game.

Hard ND Filters:

  • Even Light Reduction: Blocks light uniformly, ideal for high-contrast scenes.
  • Versatile: Suitable for landscapes, seascapes, and snowy settings.
  • Simplicity: Easy for beginners to grasp.

Graduated ND Filters:

  • Gradual Transition: Smoothly balances exposure in scenes with varying horizon.
  • Sky Control: Perfect for capturing vibrant skies while maintaining foreground detail.
  • Creative Effects: Adds a touch of artistry to your photos.

Exploring the World of Close-up

Unlock the fascinating world of a bugs life with a close-up filter. Instead of purchasing that expensive Macro lens, first try a Close-up filter. They allow you to focus on smaller subjects like flowers and insects. They’re easy to use, budget-friendly, and an excellent alternative to investing in a dedicated macro lens.

Top Features of Close-Up Filters:

  • Affordable: Achieve macro-like shots without breaking the bank.
  • Easy to Use: Simply attach the filter to your lens, and you’re ready to explore the miniature world.
  • Versatile: Compatible with a variety of lenses, making them accessible to photographers of all levels.
  • Portable: Compact and lightweight, close-up filters are perfect for on-the-go shooting adventures.
  • Stunning Detail: Capture the tiniest textures and details with precision, adding a new dimension to your photography.

Adding Artistic Flare with Coloured Filters 

Coloured filters help evoke moods and enhance the contrast of your photos. A coloured filter is like a painter’s palette, allowing you to adjust the tones and hues in your images. Imagine capturing a mesmerizing sunset with an orange filter to intensify those warm, golden tones. Or using a blue filter to enhance your underwater shots with a cool ambience.

Top Features of Coloured Filters:

  • Mood Enhancement: Easily create and enhance different moods with a variety of filter colours.
  • Dramatic Effects: Add drama and flair to your photos with stunning and vivid hues.
  • Storytelling: Use filters to convey emotions and narratives in your images.
  • Effortless Creativity: Achieve captivating results with minimal effort, perfect for beginners.
  • Versatile and Fun: Experiment with various colours to find your unique style and artistic expression.

You will often see photographers using a red or orange filter when shooting black and white. ( Ahum... Lars)

Tips for Using Lens Filters Effectively

When it comes to using lens filters, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you make the most of this valuable tool. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

1. Properly Attach Filters to Your Lens

Before using a filter, it’s crucial to properly attach it to your lens. First, insure the filter is the correct size for your lens. 

Carefully screw it onto the front of your lens. Start by aligning the threads on the filter with those on the lens, making sure not to force it. Rotate the filter clockwise until it is snugly attached. Avoid over tightening the filter, as it may become challenging to remove later. Ensure that the filter is securely in place to prevent any movement or wobbling during shooting.

If you have lenses with different filter thread sizes, you can use filter adapters to match the sizes.

2. Choosing the Right Filter Size

Almost all lenses have the filter size marked on the front of the lens, illustrated by a symbol with a diameter measurement. It is usually expressed in millimeters (mm). For example, if your lens has a filter size of 67mm, you need to use a 67mm filter.  Trying to attached the wrong filter size can ruin the lens fine threads.

 3. Regularly Clean and Protect Your Filters

Just like your camera lens, filters accumulate dust, fingerprints, and smudges. Regularly cleaning your filters to maintain optimal image quality.

Use a soft lens cleaning cloth or a filter-specific cleaning solution to remove dirt and smudges. Also consider purchasing a lens filter pouch or case to protect your filters from scratches and potential damage.

4. Experiment with Different Filters

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of filters and see how they can enhance your photography. Try using a polarizing filter to reduce reflections and boost colours, or a ND filter to achieve creative long-exposure effects. Each filter has its own unique capabilities, so take the time to explore and discover their full potential.

Glass Filters Vs Resin Filters

Glass filters versus resin filters, which one should you choose? Let’s break it down in plain terms. Glass filters offer impeccable image quality and durability, making them an excellent choice for those seeking the best results. Resin filters are budget-friendly and less prone to shattering, perfect for those looking for a lighter option on the go.

Glass Filters:

  • Outstanding optical quality, normally a higher quality filter
  • Scratch resistance for long-lasting use.
  • Minimal colour distortion.

Resin Filters:

  • Budget-friendly and lightweight.
  • Reduced risk of shattering.
  • A great starting point for starting out.

