How to Use Photography Filters

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Filters and Effects

Learning about photography filters and how to use them can help you take better photos. First and foremost filters are simple glass/plastic round or square covers that you place in front of a camera's lens that can alter or modify the final photo.

Depending on your style of photography you may be completely dependent on them or hardly use them. Most of us do a little of both.

Filters are made for specific uses, they will only have an effect on that portion of the shot for which it was intended, graduates,polarizers,intensifiers and warming will only affect the color for which they were meant.Here is a list of the most commonly used ones. My favorite however is the Cokin brand.

UV filters(ultra violet) are used as its name suggests for neutralizing ultra violet light which is invisible to the human eye but not to film. They are most useful when you want to eliminate haze for shots taken in the early morning or late afternoon.

Polarizers; used like you use sunglasses, to neutralize reflections from your subjects, especially from water. A desirable effect of this type of filters is that it can make a blue sky bluer, a green greener etc.

Graduates; used to gradually make a particular color more vibrant (stands out more). Useful when photographing, for example, a beach scene with a dull almost pale sky to make the sky richer.

Softening; Very useful in portraits to hide imperfections such as age lines in the model's face. They can also be used to slightly "trow out of focus" still life. Gives the photograph an almost nostalgic feeling to it.

Color Correction; used to balance the available light, such as household, to make it compatible to your film, thus eliminating color cast.

Warming; Usually come in various degrees of yellows and used to give a warming effect in an otherwise "cool" environment. Only affects the yellows in your photo.

Intensifiers: They intensive a particular color, makes it richer/darker.

Magnifiers; like a magnifying glass, they magnify the subject. Great alternative for macro photography if you want to avoid the expense of a macro lens.

Sepia: adds sepia coloring to everything in the photo.

Monochrome: turns the photo into a monochrome(good for making color into black & white)

Novelty: usually have shapes, graphics or stains like rainbows, stars, balloons, sunsets, the moon etc... they will add the shape to the final photo, shape the image to that of the shape or add to the photo something that wasn't there. Rarely used by professionals but good for family pictures.

Most filters come in two shapes; round or square. Round filters can easily be screwed onto the lens, but you have to be careful as you may get vignetting in the final product. Square filters are the choice of professionals since they are larger, eliminate vignetting and cost about the same. They do however require an adapter that screws onto the lens, but this is also inexpensive.

Whenever possible, buy glass filters, they are more fragile and expensive and are more scratch resistant than plastic but offer a better quality. It doesn't make sense to have an expensive lens only to degrade the photo with a cheap filter.

Diffusion filters reduce contrast in addition to softening resolution CC BY-SA 1.0
Diffusion filters reduce contrast in addition to softening resolution CC BY-SA 1.0 | Source
Neutral density filters are often used to achieve motion blur effects with slow shutter speeds CC BY-SA 3.0
Neutral density filters are often used to achieve motion blur effects with slow shutter speeds CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source
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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Can you perceive some benefits of using filters?

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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