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episode 29

Lens Filter Basics

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Sleeklens Photography Podcast. So we’ve had a lot of new listeners come in over the past week, the past couple weeks actually, so I wanted to go and give a nice little general welcome for all of you new listeners out there. So, for this particular podcast, we are going to concentrate on filters; so we are going to talk about the different types of filters that you can put on your lens, to give you a certain kind of effect for your photography, and some of the ones that may be useful, and some of the ones that are a waste of money. So, we are going to get into these different types of filters that you can use for your photography.

UV Filters

The first filter we are going to talk about is a UV filter. This is the type of filter that is probably a typical UV filter, a clear filter or a haze filter. This is kind of ones that just look like a paint plane sheet of glass, pretty much that goes in front of your lens, and I’ve always felt the need to talk about. They are mainly gonna be the circular filters, they have the square format filters, gradual filters. I’m going to talk about the circular type that screws on the front of your lens – just makes a little easier – but all of them pretty much worked the exact same way depending on the filter type. So, again, the UV filter, the clear filter, or the haze filter can all the same thing, and what it actually does, what it’s meant for, I guess, is supposed to be, is to help protect with any co-pays that might introduce into the atmosphere. I can try to cut down on that a little bit, that’s kind of what it’s supposed to be for, but I found that those are not really, not really the best use cases for those.

If you want to put a UV filter, a clear filter or a haze filter on the front of your lens, it’s mainly going to not impact your photography; hardly any of what is going to do is basically do one specific job, and that is to protect the front of your lens. So what I mean by that is when you screw that on there, is not to show any type of difference when you’re taking your photos, but let’s say you drop your camera and it lands lens down, hitting the lens first, basically. Most likely it’s going to break that front filter, that haze filter on there. It is probably going to bust that up instead of your actual lens, so a lot of people don’t actually use them for the feature whether it’s supposed to be used, most people don’t notice a big difference, but they do use them for the fact of trying to protect the front glass, the front element of your camera lens.

Now, one caveat to this is if you have a UV filter don’t buy the cheap ones, don’t go to any kind of a regular electronic store that has a small camera section and pick up a UV filter because it can actually degrade the quality of your photography. It is one of the sheet of glass that it has to pass through, sometimes a plastic. One of the sheet of glass it has to pass through and depending on the quality, it’s gonna actually probably make a little harder focus; you can notice that you have seen more lens flare, stuff like that. So you really want a higher quality piece of the clear filter if you want to put that on the front of your lens.

Polarizing Filters

Now, let’s talk about the polarizing filters. A lot of people talk about circular polarizer filters, and that’s kind of what I’m talking about, but a lot of the polarizing filters actually work the same way. So, what directional use for is to filter out the polarized light so it’s reducing the reflections, is enhancing a little bit of the colors on, it’s increasing a little bit of the contrast and depending on the type of scene that you’re shooting, and they can basically be used in almost any type of photography.

A lot of the polarizing filters are the circular polarizing filter, so what it does is screw the front of your lens, and as you spin the filter, as you rotate the filter, if you’re looking through the viewfinder you’ll be able to see that it’s cutting a lot of reflections.

A lot of people actually like to use them for landscape photography on like a very bright sunny day, where there’s no clouds in the sky. You connect the polarizing filter on there and it’s going darken the sky a little bit more; it can reduce that glare, and it really works, really, really, well for that. It’s kind of the same thing as polarizing lenses I guess. Do you, when you have them on your sunglasses, it kind of does the same thing: it cuts out the other the polarized light, reduces those reflections, and it really helps out the image, especially in the contrast sections of the image.

So, the next two point comes to polarizing filters that has nothing to do with photography, however, if I were to go ahead and then put a good polarizing fit on the front of my lens and point my camera directly at my computer monitor, and I start rotating that polarizing filter you will see, and you can definitely try this with your filter at home, you can see that as you rotate that filter your computer screen it is gonna turn completely black. Now, it is not to be black obviously because you are not touching it or anything up in a screensaver something like that, but that polarizing filters are cutting out that light that’s coming at the polarized lights coming out from your computer monitor, so you know it can become a kind of fun cool trick. So, if you are photographing interior for some reason and you can’t have access to turn off the TV or something like that, you can actually use that on the inside of the house and turn that polarized filter in to make the TV screen turned black, which is actually really fun trick.

Neutral Density Filters

Okay, so now let’s talk about neutral density filters. A lot of people, I have neutral density filters, are actually very, very handy especially if in certain situations are very, very handy. And so, well what they did basically do is cut out the amount of light that’s coming into your lens, it decreases the amount of light coming in your lens. Now, a lot of people think this is counterintuitive because you want more light to come in your lens; you want to have as much light as possible because photography is all about light. So, it’s all about getting as much light as you can to come in there, to get the right photo, the properly exposed photo. What a neutral density filter do is cut out that light was going through. In specific situations, it’s going to decrease your shutter speed most likely.

