5 Filters Every Photographer Should Have

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5 Filters Every Photographer Should Have

Before the invention of digital cameras, filters were widely used by photographers as they were relied on in order to produce a range of effects in their photographs, or to correct the white balance with the use of warming or cooling filters, for example. These days, with digital cameras, the use of warming and cooling filters is not necessary as the digital camera has the ability to either automatically or manually alter the white balance, depending on the type of lighting.

Equally, many photographers use software on their computers to edit their digital photographs, creating effects that certain filters would have created on film cameras. However, filters for camera lenses still have an important role in photography using a DSLR, and using filters with a DSLR should always be a consideration. Some filter effects cannot be reproduced using picture editing software after the photograph is taken. As such, filters like a Neutral Density filter as well as Circular Polarizing filters are still required in digital photography. Additionally, other filters can be used for dramatic effect and also to have some fun and be creative with the photographs being taken. For example, infrared filters can be interesting to use and discover the effects that can be produced.

What are 5 Important Filters for a Digital Photographer?

There are a wide number of different manufacturers of cameras and lenses; similarly there are different brands and different types of filters that are available for digital cameras. Some essential filters for a digital photographer include a Circular Polarizing filter, a UV filter, Neutral Density filter, Graduated Neutral Density filter, and an Infrared filter. Well-known manufacturers of camera lens filters include Hoya, Polaroid, and B&W. The table shown below illustrates the uses and effects of the 5 important filters for a digital photographer to own.

Circular Polarizing Filter

A circular polarizing filter helps to stop glare and can also improve the saturation of colours in the photograph. A circular polarizing filter is particularly important for use when taking landscape shots and can make landscape photographs appear more dramatic due to the colours not becoming washed out or overexposed. These type of filters are especially effective when a photographer is taking photographs of landscapes that involve a lot of sky or when taking pictures of an amount of water such as a river or puddle. Polarizing filters reduce will reduce the glare on the water in the photograph, and this will greatly improve the picture. Such filters can also help to intensify the shade of blue or pink in the sky due to the improvement in colour saturation rather than the sky becoming pale and insignificant in comparison to the rest of the landscape. Polarizing filters work by reducing the amount of light that has been reflected that is allowed to enter the camera's light sensor. This is similar to the way polarizing sunglasses work; rather than just making everything darker, they just reduce glare. Buying a Circular Polarizing filter is a good investment for the keen photographer. There is also the choice of purchasing a Linear Polarizing filter, and at first glance, these may seem a more attractive option because they are generally cheaper. However, while a Circular Polarizing filter will still work with a cameras internal light metering and with the auto-focus options on a DSLR, a Linear Polarizing filter will not do this. Therefore, although more expensive, a Circular Polarizing filter can be a much more useful buy.


UV filter

Ultraviolet (UV) filters can also be known as skylight filters. When placed on the lens, they reduce the amount of haze reaching the camera sensor, which is due to ultraviolet light. Digital SLR sensors are not as sensitive as film SLR cameras sensors; therefore, while a UV filter is an essential filter for the film photographer, it is less essential for a digital photographer. However, the UV filter does have another use and therefore could still be recommended as an important filter to buy, even for the photographer using a DSLR. A UV filter is essentially clear, and as such, it will not have an effect on the image being taken but can be used to protect the camera lens from scratches or dust. For cheaper lenses, it is perhaps not worth using a UV filter, but for more expensive lenses, it can be essential to use one for protection as it is much easier, and vastly cheaper, to replace a broken or damaged UV filter than it is buy a new camera lens or pay to fix the old one.


Neutral Density filter

A Neutral Density filter can also be known as an ND filter. The purpose of using an ND filter is to enable the photographer to extend the exposure time for the photograph; for example, when taking photographs of moving water such as rivers or waterfalls and when the surrounding light is bright. Taking the photograph in bright light without a Neutral Density filter would mean that a quick exposure time was needed so that the photograph did not appear overexposed in the areas of bright light. Using a Neutral Density filter allows only a reduced amount of light to reach the cameras sensor; therefore a longer exposure can be used. When using a Neutral Density filter, it is possible to obtain different effects than taking the same photograph without one. Without an ND filter, a short exposure time would be necessary, and photographs of water, for example, would appear freeze framed and highly detailed. Using a Neutral Density filter, and therefore a longer exposure, would mean that the water in the photograph would appear more fluid, smooth, and even blurred, which can help show the water motion.


Graduated Neutral Density filter

While a standard Neutral Density filter blocks a light consistently across the whole picture, a Graduated Neutral Density filter (GND) reduces light reaching the camera sensor in a linear pattern. For example, the darkest section of the GND filter can be moved to the sky area, while the lighter section can be positioned to allow the foreground to be exposed properly, while not overexposing the sky. This can be considered an essential filter for a photographer as the creation of some dramatic skies as well as a properly exposed foreground can enhance a landscape photograph immensely, for instance.


Infrared filter

Infrared photography can be quite tricky to master, and it is important to ensure that the camera is capable of taking infrared photographs with help from an Infrared filter before purchasing the filter. If it is possible, however, then Infrared photography can open up a whole new world of creativity and enjoyment from taking photographs. The pictures produced are unique and lend themselves well to landscape shots, for example. While it may be challenging to take infrared photographs, the key is experimenting with exposure lengths. An Infrared filter blocks all visible light, allowing only infrared light to pass through. Therefore, even in daylight a long exposure on a photograph will likely be necessary in order to allow enough light in to take a properly exposed photo.


Where to Buy Camera Lens Filters

Camera lens filters, such as Neutral Density filters and Circular Polarizing filters can be bought in places such as specialist camera shops, department stores and some high street electrical shops. There are a range of brands and types available, and staff in camera departments or specialist shops will usually assist the buyer in purchasing the correct filter for their camera and discuss what it will be used for. To look for a wider range of lens filters, including a variety of prices for all budgets, try eBay as another option.

Find Lens Filters on eBay

When a buyer is aware of the type of lens filter for which they are looking to buy, eBay can offer a range of choices and prices. On eBay, to find lens filters, visit the eBay homepage. Start by opening the All Categories tab and clicking on the link for Cameras & Photography, followed by Lenses & Filters. From there, click on the link for Filters followed by ticking boxes on the left hand side, under type which will reveal in the search results certain types of filter only, such as neutral density or UV filters. To refine the search further, try using other options on the left side of the page. Specific terms can also be typed directly into the search bar at the top of any eBay page.


While photographers using digital cameras can replicate some filter effects by using computer software to edit photographs after they have been taken, there are some filters that every photographer should still own, whether using a DSLR or a film SLR. These lenses include a Circular Polarizing filter, Neutral Density filter, Graduated Neutral Density filter and UV filter. It can also be fun to own an Infrared filter and experiment with the possibilities of Infrared photographs. Filters for camera lenses can be bought in a variety of places and are made by different manufacturers such as Hoya and Polaroid.

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