A Beginner’s Look at Camera Filters

by | Nov 24, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Love’em or hate’em, when it comes to camera filters there are two kinds of photographers and if you don’t like to put anything in front of your lens that might spoil its optical perfection, you can stop reading now.

Most purists don’t like to use any kind of filters because they don’t want anything to come between reality and the image on their exposed film or imaging sensor. Filter fans—and I’ll admit to being one of them—don’t worry about resolution charts and try to have fun with their photography. Even diehards will admit that there are some occasions when you really need a camera filter, starting with…

Protection. The right filter, such as a UV, Skylight or 1A, will protect your camera lens when working under difficult environmental conditions, such as blowing dust or sand.

Color correction. Digital shooters can adjust this in camera or create a custom white balance but when you’re shooting film, filters will let you correct the color of light you’re working in, even if it’s invisible. If the lighting in your scene is fluorescent or the kind of intense ultra-violet (UV) light encountered at elevations of 14,000 feet or higher, you’ll need a filter to approximate the same color correct view that your brain provides to your eyes.

Diffusion and soft focus filters can soften wrinkles and imperfections producing more flattering portraits. Fog or diffusion filters can be used to enhance the mood of landscape or seascape subjects.

Colored filters. When shooting black and white film, colored filters can add dramatic effects such as darkening skies or lightening foliage and skin tones. When shooting color film, colored filters can add color where there is none, such as adding a little extra punch to a sunset.

Polarizing filters can darken skies, remove reflections from non-metallic objects, and make images of everything from landscapes to lily pads more dramatic or realistic.

Special effects filters, such as star filters and prisms, let you capture images that only exist on that single frame of film or in your mind’s eye.


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