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Filters for Digital Photography

Recommended filters for digital photography

Friday Photo Tip February 14, 2014

What kind of filters do I need to use in my digital Photography?

This question has often been asked after all of my digital camera workshops. I thought that it would be an interesting topic for our Friday Photo Tip.

For a moment let’s pretend that we live in the ‘pre-digital’ era when we had film as our media to capture an image. The sensitivity of film to light, the type of colour (Negative or Slide) or monochrome (Black and White) and colour temperature were set by manufacturers and we could not change any of them unless we changed the film type. It was important – at that time – to know the filters and their effects on your photos. Thanks to digital technology, we can fix almost all of those issues just by understanding digital camera settings such as ISO, White Balance, Styles, etc.

So Ted, do you mean that there is no more use for filters?

No, I didn’t say that! As a matter of fact I was about to tell you about some useful filters in digital photography. Although we can fix many of those issues in our cameras, there are a few conditions that we DO need filters for. In this short article I am going to talk about four important types of filter for digital cameras.

UV Filter

UV filters are just for protection and they don’t have any effect on our photos. Many filter manufacturers claim their UV filter can reduce haze and create sharper photos! I haven’t experienced it yet. I tried many different UV filters and couldn’t see any improvement with haze or sharpness compared to images without a UV filter. To me UV filters are a good and an inexpensive protection for my expensive lenses. Personally I prefer no extra glass in front of my lens, but there are times when I take photos in higher risk conditions (such as around pets and children) and a UV filter can be a lens-saver!

Polarizing Filter

With auto focus lenses you should choose a Circular Polarizing filter. Polarizing filters are usually dark and consist of two parts. By rotating the outer ring you can adjust the direction of polarizing. Polarize filters, just like polarized lenses, remove most of the reflections from the scene and result in a sharper and more saturated image. Look at these examples to see how a polarizing filter can improve the image.

Without Polarizing filter

Without Polarizing filter

With Polarizing filter

With Polarizing filter


Neutral Density (ND) Filters

ND filters are dark and reduce the exposure whether shutter speed or aperture value. If you are shooting on a very bright day and want to reduce the f stop to wide open to create a very shallow depth of field, or use a slow shutter speed to blur the action, you need to use an ND filter. They come in variety of density from half a stop to 10 stops. You can also stack them. There is a little colour shift when you use a good quality ND filter.

Graduated ND Filter

These ND filters start with a dark density at the top which gradually fades out towards the bottom of the filter. They are very useful when you want to mask the bright part of the scene (such as the sky in these examples). They are available with different density choices as well.

Without Neutral Density filter

Without Neutral Density filter

With Graduated Neutral Density filter

With Graduated Neutral Density filter

What brand of filter should I buy? 

I always suggest the highest quality filters although they can be a little more expensive. I am not here to promote one brand over the other, but remember that adding another piece of glass in front of your lens means that the light has to travel through this glass as well. So the high quality optics manufacturers are well known to provide better construction and less distortion to light. One important thing is always purchase a multi coated filter to reduce the chance of glare and colour cast.

That’s all for this Friday. If weather permits I will go out and take some shots with and without different filters and post them for you to review. So stay tuned!  If you have any topics or ideas to share please contact us. We love to hear from you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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