8 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS THANKS TO A FILTER

The world of digital photography is not just camera, lenses, flash and tripod. There are other accessories that you can use and that allow you to get stunning and spectacular photographs. One of these accessories are  filters .

If you are a photographer from the reflex world or, your compact camera allows you to screw accessories in front of the lens, in today’s article you will learn what filters are, what they are for and how these gossip can help you get stunning photographs.

WHAT ARE PHOTOGRAPHIC FILTERS?

As the name implies, filters are accessories that are placed in front of the camera lens in order to modify the way light enters the camera and is captured by the sensor. Something similar to putting on, for example, sunglasses.

In spite of having lost the prominence that they knew to gain in the era of the analogical photography, at present they continue being a fundamental accessory for the taking and the final character of the photographs.

There are many types and uses of filters in photography that currently can give you clear advantages when making your shots compared to editing on the computer (post production). Later I will name them one by one.

WHY USE THEM?

The use or not of photographic filters at the time of taking will be a very personal decision that you must make. There are photographers who prefer to invest in them and there are others who, for mainly economic reasons, decide not to do so and then edit the photographs on the computer. Both positions are respectable, valid and correct.

It is worth clarifying that, with its use, you can obtain results that are not possible to obtain once the photograph has been taken, such as the use of a neutral density filter to lower the exposure levels when photographing a waterfall or eliminate the reflections of a window to photograph what is behind it.

In addition, you will get a photo very similar to the final one at the time of the shot, saving you editing time on the computer. This has more to do with the traditional process of gestation of the photographs, but it will require more knowledge of the team to make each shot so that you can obtain effects impossible to perform by subsequent editing.

Long Exposure Photography made thanks to a filter

Keep in mind that many prestigious photography contests do not allow you to submit photographs that have been digitally edited on your computer.

The true photographer works with the light, not with the mouse

It is not the same merit to take an excellent photograph by using filters at the time of taking, obtaining an almost definitive image, which after a few clicks, obtain something similar thanks to the computer being able to try different combinations until obtaining the best.

FILTER BRANDS

Quality filters are not cheap, and getting one of them can make you have to pay a considerable amount of money, not to mention that they are fragile and easily deteriorate if you are not careful enough with them.

The vast majority of these quality filters are only available on request given their high price. Here I have prepared a small list of the most prestigious brands for you to consider:

  • pit
  • Hi Tech
  • Cokin
  • Tiffen
  • Rodenstock
  • Heliopan
  • B + W
  • Singh ray
  • Chromeatek
  • read

Each brand has its advantages and disadvantages but if you buy filters from any of the brands just mentioned, you will be sure that you have purchased a quality product.

HOW TO USE A FILTER?

There are different systems to be able to attach a filter in front of the lens of your camera, and it will depend on the type of camera, reflex or compact, to which you want to add one.

Mainly the systems to be able to do it are two:

    1. Circular: they consist of screwing in front of the objective lens, a circular filter of the same diameter as the lens. Its main advantage is that, given the way in which these are screwed directly on the lens, they not only protect it, but also almost ensure that vignetting does not occur or that light enters through the edges of these and ends up ruining the photo. The main disadvantage is that they are much less versatile to use than rectangular ones and, in addition, you should have as many filters of the same type as diameters your lenses have.
  1. Rectangular: they are rectangular glass filters, of various sizes that are placed in front of the lens of your camera through a filter holder. Its main advantage is that they allow much greater versatility: if you want to degrade the sky through a gradient filter, you can choose how high to place the horizon, which is impossible to do with a circular one. Its main disadvantage is the fragility of the crystals and that, when an extra mount is necessary in front of the lens, in some cases they can generate vignetting or let in unwanted light from the sides of these.
Rectangular polarizing filter

WHEN TO USE THEM?

Not all photographs will require you to use a filter to take the shot, but there are certain photographs that will gain in quality, whether aesthetic or technical if you use one of these filters.

The use of filters is very common in landscape photography, where the shots are prepared with a lot of time of previous elaboration and where they seek to obtain effects that, in many cases, are not perceptible by the human eye or, are not actually produced by nature, such as a red sky.

TYPES OF FILTERS

Here is a list of the filters most used by photographers today with their corresponding explanation and photographs as an example and inspiration:

Polarizers

These types of filters are used to increase contrast, achieve transparency and eliminate reflections from your photographs. It is one of the most used filters since it allows you to contrast the scenes, darken the blue of the sky, reduce the calima, brighten the clouds and eliminate glare from non-metallic surfaces such as water, crystals, etc.

