If you spend more time with photography, sooner or later you will stumble upon the topic of Lens Filter: UV filters, pole filters, ND filters, gradient filters. We’ll show you what the filters are good for and which ones you really need.
We are big fans of photography with filters.
But we’re not talking about editing filters that you can put over your pictures on Instagram, for example.
No, we’re talking about filters that you screw onto your camera’s lens.
In this article we will show you which filters are available in photography and what the individual filters are good for.
We also show you sample pictures of how photos work with and without filters.
Of course, we also show you which filters you can do without and recommend specific models for you to buy.
Overview: These Lens Filter are available in photography
At the beginning, you will get a brief overview of which photography filters are available and how useful they are. The following table is, so to speak, a short summary of the article.
It is often recommended to take a UV filter, especially for beginners. Personally, we don’t think so.
What does a UV filter do for the camera?
The first time you may have come into contact with the topic of filters when you buy your camera. If you bought your camera in a store, it’s not unlikely that the seller would want to turn on a UV filter to protect the lens.
If you have rejected the offer, then in our opinion you have done everything right. UV filters offer minimal protection. But they run the risk of swallowing light and negatively affecting the result of your photos.
Does a UV filter make sense?
Of course, a UV filter provides some protection for your lens. If you bang on the lens somewhere, at best only the filter breaks and the lens stays healthy.
But let’s be honest: this hasn’t even happened to us in all these years and we’re quite a lot of trouble at times.
Personally, we find the negative effects on image quality much worse than the risk of destroying our lens.
Our recommendation is therefore: Do not use a UV Lens Filter.
Now we come to a really sensible filter. Polarization filters or often simply called polfilter, are absolutely part of the photo equipment for us.
What does a pole filter do?
With a pole lens filter, you can improve several things on your photos.
A polarity filter minimizes reflections
A polarization filter minimizes reflections. When you take pictures of a water surface (rivers, lakes, the sea), you often have reflections on the water. This usually doesn’t look very good in photos. By using a polarity filter, you can minimize or even avoid these reflections altogether.
However, this works not only with water, but with many surfaces on which something is reflected. These can also be leaves on a tree or window panes.
With the two example pictures you can see the difference very well. By the way: You can’t achieve the effects of the pole filter by post-processing on the computer. Mirrors and reflections are really only available through a filter directly when taking pictures.
A polarity filter helps you photograph through glass panes
When you take pictures through a closed window pane, you often also have problems with unsightly reflections in the pane. You can also reduce these reflections with a polarity filter.
For glass panes, this does not work quite as reliably as with water surfaces. Some glass panes have special coatings, the light incision comes from too many sides or the position of the camera to the glass pane is clumsy.
What we want to say is that a polarity filter is a great thing, but its superpower is also reaching its limits. So don’t be surprised if complete mirroring is not possible. This is perfectly normal.
A polarity filter makes the sky bluer
But that’s still not all.
A polarity filter also ensures that light reflections in the sky are depolarized. As a result, the sky often appears a little bluer when using a polarity filter.
But this is not only true of heaven. All other image elements also receive a higher color saturation when using a polarity filter, e.g. green meadows or forests.
How to use a polarity filter correctly?
For a pole filter to produce optimal results, you need to use it correctly. Unfortunately, a pole filter doesn’t work as if by magic by simply screwing it onto your lens.
With a pole filter you have a ring at the front. By turning on this ring, you set the pole filter. When you look through the viewfinder or on your display, you can see which position of the filter produces the best results.
You have to do this before each photo, because depending on your position and the angle of the sun’s irradiation, the optimal setting is always different. Setting is really not difficult, as you can see the results directly in the viewfinder. Over time, you automatically think about adjusting the polarity filter before each photo.
Does it make sense to always leave the polarity filter on the lens?
We recommend that you leave the polarity filter on the lens only if it really has a benefit.
When we photograph landscapes or take a photo tour of a city, we usually leave the filter on it. These are situations in which there are often reflections and reflections that we want to compensate with a polarity filter. There would be no point in unscrewing the filter again and again.
In most cases, a pole filter doesn’t have strong, negative effects if you just leave it on your lens. However, there may be the same problems as a UV filter. The polarity filter takes some light and can therefore have a negative effect on your images if you don’t actually need it.
So if you don’t need it, you’d rather unscrew it.
Which polar filter to buy?
When you ask for pole filters in a photo shop, you often only get very expensive filters for over 100 euros or very cheap filters, which usually do nothing.
So far, at least, our experience has been when we asked for pole filters in shops. Of course, this does not have to be the case everywhere.
We have tried many different filters in recent years, both very expensive and very cheap.
In the meantime, we swear by Haida’s filters. They are in the middle price segment and offer a truly outstanding quality.
To the Haida pole filters on Amazon
With a grey filter or ND filter, wonderful effects can be achieved. In contrast to a polarity filter, an ND filter is especially for photographers who are already a bit more advanced and want to get even more out of their photos.
The abbreviation ND stands for neutral density, in the long version the filters are called neutral density filters. Sometimes they are also called grey filters. It may well be that you come across this or that name, but in the end they all mean the same thing. We simply call the filters ND filters here.
What does an ND filter do?
What can you do with such an ND filter? An ND filter is used to reduce the incidence of light into your camera. Normally we are happy about a lot of light when taking pictures. However, there are also situations where too much light interferes and that is where we use an ND filter.
This is especially the case if you want to take pictures in daylight with very long shutter speeds. Of course, you can close the aperture and reduce the ISO to a minimum, but that won’t be enough to expose for several seconds. Then an ND filter comes into play.
By using an ND filter, you can also take pictures in daylight with very long shutter speeds and now let’s take a closer look at why this makes sense in the first place.
Draw water or the sky softly with an ND filter
If you are shooting with a long shutter speed, all movements on your subject will be mapped over the entire exposure period. So if you . B 10 seconds, the movement that an object makes in that 10 seconds is captured on your image.
Especially beautiful effects result especially when you are photographing waterfalls, rivers and lakes or a cloudy sky.
As the water and clouds move during exposure, they are softly drawn in the image, which often produces wonderful results.
Remove annoying items in an image
An ND filter is also great for removing people or other moving motifs from your photo.
Especially with popular sights it is often impossible to get a deserted photo. With an ND filter, however, this can still work.
If you for 30 seconds, the chances are quite high that most people on your picture will simply disappear because they are moving.
This doesn’t always work perfectly, because often there are always a few people who don’t move or barely move and who are still visible even after a long exposure. But in principle, this works quite well.
How to use an ND filter?
In our online photo course we explain exactly how to use an ND filter and show you a few more examples of what you can do with these filters.
Nevertheless, we want to give you a brief insight into how to use an ND filter.
You definitely need a tripod at first, as your pictures would shake out of your hand due to the long shutter speed. Put your camera on the tripod, select your image section and focus.
Then you screw the ND filter onto your lens. Depending on what kind of camera you have, you will now see through the viewfinder simply black or a slightly darkened image.
With an optical viewfinder, on a SLR camera, you only see black. In this case, you should switch to manual focus, as your camera in autofocus will try to focus something and will certainly fail.
With a system camera or compact camera with an electronic viewfinder, you usually see something through the viewfinder even with the filter screwed on and in most cases the autofocus still works.
Then set the aperture and shutter speed so that your image is optimally exposed. You’ll probably have to take multiple shots until you’ve found the perfect settings.
Can Polfilter and ND-Filter be combined?
Especially when you are photographing water, it makes perfect sense to combine the ND filter with a polarity filter.
To do this, the first thing you do is to screw the pole filter onto your lens and adjust it. Then you screw the ND filter onto the pole filter. However, make sure that you do not adjust the polarity filter.
Which ND filter to buy?
ND filters are available in different thicknesses. The strength is always indicated with a number. It ranges from ND2 to ND1000.
ND1000 are the strongest filters. This means they darken the most and you can get the longest shutter speeds with them.
We recommend you to buy only an ND1000 filter for the start. The weaker filters, such as .B ND64 or ND16, are also justified, but rather for very special applications. As a hobby photographer, you will most often use an ND1000 filter.
There are also variable ND filters where you can determine the strength yourself by rotating. This sounds very clever at first glance, but there are often clear weaknesses in the image quality in the use, which is why we advise against such filters.
We have also had very good experiences with Haida filters and can highly recommend them.
To the Haida ND filters on Amazon
Finally, we would also like to discuss historical filters. These are special ND filters, but they do not darken completely, but only part of the image. These are for very advanced photographers, so we don’t want to go into too much detail here.
What does a gradient filter do?
Gradient filters are used whenever your subject has a very high brightness contrast. This is often the case, especially in sunrises and sunsets.
If you darken the image evenly with an ND filter in such a light situation, it is very likely that your foreground will end up being completely black.
This is where a gradient filter helps. This darkens only part of your image, in this case the sky. The foreground, on the other hand, is not darkened.
Which gradient filter to buy?
Gradient filters are also available as screw filters, but plug-in systems are used more often because they are easily more flexible. These consist of individual filter plates, which you screw into a filter holder, which in turn is attached to the lens.
That sounds complicated and cumbersome and quite honest: it is. Therefore, we do not deal separately with how you use these filters. This would allow you to fill your own online course.
If you really want to deal intensively with landscape photography and often have problems with contrast differences, such a filter is a good solution. For the “normal” hobby photographer, however, such a system is in our opinion oversized.
If you still want to buy a gradient filter, you first have to choose between screw filters and a plug-in system. We would definitely advise you to have a plug-in system here, as screw filters are simply far too inflexible. With a plug-in system, you can adjust the gradient to your subject much more flexibly by moving the plate.
Then you have the choice between different types:
Hard filter: These filters have a hard run. The upper half, or the upper quarter or third, are dark. The rest is bright.
Soft: These filters have a soft gradient instead of a hard transition.
Reverse filters: With these filters, the center is darkened, up and down it becomes brighter in a soft course
We have rollei’s plug-in filter system: Rollei plug-in filter system
Haida also has such a system: Haida plug-in filter system
Buying advice: Photography filter
Finally, we would like to give you some quick information on what to look out for when purchasing a filter.
Screw filter vs. plug-in filter
In the section on the gradient filters, we have already explained the difference: Screw filters are simply screwed onto the lens.
Plug-in systems, on the other hand, are much more complicated. Here you first need a filter holder, which is screwed onto the lens. You can then insert the individual filter plates made of glass or plastic into this holder. This is much more complicated and unwieldy, but offers more flexibility for professionals.
If you are not a professional photographer, we recommend you to rely on screw filters.
The right diameter
Screw filters are available in different diameters. The size you need depends on your lens.
The diameter is always on the front of the lens. If you can’t find it, you can also quickly measure with a ruler.
Is it possible to screw a filter on each lens?
Most lenses have a thread on which you can screw a filter. However, there are exceptions. So see if your lens has a thread beforehand.
Exceptions are usually lenses with a fixed lens hood or fixed lenses on compact or bridge cameras. With these cameras, it is not always possible to install a filter.
What is the best way to transport filters?
Filters are usually delivered in a padded plastic box, in which they are relatively well protected. However, these plastic boxes have two drawbacks: they can be found in the photo bag and they are very bulky, especially if you have several filters with you.
There is also a simple but ingenious solution to this problem. Filter caps or metal filter containers. You screw these caps ontop and bottom of the filters and can transport as many filters of a size as you want in between. It is not possible to save space and be safer.
To the filter caps on Amazon
These were our tips and experiences on filtering in photography. Which filters do you like to use? Do you have any questions about filters? Then we look forward to your comment.