Photography - Camera Filters (Part 1)
Filters are a cameraman’s best friend – they can save you in many situations in various different ways. And the beautiful thing is they don’t have to be crazy expensive but they can be the difference between and ‘ok’ photo and a brilliant photo.
First off, the basics. When you bought your DSLR you were probably up-sold, or asked about, a UV Filter. Now, back in the good ol’ 35mm film days, these filters would protect the film from being tinted blue from UV rays, nowadays however, this is no longer the case and filters are pretty much used as a protector for the front of your lens - after-all, you break the filter it’s a simple, inexpensive replacement.
Now, the other common filter is a Circular Polarizing Filter – my favourite filter! There are two kinds of filter, Linear and Circular. Linear I won’t go in to as they are far less common and with digital you are far better suited getting a circular polarizer. Now, what does it do? Well, for one it will enhance the saturation in your pictures which means straight-from-camera shots have colours that will ‘pop’.
a ‘circ-pol’ will also reduce reflections on non-metallic surfaces. So, that beautiful lake you like to take pictures of has a pesky, bright reflection bouncing off it, pop that circ-pol on, and you will find the polarizer twists, this is so you can direct where you need reflections out of, so you twist it till the reflections are no more! This works on haze across water and certain fog or mist, the way it polarizes the light means it bounces down the lens barrel differently – but I won’t go into the logistics – I’ll just tell you why you need one.
Surely it can’t do anything else... Wrong. Provided the sun is correctly located in the sky, you can get some beautiful gradients to your sky. It does a great job in general with skies, but, to really harness the power, have your back towards the sun, which should be around 45 degrees in the sky and you will get some great gradients, like below:
These are straight from camera! But with some colour grading that fantastic blue sky can be really stylized. They are such a handy tool.
Anyway, other filters you may come across down the line are ND (Neutral Density) filters. Now ND filters are great again for many reasons – it really depends on what you are shooting. The filters are a neutral grey in colour which means they don’t detract from any colour, only brightness. They essentially stop down your aperture, for instance a 2x will stop your camera down one f/stop i.e. f/1.8 with a 2x ND filter would become f/2.8.
With an ND filter you can do some amazing shots using long exposures. Now the longer the exposure the more light can come through. So to have a longer exposure without over-exposing your photo you can pop an ND Filter on and ‘stop’ it down.
Now, getting the flowing, milky water that is seen in so many photos is mostly done using an ND filter – reason being is you still want some daylight to illuminate objects, but you want to have a slow shutter speed in order to have the water flowing almost look like mist because it has blurred. Now this technique I will go over in a later tutorial. But, to prepare, it’s always helpful having an ND filter handy. Plus in most cameras now there is actually an ND filter setting – helpful!
So, there are plenty of other filters like sunset filters, contrast filters etc. etc. but for now – these are pretty useful to have in your camera bag.