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A Guide to Lens Filters: Improve Your Photography and Filmmaking


Lens filters are a must-have tool for photographers and filmmakers, allowing you to take control of the light captured by your camera. They offer various benefits and creative possibilities, making them an essential accessory for every photography enthusiast. In this article, we'll explore the different types of lens filters, their functions, and how to use them to elevate your photography and filmmaking.


Types of Lens Filters

There are two primary categories of lens filters: square filters and circular filters. Each type has its unique features and applications.


Square Filters

Square filters are popular among photographers, thanks to their shape and versatility. They are mounted in front of the lens using a filter holder specifically designed for the chosen lens. Square filters are renowned for their minimal distortion, making them especially useful in landscape photography. One of the most useful square filters is the Graduated Filter, which allows photographers to properly expose the foreground while darkening the sky for dramatic landscape shots. When using square filters, it's necessary to place your camera on a tripod.



Circular Filters

Circular filters are suitable for both photography and filmmaking. They are more affordable than square filters, but they can occasionally cause vignetting and are typically specific to a particular lens size. Circular filters are more accessible and easier to use for those starting their photography journey. These are the filters which I use on a daily basis as someone who photographs usually with a camera hold in hands.


Commonly Used Lens Filters

Here are some of the commonly used lens filters that every photographer and filmmaker should consider adding to their gear:


UV Filters

A UV filter is primarily used for reducing the UV light which might effect in having visible a blur or glow in your photograph. Having a UV filter on is improving the overall look of the image. As this is a relatively cheap filter, most of photographers have it on all their lenses at all times for the sake of lens protection. It acts as a barrier against all the scratches and dust. I'm using Hoya UV HMC Filters to protect all my lenses.


ND Filters (Neutral Density Filters)

ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the lens, allowing for longer exposures. Filmmakers use them to maintain the correct shutter speed, while photographers use ND filters for creative long exposure shots (ex. soft blurred water). They basically work as sunglasses for your camera, so if your chosen camera settings cause your image to overexpose, you can correct it with an ND filter.

I'm currently using Hoya Variable Density Filters. They're very convenient, because you can regulate the ND range from 1.5 to 9 f-stops by simply turning the filter around. Unfortunately, they're adding some green tint to the picture, which I have to later correct in postproduction.


Polarizing Filters

This is my favourite filter type. I'm using it whenever's possible for both, photographing and filming. Polarising filters reduce reflections and glare while enhancing color saturation and contrast. They are perfect for shooting in bright sunlight and near water, as well as capturing vibrant skies and landscapes.

I'm using the Marumi Super Circular Filter. Similarly to my ND filters, I control the intensity of the effect by turning the filter around. If I'd be left with only one filter, I want it to be this one.


Graduated Filters

Graduated filters have a clear and a darker side with a gradual transition between them. They are often used in landscape photography to balance exposure between the sky and foreground, creating more evenly lit scenes. Graduated Filters are most commonly used in the square version, although you can also find them in a circular shape.




Diffusion Filters

Diffusion filters soften and diffuse light, often creating a dreamy, cinematic glow. They are used to achieve specific artistic effects and add a touch of magic to your images. Among different diffusion filters, I use the Tiffen Black Pro-Mist 1/4. I put this filter on only for videos, because I can create the same effect on my photos in Adobe Photoshop if I'd decide about it later.


Combining Filters

Lens filters can be stacked on top of each other to achieve various creative effects. However, keep in mind that stacking filters can sometimes lead to vignetting, darkening the corners of your frame. It's essential to invest in higher-quality filters to maintain the integrity of your images. There's no point to place a cheap glass in front of a very expensive one.


There's a commonly known trick for using one circular filter among all the lenses with a help of a step-up filter. To do so, you'll have to purchase a filter in the size of your lens with the largest diameter and then use a step-up filter to fit the filter on a smaller lens. The edges of your filter will stand outside of the edge of your lens, but this won't cause any distortions to your image.



Conclusion

Lens filters are invaluable tools that significantly enhance your photography and filmmaking capabilities. They allow you to control the light entering your camera, protect your lens, and unlock creative potential. Experimenting with various filters can help you discover new techniques and achieve unique visual effects in your work.

So, don't hesitate to explore the world of lens filters and see how they can transform your photography and filmmaking style.



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