Tuesday, January 18, 2011


What is a filter? A filter is like sunglasses for your lens. They protect your lens and allow for less light to come in, allowing for your photos to have more contrast, polarization, longer exposures, and with sometimes special effects. 

I used to think that filters were useless and they didn't do anything to your pictures, just a way for a company to make money. I mostly thought this because I bought cheap filters from Ritz camera that were poor quality and well, didn't have any impact to my photos. I later on purchased a ND (Neutral Density) filter and a CPL (Circular Polarizer), both from Hoya. The filters changed every single one of my photos making a huge positive impact! 

One of the most commonly purchased filters is the UV (ultra violet) filter which is only used to protect your lens.

CPL is the filter you should always have if you are shooting landscape. A CPL is best used when facing 90 degrees to the sun. Make a L with your index finger and thumb and point your index finger toward the sun... Now wherever your thumb is facing will give you the greatest impact while using your CPL. CPL gives you deep and strong contrast while giving your sky a nice rich deep blue color. Also using a CPL will block out light giving you a longer exposure time to let you have those pictures of moving water, people, etc. Suggested CPL's are HOYA, B+W, Heliopan, LEE, and Singh-Ray. Having a good CPL will really make your pictures stand out, so invest in a good one! 

This is a photo that shows the difference between not having a CPL and having a CPL. As you can see the photo on the right has deeper and richer colors all around. 

Neutral Density filters are like non-polarized sunglasses. They block out light to give you a longer exposure. ND filters are used to make that moving waterfall that you want when it is too bright outside. ND filters will  also give you richer colors and more contrast as opposed to not having a filter on. ND filters come in several grades from .3 (low) to 400x (very dark). There are filters like the Hoya ND400x that blocks out 10 stops of light letting you take several minute exposures during the day. 

Above is a picture that I took for 1 minute during the day of the Pacific Ocean in San Diego during the day using a 10 stop ND Filter.

Above is a 5 second photo that I took at sunset. The .9 ND filter allowed to grasp all the deep colors and give me a longer exposure that I wouldn't normally be able to have without it.

Graduated Neutral Density (ND Grad)
ND Grad filters are just like ND filters but the whole filters aren't dark. Most ND Grad filters are square and you can't screw onto your lens. ND Grad filters generally start off dark and gradually get lighter until clear about halfway through the filter. What's the point of a ND Grad? ND Grads can really make a photo stand out. For example, when you are trying to take a picture of a sunset at the beach you take your first shot and the sunset comes out great but you can't see the foreground (sand, water, rocks, ground) at all! A  ND Grad balances your picture to give you a full even exposure throughout the whole scene. So what you would do is place the ND Grad with the dark part on the top half where the sun is so your camera recognizes the scenery as one even exposure. 

Above are what ND Grads look like. There are also ND Grad filters that you can get with color such as a popular ND Tobacco Grad filter that gives your photo a touch of orange/yellow color. See below!

Infrared Filter (IR)
Infrared is a type of photography that was commonly used for film that gives your photos a great twisted look. Well since now and days most people shoot digital, they created an IR filter that blocks out the Infrared rays from the sun. The filter is very dark, very expensive, and rarely used, but when used right, there is a pleasant result! An IR filter is so dark that you will need a tri-pod to use it because you have a long exposure to take it or you can remove your hot sensor from your camera (not recommended). 

Below are some examples of how IR photography looks while using an IR filter. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations.
    All your pics are beautiful and also your explanation about filters. Great job.