Filters – an overview.

February 11, 2017
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Hi everyone and welcome to our first blog post. We’re excited to share some tips and info with you and to take you on our photographic journey. This post was inspired by a friend who is becoming quite the landscape photographer. She was asking about filters and I figured if she is asking those questions, then a few of you must be wondering the same things.

 

In the age of smart phones, Instagram, Pinterest and all the other image sharing platforms, the definition of what constitutes a filter has changed. Think of all the snapchat filters with flowers, big eyes, fireworks and so on. These are fun and have certainly encouraged more people to start using their camera phones which s a good thing but, today, we’re looking at old skool filters that attach to the front of your camera. Yep, that’s right, real physical filters and big ol’ digital SLR cameras. Cool huh…

 
With digital processing applications like Photoshop and Lightroom the need for filters has become less but I love them and I’m a big believer in getting the shot you want in-camera and doing less processing afterwards. This isn’t right or wrong, it’s just my preference.

 
There is so much to cover about filters and so many different types that today I’ll just do the basics. What they are, how they work and a list of the different types available. Next time we’ll drill down into what each one is used for.

 
So what is a filter? A filter goes on the front of your lens and modifies the light coming into your camera. They allow you to use camera settings you may not otherwise be able to use and generally give you a lot more creative freedom. There are two different ways filters attach to your camera lens. Thread mounted filters, or circular filters, screw onto the thread at the front of your lens and are, wait for it, circular. These can often be rotated to give more or less effect. When you’re buying one of these you may need to get one for each lens you plan to use it with because the filter thread sizes vary. You’ll find your thread size printed on the front of your lens denoted by a circle with a line through it.  The other method is a filter holder system. These are more flexible and generally have a wider range of filters. You can use the same filter on multiple lenses as long as you have an adapter ring for each lens. The major brands, like Lee filters, use a holder system and are really high quality. Holder systems allow you to use more than one filter on each lens at the same time if you want to get uber creative.

 
Some of the most common filter types are…
Neutral density (ND) filters. These reduce the amount of light coming into the camera so you can have the shutter open for longer.
Graduated ND filters. Same as ND filters but one half of the filter is darker than the other. These are good if you have a scene that is half light and half dark. Think sunsets and sunrises.
UV filters. Cut out ultra violet light and provide a protective cover for your lens. This is a really contentious area and I can’t wait to get into it in a future post.
Polarising filters. These are really cool and work like polarising sunnies for your camera. They cut down glare and reflected light. Again good for landscapes.
Coloured filters. These can be used to counteract a heavy colour bias in a scene, or for really cool creative effect.

 
So there is a really brief overview of filters. It’s a great fun area of photography that can give you heaps of creative options and spark a bit of life back into your work if you’re feeling creatively challenged. Whether you’re a working professional or an enthusiastic amateur, this is definitely an area of photography worth exploring. I’ll start drilling down into each type of filter in the coming weeks so shoot me any questions you’d like to see answered:) Until then, keep clicking!

 

 

ND and graduated ND filters with holder and adapter ring
This is where you find your filter size

The top image is a holder mounted filter system, with a ND filter, graduated ND filter, filter holder and adapter ring. The lower image is the front of a lens showing the filter diameter. This is the number you need when you are buying a circular filter, or an ad paper ring.

Shot with a polarising filter. Note the deeper colours and lack of glare on the bird bath.
Same shot without the filter. Notice the greens are less rich and there is more glare on the bird bath.

The two images above were shot with the same settings, The first image used a polarising filter. See how the greens are deeper and there is less reflection on the bird bath?