Camera filters let you go beyond what the human eye can see

Camera filters let you take photos of things that are there, but that you don’t necessarily see with the human eye.  They let you play with the light that enters and gets absorbed in the camera, and create a photo that is artistic and unique. There’s also the UV filter, which does not add much to the photo, but is a very important photography tool.
camera filters

Who needs camera filters?

Camera filters filter the light that gets in the camera based on our photographic needs. The filter’s influence on the photo is tremendous as it determines what will get absorbed and how. The most basic camera filter, the UV filter, is key in taking care of your expensive lens, while other camera filters give us the ability to take pictures in conditions we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise (or we would have had to process them afterwards in Photoshop or in another photo editing software).

What do you need to know when buying camera filters? 

  • Lenses come in different diameters and so do filters (even if you have the same camera as your friend, you might have different lenses and you won’t be able to share filters). In general, the wider the diameter, the more expensive the filter will be.
  • Camera filters influence the light that gets into your camera, so it’s important to use a high-quality one – a low quality filter can ruin all your shots even if you have a great lens and a great camera.
  • The filters are installed right on the optical lens in most cases (sometimes they are installed beneath it, such as with fisheye lenses). You can install one filter over another one, but we don’t recommend doing so regularly because this makes it difficult to get consistent results.
  • The predominant camera filter brands are HOYA and B+W, but there are other good brands on the market.

UV camera filters – an absolute must

A UV camera filter is a basic filter that anyone who has a professional digital camera (a reflex camera) should own. UV stands for Ultra Violet and the UV filter works to not let this wavelength enter the lens. The benefit of that is the minimization of haze in your pictures (caused, for example, by taking photos while facing the sun). 
As limited in reducing haze as it may be, most photographers still insist on buying a UV filter as a lens protector. It can be a very practical lens protector since it does not influence or distort the pictures. In essence, it is a transparent filter that separates the lens from the outside world and protects it from scratches, dust, and other hazards. Even if the filter gets scratched, its replacement cost pales in comparison with that of a lens.
We highly recommend leaving the UV filter on even when you’re putting on additional camera filters (just install them on top of one another) to guard your lens . If you have several lenses that you switch back and forth from (for example a wide-angle and a telephoto), you might as well get a UV filter for each to save you the bother of moving it from one lens to the other all the time.

Polarizing Camera Filters

A polarizing camera filter reduces the glare that bounces off of objects, thus increasing the contrast of lighter objects. It also creates more saturated colors. It reduces glare, such as light reflections you get from water, glass, and other non-metallic surfaces. These filters are often used to give lackluster skies a darker and more dramatic hue. It’s made of two optical lenses, which will change the level of the filtering effect when you turn them relative to each other. For best results you should shoot at 30-40 degrees from the reflecting surface (except for sky shots where the best results are achieved when shooting at a 90-degree angle). 

Neutral Density Camera Filters (ND Filters)

ND filters, or Neutral Density Filters reduce the amount of light that gets in the lens in a balanced way (as opposed to a polarizing filter, for example). They come in a range of intensities measured by the reduction in aperture they cause (less light that gets in). Their most common use is for long exposure shots in daylight where the filter lets you capture motion without flooding the shot with too much light. An example would be: shooting a waterfall in the middle of a summer day.
There’s also a Graduated Neutral Density filter, which helps with your camera’s problem to capture detail when the photo has some parts that are dark and some parts that are lit (a problem the human eye doesn’t have). In a sunset, for example, the sun can still be bright, but the ground can be dark. A Graduated Neutral Density filter will let some of the light enter fully and some of the light enter only partially. The filter is not physically split into halves, but it gradually reduces the amount of light that gets in. It allows the top portion of the photo to let less light in and the bottom portion to let more light in. The result: the sun is captured in the photo but it does not flood the shot with light. The ground gets enough light to come out in the final photo. Graduated Neutral Density filters usually require the use of a tripod.

Warming camera filters

A warming camera filter makes the atmosphere cozier, or, put differently - it transforms boring skies into bold skies. These filters also make it seem like you shot your object in the summertime, even if you shot it on a dark, grey day. 
Warming filters come in 3 main varieties: 81A, 81B, and 81C. A “C” filter has the strongest warming effect of the three while an “A” filter has the most subtle effect. You might not even notice it when someone used an 81A filter, but you can’t miss the effects of an 81C filter! 

These are the common conditions that call for a warming camera filter:

  • Reducing the blue light in snowy conditions (snowy conditions normally reflect a lot of blue light)
  • Making a grey day look more summer-like
  • Making portraits glow
  • Shooting objects in the shade or in slightly dark conditions
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