This is a really great way, a really useful way of showing motion blur when it comes to landscape photography. That’s probably what they are most widely used for; if you ever see those are really, really smooth water situations: a waterfall, a river… something like that. And in a really smooth running water, depending on the type of time of day that it’s shot, you know could be a really bright sunny day, and you can get your shutter speed down low enough to where to get that smooth water. So then, that’s when you would add a neutral density filter; it may be a one-stop or two-stop, they all come in a different kind of darkness basically of how much light they will cut out, and that’s what you got on the front of your lens to cut down the amount of light.

So, in situations like that, that’s what they’re basically used for, is to really show that motion. Those are the regular, the kind of basic neutral density filters, but they also have filters that are called the graduated neutral density filters, and these are really helpful, especially for landscape photography. Again, as an example, if you’re going out on a really bright sunny day, and then you’re trying to get in a really good exposure where your sky is perfectly blue, and your foreground is also really lit up, really, really nice, you are kind of in a really high dynamic situation, on a high dynamic range situation.

A gradual neutral density filter, graduated neutral density filter, is kind of a filter that is dark at the top and actually does a little gradual gradient all the way down to become a clear filter. What that’s going to do is to actually darken parts of your image, so a lot of people again will use them for landscape photography if they want to take a landscape photo where the sky is kinda balanced down. The input is that neutral density dark section is at the top, where the sky is, and have it gradually fade down, so you really doing an exposure based on the foreground and the graduated neutral density filter will compensate that by darkening the sky a bit.

Basically, it just helps you get a more balanced photo directly in the camera. You can obviously recover some of that in editing, but this is a way of doing it all in camera, to make it a little bit better and a little bit easier to edit.

What not to get…

Now one of the filters that I would probably consider a waste of time, especially if you’re doing a lot of regular photography, in the normal modernized photography, that you would do you know have a regular DSLR, is a warming or cooling filter or colored filter. Those filters are basically the kind of the same thing, they are basically a specific color; maybe a different type of warm balancer or white balance on the front of your lens, and they don’t really do a whole lot. It basically tries to correct some colors; for some filters also track colors, a lot do some blocking one type of color from entering the camera.

This could become like up a UV filter effect as well, you have seen UV photos, they make filters for that as well. This is kind of along the same way, but these cut types of photos are not really used in normal regular now digital photography. They were used back in the film days, but not in digital photography as, most of you probably know, you can drag any photo into Photoshop and you apply color to the whole photo; you can to split toning, you can crack white balance. You can do all of the stuff, so if you ever see these cooling filter or warm color filter or adjust-the-color filter, in general, probably stay away from those because you can do almost the exact same thing –  probably better – and get more control over it when you’re in Photoshop or Lightroom.

So the last basic filter I want to cover, which is a kind of specialty filter, and that is a close-up filter. Now these are closer filters, also known as like a diopter or a close-up filter that allows you to get, you know, really close to a subject; to kinda mimic that macro photography lens that, you know, in the set of buying $1000 macro lens you can get a, let’s say, $80 a close-up filter, an aided macro filter, you can buy that instead.

They do work, obviously. They actually do get you closer to your subject; but a lot of times, depending on type of filter, they can make it really hard for your camera to focus in on that subject, even though you’re getting closer to it, what you are able to get is a more zoomed-in view, and it can make it really hard for your camera to kinda focus in on the subject, so your focus will be a little bit off, a little bit hazy. Again, it’s not going to be sharp, so your image will be a little bit blurry, and also depending on the type of quality that you get, it could just make it a really distorted photo. So I try not to get a close-up filter. If I really want to mimic that macro photography kind of look, instead of buying a filter I’m going to buy extension tubes. Now, I’m not going to talk about that on this episode but now that I brought it up I’ll go and talk about just a small bit.

But instead of getting a filter to kinda mimic that macro look, you would get extension tubes that go behind your lens. So actually your lens will connect to the macro tubes, and the macro tubes will connect to your camera. And what that’ll do is depending on, again, the type of quality that you get. You’ll be able to move in really, really close a subject and get that mimic macro look. So instead of getting a close-up filter I would probably steer more towards the extension tubes. There’s a lot out there; search on Amazon, search on the Sleeklens daily deal page: you can find a bunch of macro extension tubes there as well. And I find those the better option.

So those are the basics when it comes to the types of filters, the kind of lens filters that you can get out there for your camera. There’s a lot of them out there; there’s a lot I haven’t touched on, like special effects filters that can make your photos look a little dreamy in, and star filters to make your bright subject really, really pop out. But those are very small use cases that you would ever use those in a normal day-to-day. The other ones I talked about: the UV, the polarizer, and the neutral densities. Those are really, really popular filters and that’s kind of what to use for those of you who haven’t used filter before. You might’ve heard something that can picture interest about getting a certain type of look, so look into that when it comes to those types of filters.

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