Drop-in Filters Vs Circular Filters

Choosing between screw-on filters and drop-in filters, it’s like deciding between your favourite camera lenses. Circular filters, like polarizing filters, are easy to screw onto the front of your lens and adjust on the fly. On the other hand, drop-in filters, often used with filter holders, offer versatility and can be quickly swapped to meet different shooting conditions.

Circular Filters:

  • Quick and easy attachment, ideal for beginners.
  • Instant adjustments without needing additional equipment.
  • Perfect for controlling reflections and enhancing colour in outdoor shots.

Drop-in Filters:

  • Versatile and compatible with filter holders for precise positioning.
  • Rapid filter changes to adapt to various photographic situations.
  • Excellent for long-exposure photography and landscape shots.

Using Camera Filters Effectively

Once you have the filter attached, it’s time to explore its creative possibilities. Different types of lens filters offer various effects, such as reducing glare, enhancing colours, or controlling exposure. Experiment with different filters and shooting conditions to see the impact they have on your images. For example, a polarizing filter can help reduce reflections and boost colour saturation, while a ND filter allows you to achieve long exposure effects. Understanding the instructions and recommended settings for each filter type will ensure you achieve the desired effects in your photography.

Using lens filters can greatly enhance the creative possibilities in your photography. By properly attaching the filters and understanding their effects, you can take your images to the next level. Don't be afraid to experiment and try different combinations of filters to achieve unique and stunning results.

Knowing how to properly attach and use filters is essential. By selecting the right filter size, securely attaching the filter, and understanding its effects, you can explore new creative avenues and capture remarkable images. Remember to experiment, practice, and continue learning to make the most out of your lens filters.

Different Types of Camera Lens Filters Attachments

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just diving into the world of photography, understanding the three main types screw on, drop in, and magnetic can make a world of difference.

Screw On: Easily attach to your lens. Just twist, and you’re ready to roll. Perfect for those who prefer a secure and snug fit.

Drop In: Slide in your rectangular filters effortlessly for quick adjustments. Ideal for those looking to experiment with various filters without the fuss of unscrewing. Quick and efficient for both wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

Magnetic: Experience the magic of magnetic attachment. Just snap them on and off with ease. A fantastic choice for photographers who value speed and flexibility.

Pros and Cons:

Screw On:
Pros: Secure fit, simple to use.
Cons: Takes longer to attach.

Drop In:
Pros: Quick changes, suitable for various rectangular filters.
Cons: Might not be as secure as screw-on.

Pros: Lightning-fast attachment, works with various lenses.
Cons: Less secure in certain situations.

Conclusion – Lens Filters for Beginners

As we wrap up this guide to lens filters, we hope you now have a better understanding of the various types of filters and how they can enhance your photography. Lens filters are not only useful for protecting your lens from potential damage, but they also offer creative possibilities that can take your images to new heights.

For beginners, we recommend starting with essential filters such as UV for lens protection, polarizing filters for enhancing colors and reducing reflections, neutral density filters for creative exposure control, and graduated neutral density filters for balancing exposures in landscape photography. These filters will provide a solid foundation for you to explore and experiment with different techniques.

Remember, attaching and using lens filters correctly is crucial for achieving optimal results. Pay attention to the filter size that matches your lens’s front element diameter, and follow the specific instructions and recommended settings for each type of filter. By doing so, you can make the most of your lens filters and unlock their full potential.

Whether you’re a just starting out or a pro, lens filters are a valuable tool that can elevate your images to the next level. So don’t hesitate to dive into the world of lens filters and discover the endless creative possibilities they offer. Happy shooting!

Frequently Asked Questions

To choose the right lens filter, consider your photography needs. UV filters for protection, polarizers for reducing reflections, ND filters for light control, and creative filters for artistic effects. Assess your goals and select accordingly.

UV s serve multiple purposes. They protect the front lens element from dust, scratches, and potential damage. UV filters also help reduce the effects of haze and UV light,.

Polarizing filters are used to reduce glare, boost colours, and eliminate reflections. They are especially useful in landscape and outdoor photography, where they can enhance contrast and saturation.

The best lens filter for harsh light is a circular polarizing filter. It reduces glare and reflections, making it ideal for taming intense sunlight and enhancing contrast in your photos.

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