I do not recommend its use in those scenes that in themselves are very contrasted, since doing so you will lose detail in the extreme tones, the lightest and the darkest, unless such effect is what you are looking for.

Keep in mind that, when using a polarizing filter , its maximum effect is obtained when the light is lateral at 90 °, this means that with sun in front or behind, this filter will have no effect.

Effect achieved through the use of a polarizing filter

Neutral Density (ND)

These filters have no effect on the color of the scene, since its main utility is to considerably reduce the amount of light that reaches the sensor. This type of filters is very useful when, under good lighting conditions, long exposures are required . This means that, without changing the colors, you can take pictures with large apertures and very low shutter speeds, in situations where normally the photo would be completely exposed.

I recommend that if you are going to get one of these filters, you will acquire at least one of 3 diaphragms, since to subtract less light, with a polarizer it will be enough or by combining a polarizer with low ISO and well closed diaphragms.

The most frequent neutral density filters are 6, 8 and 10 diaphragms and the most recommended are those of glass since those of gelatin tend to reduce the quality of the photographs.

Note that, by allowing less light to enter the sensor, it is very likely that the camera’s autofocus will not work. I recommend that you manually approach the scene and then add the neutral density filter or ND.

Effect with Neutral Density filter

Enhancer

The Enhancer filter is used to enhance the warm colors of the scenes, altering the rest of the colors little and nothing. It is a very specific filter and recommended only to portray autumnal sunrises or sunsets, reinforcing warmer tones.

I do not recommend its use if the scene already has a fairly warm color temperature as it can exaggerate them too much.

Enhancer filter

Gradients

This type of filters are used to balance the different contrasts that occur in a scene, that is, this filter obscures some areas of the photograph and others not so that you can get detail both in the lights and in the shadows.

The gradients can be neutral, in order not to alter the colors of the scene, or color, in order to dye it and the density of degradation, it varies according to the amount of diaphragms that reduce.

Again, as with neutral or ND density filters, I recommend that you do not purchase less than 3 diaphragms and, if possible, that their system be rectangular and mounted using a filter holder. In this way, you can place the gradients where you see fit.

Photography possible thanks to a Gradient filter

Color

Color filters almost ceased to be useful in the era of digital photography as their effect can be replaced by using white balance .

The different colors of the filters saturate a certain range of colors creating very striking photographs.

Color Filter

Effects

Effects filters are increasingly used by photographers, especially those who specialize in landscapes. In fact, they have not been available in the market for so long.

As Mario explained in the article on Types and uses of photo filters , these are filters that provide certain effects that would only be possible to obtain by later editing the photographs on the computer.

The most popular of this type of special filters is the fog filter, which, as the name implies, allows you to add a mist effect in the photographs.

You can achieve a similar effect through a UV filter, your breath to cloud the camera’s vision and a lot of practice!

Filter with Effects

Infrared (IR)

Contrary to what you may think by name, this type of filters are not designed to block infrared waves but rather the opposite, they are used to desaturate the colors in search of achieving pale and grayish photographs.

It works by filtering the “visible” light through the human eye, blocking it, and just let the infrared radiation reach the sensor, generating a very particular and surreal effect.

Infrared Filter

Ultra Violet and Skylight

These types of filters, despite being mostly used to protect the lens of your lens from possible blows, are responsible for filtering ultraviolet light and correcting the excess blue color of the photographs, although in an almost imperceptible way.

Its cost is very economical and its use can avoid more than a headache, if you are walking with your camera hanging all the time, vulnerable to possible bumps and scratches.

UV filter

Filter combination

Once you have mastered each of the filters in which you plan to specialize, you can start combining them to achieve incredible photographs like this one.

Combination of ND Filter + Polarizer

WHAT FILTERS DO I BUY?

Getting a pair of quality filters is not a very cheap thing to say, so first I recommend you to think very well the decision of what type of system (circular or rectangular) best suits your needs as well as the uses and situations in You will use them.

I recommend that, if you have been enthusiastic about the use of filters, you strive to acquire the essentials, that is, only spend your money on those that you will use frequently, not accessory collections in a drawer that you will use only once.

You can start with 1 or 2 filters and get to know their uses, applications and the final effect that will add to your photos. In this way before getting a new filter, you will make sure you have taken the juice out of the previous one.

I hope you liked the article and do not hesitate to leave your comments, experiences or contributions in the comments. Ah, as always, if you think the article deserves a recommendation … recommend it! regards


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