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Lens filters can serve many purposes – enhancing colors, reducing reflections, or simply protecting the lens. With today’s advanced photo editing software, you can recreate lens filter effects. However, not all filters can be simulated through software. On the other hand, some photographers prefer to do as little post-processing as possible and only use lens filters on their cameras to create different effects. In this post, we’ll be discussing the different types of filters, what they do, and how to use them.

Filter Info Chart

UV Filter

Ultra violet filters are used to block ultra-violet light, which, in turn, reduces haze. It’s often debated whether or not photographers should permanently leave a UV filter on the lens for protection. While UV filters reduce haze, they also have the potential to increase lens flare, reduce contrast, and add a slight tint to the image. Essentially it comes down to personal preference. If you own an expensive SLR lens, you want all the protection you can get, and the cost of replacing a new lens outweighs the cost of a filter. Also, take into consideration that you get what you pay for. I’m not saying you should spend a fortune on a UV Filter, but do your research. Not all UV filters are the same.

However, all is not lost when you’re out shooting and you forget your UV filter. More and more photo editing software have a dehaze feature.

Polarizing Filter

Similar to the UV filter, a polarizing filter reduces atmospheric haze, but it also reduces reflected sunlight. It will make skies appear deeper blue, reduce the contrast between land and sky, and reduce glare and reflections from water and glass. Something to take into consideration when using a polarizing filter — the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor is greatly reduced, almost 1/4 to 1/8 of the amount of light. This means there is an increased risk of a blurred image when not using a tripod.

There are two types of polarizing filters: linear and circular. They are similar except the circular filter removes reflected light with the help of a quarter-wave plate, and does not interfere with the function of the camera’s metering systems and autofocus. Linear filters are less expensive and cannot be used with cameras with through-the-lens metering and autofocus, which is most digital SLR cameras.

Color Balancing Filter

A color balancing filter corrects colors, changing the white balance of the light reaching the camera’s sensor. It can be used to correct a color cast or to add one. For instance, adding warmth to a cloudy day to make it appear more like a sunset. Color balancing filters are often used in underwater photography to reduce the blue and green light.

Color balancing filters can be great for adding an artistic effect to your photo as well. It's also easy to reproduce these effects with most photo editing software. It’s more personal preference which you choose to use.

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral Density filters reduce the amount of light coming through the lens. Situations where ND filters come in handy might include: smoothing water motion, using blur to convey motion, or achieving a shallower depth of field in a very bright light. ND filters allow you to take long exposure shots in the middle of the day without completely blowing out your image, which then allows you to decrease the shutter speed, creating a longer exposure. Now you can go out and get that beautiful shot of the waterfall without ending up with an overexposed mess. It’s important to take note that some Neutral Density filters can add a very slight color cast to the image.

Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

A variation of the ND filter is the graduated neutral density filter. The filter has a gradient effect, reducing the light gradually from 100% to 0% across the length of the filter. A graduated ND filter works great shooting landscapes and seascapes, when you want to reduce the brightness of the sky and still maintain the right exposure of the land or water.

As with any camera equipment, it is best to do your research before making a purchase. Find which lenses best suit your needs and at a price that won’t break the bank. Happy Shooting!

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