POLARISER, Graduated and UV Filters Should Be Top Of Your List
You would think that the need to use camera filters would decrease with more and more people using and getting to know Photoshop a little better these days. After all, what with all the plug-ins, effects and filters already built into this piece of software, why would you need to worry about a filter at the time of exposure?
Well, in many cases, a filter used at the right time for a particular kind of shot, simply cannot be mimicked or matched in an editing program with the same fluidity and effectiveness than “at the scene”.
For example, as far as I know, there is no program or plug-in available (at the time of writing) that will give you the same effects as a polariser filter. Sure, you can enhance the saturation and boldness of colours using Photoshop, but to cut out glare and reflections from glass and water, I don’t think so.
You see, a polariser filter will even cut out all the reflections from the humidity in the air making your image seem much clearer.
It will “lose” the reflections from a car windscreen or house window, or the reflections on the ocean or a lake, giving a beautiful, clear effect. A circular polarizing filter is made up of 2 pieces of round glass, each with hundreds of tiny lines etched into them. As you turn one piece of glass, the lines cross each other and the effect happens before your very eyes.
By doing this, you are able to judge and vary the intensity of the effect.
Grey Grad Camera Filters
Also, when faced with a beautiful landscape scene that had darkened areas of vegetation at the bottom of the image and bright skies at the top, how does your meter compensate for these radical differences in light? More so, how could you “help” this image in Photoshop? You see, what will happen is this…
- You either expose the land correctly thereby overexposing the sky (center image below) or;
- Expose the sky correctly and underexposing the land making it too dark (Left image below).
With option one, it would be impossible to bring back blown out highlights in the sky when they are no longer there. Of course, you could add a new sky using Photoshop, but what a waste of time!
Or with option two, you could use the Shadows/highlights tool in Photoshop CS and “lighten” the underexposed areas of the land, but this would degrade the shaded areas and cause visible “noise”. Again, you could then use Neat Image or a similar program to reduce the noise, but what a hassle.
What about if there was a cheap filter that you could use at the time of exposure that would save all this hassle, leaving you more time to take more photos?
To illustrate the above with an image, the picture on the left (below) was metered for the sky and the image in the middle was metered for the ground. For the image on the right, a grey grad filter was used.
This filter has a dark top half and a clear bottom half which graduate into each other “gradually” so that no visible lines are recorded. What this does is darken the sky to fool the cameras meter into thinking it is the same exposure as the ground, therefore you end up with both areas being exposed correctly.
An invaluable piece of kit if you enjoy landscape photography.
Skylight or UV Camera Filters
The only “real” use for one of these filters is to protect your lens and reduce the effects from harmful Ultra Violet light, and they can add a nice warm tone to some of your images. Generally, people use them to cover and protect the front elements of a lens when shooting in dusty, dirty or damp environments. It is better to ruin a filter than a $400 or $1,200 lens!
I have always had one of these filters in my bag and find it most useful in a few situations that I find myself in. for example, at the beach with all that sand and salty air flying about, or shooting sports where grit and/or gravel could spring up and scratch the front elements of my lens at any time.
If you do invest in one of these UV camera filters, get a good one. A poor filter will only degrade the image making having a decent lens worth protecting a bit pointless.
I personally don’t go in for special effects filter all that much, although Cokin have a large and fantastic range of all types of filters for you to get “freaky” with. At the very least, I would suggest that you get the 3 camera filters mentioned above, making sure the quality is reasonable, as a start.
I would recommend either Hoya or B + W camera filters for the polarizer and Skylight/UV, and the Cokin system for the grey grad and other special effect filters.
Use the links to Amazon below, where you can get them at the best prices. Make sure you get the correct filter thread size for your lens. If you have more than one lens with different thread sizes, either buy a filter for both lenses or just for the one that you think you will use the most.
I can guarantee that by using these filters you will see a huge difference in your images and will want to take them everywhere with you.
B + W Polarizer Filters at Amazon (B + W is the make, not “Black and White”
Hoya Polarizer Filters at Amazon
B + W Ultra Violet Filters at Amazon
Hoya Ultra Violet Filters at Amazon
Cokin Camera Filters at Amazon – Please note, you will need the filter holder and adapter to fit your lens as well as the actual square filters with this range.
If you have different lenses with different filter thread sizes, you only need to buy more adapter rings not the filter holder again.