Which Filters Do I Need That I Can’t Mimic In Photoshop?
Using Filters – When I was about younger and browsing through my favourite photography magazines, I remember being awestruck, a little jealous but highly motivated by the images I saw.
“How did they do that”? I asked myself, and would only become frustrated when I couldn’t get it right and similar to what I had seen.
That really is the beauty of photography. No matter how good you get or how far you progress, there is always someone better to aspire to. You constantly look for new ideas to challenge your processes and techniques, and new subjects and places to capture.
It took a while but once I learned a little about filters and accessories, my photography took on a new life altogether. At first it is tempting to keep your favourite filter on the lens, but when you learn how and when to use them; your images start to come close to those displayed in the glossies!
Using Filters – Grey Gradual (Grey Grad) or Neutral Density Grad
If you are into landscape photography, the grey grad is an essential but inexpensive piece of kit. It will fool and assist your cameras meter and add some real punch to your images.
Using Filters – How does it work?
Picture this common scene. You have a beautiful landscape in front of you with colourful, rolling meadows and have found the perfect spot to shoot from. However, the sky from the angle that you are facing is particularly bright.
When you take the shot using any metering available to you, you either end up with a well exposed sky and under-exposed landscape or the opposite, a well exposed landscape and over-exposed sky! Sound familiar?
Using Filters – How does this happen?
The scene will generally have two lighting sections, the bright sky and darker landscape. It is virtually impossible to get the scene perfectly exposed without a little assistance unless you have a few clouds to “muffle” the intensity of the light in the sky. The camera normally has to meter for one or the other.
Using Filters – How does the filter help?
As the name suggests, a “gradual” filter has one half darker than the other which blends seamlessly into itself leaving no visible signs of use.
Placed over the lens, it will darken the sky just enough to “level” out the differences and match it to that of the land. A grey grad or neutral density filter will work great as they simply darken the area without affecting the colours.
For effect, you can use a “tobacco”, orange or other coloured grads, to enhance sunsets for instance.
Using this filter effectively will “flatten” the entire scene, leaving both the sky and land perfectly exposed.
Using Filters – 60th/sec, f8 ISO 100. The graduated filter has darkened the blue sky enough to enrich the colours and enhance the cloud detail whilst leaving the foreground alone.
Using Filters – Polarizer Filter
A polarizer will basically do two things;
- Enhance colour saturation
- Reduce reflections from glass surfaces and water particles in the sky
I won’t get too technical here (I will leave that to the link that follows), but would suggest that at some point, you purchase a good, “circular” polarizing filter.
A poor or “linear” polarizing filter will not help your images at all and if anything will harm them.
A polarizer filter enhances colours and reduces glare by reducing and redirecting “polarized” light allowing you to see right through it. Imagine you are looking at someone sitting in their car; your view is normally hindered by all the reflections on the glass.
A polarizer will reduce these reflections, if used at the right angle, and allow you to see right through.
The same principle works with practically invisible light reflected from airborne water particles allowing the deep, rich colours of the sky to shine through.
When used with a sunny beach scene for example, the reflection on the sea is also diminished giving rich colours in the sky and a clear surface to the water, the differences are quite amazing.
I do a lot of travel photography and use a polarizer filter a lot of the time. It really over-emphasizes the richness of colours which is what you see on all of those shiny, glossy holiday magazines!
60th/sec F8 ISO 100 – The use of a polarizer filter here has removed the reflections from the water entirely and enriched the colour saturation overall.
For an incredibly in-depth and scientific explanation of polarizing filters, follow this link: