Camera Filters: What You Need to Know + A 15% Off Code
If you want to successfully photograph a wide variety of locations, mastering filters in a necessity. I often find that one of the easiest way to tell an amateur apart from a professional is their use of filters. Professional photographers have kits loaded with filters that can achieve many desired effects. Some of these effects can be achieved in post processing, such as a warming or cooling filter, but others cannot. Filters such as a polarizer and an ND (darkening) filter produce results that cannot be replicated afterwards in Photoshop.
Personally, I find myself using a wide range of filters, but in this week's blog post, I wanted to talk about the filters I find myself most commonly using that I believe everyone should own. All of the filters in my kit are made by Hoya. I'm a huge fan of the quality and construction of their filters after all of the other filters I've tried over the years. For that reason, I'm choosing to focus on their filters that I like, and I even included a 15% off code at the bottom of this page!
If you don't own any filters, a polarizer is the first one you absolutely must buy. A polarizer removes glare, which makes them essential in situations where high amounts of glare are presented. For landscape photographers, this is most commonly seen around water, but for photographers that focus on other genres, they can cut glare when shooting though glass, help roads in the city pop with color, and even help bring out color in a subject's eyes. I love using my polarizer to cut the glare off the surface of the water, allowing me to see under the surface to the rocks below. Using a polarizer is absolutely essential if you want to take better photos.
If you go online and look at different polarizers, you'll find ones as cheap as $10, and as expensive as $300. Can there really be a difference? It either removes glare or it doesn't, right? Wrong! I've used lots of different cheaper filters, and could never find one I loved until I picked up the Hoya HD3. I love the HD3 because it's free from any color casts, while cheap filters usually cast the shadows blue or yellow, which is something that can be a pain to fix in post processing. It's also very thin and threaded (for taking on or off), which you generally won't find on cheaper filters. The thin profile helps on wide angle lenses, because thicker filters will impede on your frame and produce some vignetting. The threads on the outside of the polarizer also mean that I never have to worry about getting my polarizer stuck on my lens in the field.
UV filters are one of those things that I don't think is exactly necessary, but I like having them on all of my lenses for insurance. If I drop my lens with a UV filter on, it's more likely that the UV filter will crack or scratch rather than damaging the glass on the lens. UV filters were originally designed to protect your lenses from harmful UV rays from the sun. However, most modern lenses and sensors contain coatings that take care of this problem. UV filters are still useful to protect the glass on the lens, as long as they don’t negatively effect image quality.
I love the Hoya HD3 UV filter for this exact reason. It’s built in a way that you can’t tell the difference of a shot where it was on your lens versus one where it was not. I consider UV filters absolutely worth the cost to help protect the glass on my lenses. Just like car insurance, you don't need it until you do!!
Despite not using my ND filters too often, I think they’re still a valuable item to have in your bag. I probably break out my ND filters once a month or less, but when I need them, I really do need them! An ND filter is basically like sunglasses for your lens. They darken the whole scene evenly (or at least high quality ones do!), which allows you to take longer exposures. They are great for waterfall scenes or landscapes with fast moving clouds. Even though I don't have a great long exposure of moving clouds myself, I know a lot of people out there are doing great work like this. I tend to find myself using these ND filters on days where the bright light is forcing me to take a quicker exposure than I would prefer.
I find the Hoya Solas IRND Series Filters to work great for me. As I mentioned before with the polarizers, these ND filters are very thin, which is great for use on my 18mm lens. It's important to note that not all ND filters are made equal. Similar to cheaper polarizers, cheaper ND filters have lots of problems that cannot be easily fixed. Not only does the color often shift when using cheaper ND filters, but often times they darken the scene unevenly. This is a big problem and quite a headache to fix in post processing.
If you are buying ND filters, I highly recommend buying a 3 stop first, followed by a 10 stop, and then a 5 stop if you find you really like them. A "stop" is a measure of how much light it is preventing into the camera's sensor, with 3 being low (lighter), and 10 being high (darker).
I know that filters just add on one more expense to the cost of all that expensive photography gear, but trust me, they're worth it. I used to go on Amazon and buy the cheapest filters I could find just to be back the next week looking for something new. Spend a little more money upfront for some of the amazing, quality filters from my friends over at Hoya, and you won't be disappointed. You can't spend thousands of dollars on camera gear and overlook the value of a $150 filter.
While I am an ambassador for Hoya, I am not required to talk about their filters, nor do I get paid to write this article. Like always, I want to share the gear that I love so that everyone has a chance to check out some great equipment. Feel free to leave me any questions you may have in the comments!
Also, to help you negate the cost of the filters, be sure to use my discount code on hoyafilterusa.com at checkout: Jackson15