Filters are one of the benefits of owning a DSLR, but what are they, what do they do and do you need them?
Filters come in many shapes, sizes, colours types and prices but they all have one thing in common. They are all pieces of glass that you place in front of your camera lens to alter the light entering your camera. They attach via the thread on the front of your lens and most allow you to create different effects with your photos. Here are a few of the main types you will come across:
- UV and Clear – In the modern age of digital and coated lenses these are only really useful for protecting yor lens and there is a healthy debate to be had on whether they can cause more harm than good. Personally I don’t use them.
- Neutral Density – These are grey neutral filters that have no effect on the colour of the light entering the lens but do reduce the amount of it. These are mainly used to enable the effects of slow shutter speed such as motion blur to be used when there is a lot light about. I have a ND8 filter meaing it reduces the amount of light by a factor of 8 and love it for creating motion blur during the day.
- Graduated Neutral Desity – Simlar to the ND filter but only half the filter will reduce the amount of light. These are very useful when part of a scene, particularly the sky, is too bright to be exposed correctly with the rest of the scene. Great if you are a budding landscape snapper… like me! So I’ve got one of these as well.
- Circular Polorising Filter – This polarises the light before it enters the lens. I’m not going to try to explaing the science but if your are really interested this wikipedia page has all of the facts. In photography they are used to reduce refections and glare and enhance colours (particularly skys) in bright sunlight. A great tool to have, again mainly for landscapes but be prepared to shell out a few bob, I’ve got a really cheap one off eBay which creates some decidely dodgy colour casts in my photos. If your are going to buy a polarising filter make sure it is the circular type (the filter not physically) as you can get other types but they won’t create the effect you want.
- Coloured – Affect the colour of the light to suposedly enhace the photo. My view is why bother? You can create all of the effects just as well in photoshop without having to faf arround with bits of coloured glass.
As mentioned I have a ND filter, a graduated ND filter, both Cokin type P and a circlular polarising filter. I get the most use out of the ND as I’m a slow shutter speed junkie and the CPL rarely sees the light of day due to the dodgy quality.
I find filters are a really cheap and effective way to bring a bit of life and energy to your photos, allowing you to capture things you can achive with a naked lens and photoshop. At worst a bit of fun, at times absolutely indespensable.