To Filter of Not to Filter: When Should You Use One?

Ries Erol

Filters can be taken off when not in use. Some use them sparingly, some more often than necessary.

The issue of using UV filters when taking photographs is a longstanding one among photographers who are passionate about their craft.

However, it is important for photographers, especially people just starting out, to learn about the proper way or reason to use filters. When do your use filter? When do you take it off? What effects should you expect from using a filter? Are there really photographic changes when you use a filter in front of your lens? These are just some of the questions that you’ll want answered if you intend to take your photography to the next level.

The Uses of Filter

Light is an important part of photography. It is what lens captures and what gives the different effects you see in a photograph. Some photographers say filters are responsible for helping them create memorable images; that a filter is what gives character to a photo. There’s color, action and a lot of story in photos when filters are used.

Basically, what a filter does is change the way your lens views or captures light.

  • Polarized filters, for example, will reduce glare while changing hues. It gives off an effect that’s similar to viewing things through polarized sunglasses. It can be used to make scenes more colorful and vibrant; more pleasing to the eye.
  • UV filters, probably the most common, are used to reduce an image’s haziness. As a result, images may come out sharper.
  • Then there’s the color filter, which is popular with photographers who like taking black & white pictures. It is used to improve contrast, saturation and hue. It depends mostly on what color you choose. For example, a red filter is normally used for sunset photos as it turns in sharper and brighter browns, oranges, and of course, reds.
  • There are also filters that are used to adjust the amount of light so that photos do not come out too white or ghostly. Photographers who need to shoot using slow shutter speed can get a graduated ND (neutral density) filter – or any ND filter.
  • Finally, for those who take a lot of close ups, the best option would be a macro filter.

When and When Not to Use Filter

Now that you have a general idea of what filters do, it’s time to talk about when and when not to use them.

When to Use:

  1. Many photographers agree that the best reason for using filter is to protect the camera lens. Taking care of your lens is a must. This is why some photographers prefer to keep their filters on all the time. There are instances when you’ll be in a hurry or when you’re taking photos in a crowded place. The tendency is to bump into people or things; thus, your lens can be bumped around, too.

    Additionally, you’ll be able to take beautiful photos for as long as you want to because your filter will keep your lens from accumulating dust and other similar particles. Long lens life means more images to create!

  2. When taking photos of sceneries, filters can be a lot of help. They can improve colors, while also minimizing reflections that can affect the total reception of the photo. If you indulge in a lot of landscape photography, filters should be your best friend. You’ll love the many effects you can create in terms of light, color, contrast and even the hues.

    This is especially true if you’re shooting under bright sunlight or in a dim setting. There are some types of UV filters, for example, that help remove purplish or colored fringing, particularly those that you see in the frame’s corners.

  3. When you’re taking a photo of a scene that can put you and your camera in a risky situation. This is true for situations like taking photos of huge waves (photographing surfers, probably?) or when you’re caught in the middle of a really windy weather. Mist can get into your camera and lens and wiping it off will leave smears. Taking good photos will become a chore, not a passion.

    But with filters, all you need to do is use one, take a photo or two and then change it with another filter. Your photos will come out good, while your camera and lens stay safe.

  4. When you want to create dramatic images. You can switch from one filter to another if you want to do this. Or maybe switch from one color filter to another color filter. Maybe start off with red then switch to blue.

When Not to Use Filters

  1. Do not use filters if you want to avoid flaring. Most good quality filters are made of glass, so it reflects light. As you add it to your lens, which is also glass, you decrease the amount of light that gets into your sensor. If you really need to use filter, then take time to find multi-coated filters as this can help get rid of reflection and flare.
  2. If you are shooting inside your studio or any indoor location similar to a studio environment, you may not need to use filters. You’ll have basically everything you need, anyway; including lighting (natural or otherwise) options.

    Of course some photographers may not agree with this, and using certain filters indoors can be great for some creative shots.

It’s pretty much up to you when you want to use filter and when you want to take it off. The best thing to do is experiment by looking at a scene wearing sunglasses – several sunglasses of different colors. This will help you create a visual representation of what you want to come up with.

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