Your Ultimate Guide to Buying Lens Filters

photographic filters

If you think that you need to buy new photography tools to get quality photography work, then you need first to answer the question, have I been fully utilizing my lens filters? Although most people use the filters to protect the lens, the filter is also meant for color and contrast enhancement, creating movement, and reducing reflections. Utilizing your lens filter beyond the purpose of keeping away dust, moisture, etc. might be the key to the quality images you are seeking to achieve.

Lens filters are made from quality glass and are often screwed onto the front part of a lens to bar particular kinds of light and colors from getting into the camera. Even though technology has made it possible to incorporate filters when editing, the final image can’t be compared to that shot using the lens filters, especially with landscape photography.

Types of Lens Filter

camera filter

There are several filters in the market, and choosing the right one for your needs can be challenging. Below, we explore different types of camera lens filters to make your choice easier.

Ultraviolet Filters

Ultraviolet (UV) filters have been used to prevent haze and fogginess in photographic films due to the films’ for a very long time sensitivity to UV light. Even with digital cameras, UV filters are still useful today. Due to the filter’s effectiveness in protecting the lens from scratches, moisture, and dirt, UV filters come in handy when shooting in dusty or wet locations. The most common UV lens filters ratings are L37 and L39, while some come with no rating.

UV filters don’t affect the quality of the image and thus you can just leave it on the lens for protection. In the case of scratching, UV and any other filters are always cheaper to replace than a lens. When looking for the lens filters for beginners, bear in mind that cheap can sometime be expensive. However, this doesn’t mean that you can find best budget lens filters that are still quality. You just have to do your research.

If you consider permanently using any of the other filters, you may remove the UV filter permanently to prevent the vignette effect.

UV filters are ideal for all kinds of photography.

Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters work in the same manner as sunglasses. These circular filters make colors more vibrant and reduce glare and reflections. They control the amount of polarized, i.e., reflected, light entering the lens.

Once attached to the camera, polarized filters can be rotated using the exterior rim as you watch through a live view or viewfinder to see the changes in the image. Polarizing lens filters give impressive images when shooting wet greenery, glassy finishes, water, the sky, and other scenes with abundant polarized light.

Since polarizing filters control the amount of light entering a lens, the images tend to be dark. To create a lighting balance when in Aperture mode, use slower shutter speed and a lower f-stop if in AV / S mode. Polarizing filters will help you remove glare in cloudy or rainy days, get more vibrant green color in plant photography and make colors in any other image pop.

Polarized filters are ideal for all kinds of photography.

White balance filters

Also referred to as color correcting filters, these filters make your image colder or warmer by adequately adjusting the white balance. A typical example is fluorescent daylight lighting that allows you to take photos using fluorescent lighting and gives you natural-looking, accurate colors, even in low-lit conditions.

However, this is filter is outdated as it is now easy to adjust the white balance when editing.

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

ND filters are made of dark glass that limits the quantity of light entering the sensor without interfering with your image’s color. Traditional ND filters allow adjustments at a third, two-thirds, and full-stop. In contrast, modern ND filters allow infinite adjustments by rotating the filter’s outer ring once screwed onto the lens, as is the case with polarizing filters.

Because of their ability to control the severity of the incoming light, ND filters enable you to shoot using a slower shutter speed without overexposure on the image. For the best pictures, when shooting moving subjects, use a tripod.

Whether you are dealing with a lot of bright light in outdoor or studio shoots, an ND filter will come in handy. ND lens filters are the best lens filter for landscape, street, flash, and subjects in motion (e.g., waterfall and river) photography.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters

GND filters differ from ND filters, in that ND filters have a uniform edge to edge degree of density. In contrast, GND filters are one-ended, and their density builds up slowly to the other side of the lens filter.

GND filters differ in darkness and come in three main types: reverse, hard-edged, and soft-edged. Landscape photographers prefer a reverse GND filter for taking breathtaking sunset and sunrise images when the sun is near the horizon. On the other end, hard-edged GND filters, deliver a perfect balance in high-contrast sites suitable for shooting flat backgrounds with dark foregrounds and a bright sky. Finally, a soft-edged GND filter gives a smooth transition between bright and dim parts and thus best for horizon photography in scenes that are not very flat.

GND filters are the best lens filter for landscape photography and shooting during the golden hours, i.e., before sunset and after sunrise.

Other not-so-commonly used lens filters include colored filter, a special effects filter, and a close-up filter.

How to Choose Creative Lens Filters

Irrespective of your choice of a lens filter, there are several factors you can consider to help you choose the best lens filter brand and model. Check whether the lens edges are weather-sealed, the kind and quality of glass used, and the coatings applied. Another critical thing to consider is material used to make the retaining ring of the filter with aluminum ones being cheap and more susceptible to denting while brass ones are sturdy.

Finally, the choice of the lens filter shape depends on your preference. You can choose between screw-on, drop-in, rectangular, and square filters.

Conclusion

A lens filter plays a significant role in any photography work. If you like seeing immediate results and dislike spending time editing, then a lens filter is your best option. Go for a UV filter polarizing filter for all kinds of photography, but if you are into landscape photography, then go for an ND or GND lens filter.

We do hope that you are now in a better position to choose the best lens filters for portraits.

Posted in: Camera basics