What My Filters Do

January 14, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Hey Everyone! Hope you are doing well this week. This week's topic came from one of my camera club members that read an earlier post about what filters I use.  She wanted a description of when I use particular filters. So this is for you, Patricia. This is a list of the filters that I have and use, what they do, and when I would use them.  And there are really only 3 types of filters I use.  Polarizer, Neutral Density, and Graduated Neutral Density.  I will list them in order of importance in my opinion. 

Polarizer -  The polarizer is the most important filter of them all in my opinion.  It does what no other filter does, and it can't really be duplicated by Photoshop.  You may have heard it called a circular polarizer also.  It actually comes in two flavors - one is the linear and the other is circular. The circular is the more popular of the two and screws onto the front of your lens.  It has a rotating part that you can turn to increase or decrease the effects of the polarizer.  The linear polarizer is typically a square filter, and you will need some type of holder that attaches to the front of your lens. There are really only two positions.  If it doesn't work, rotate it 90 degrees and it will be working.  Both kinds will block 1 to 2 stops of light that travels through them, so you must make adjustments.  Your camera will automatically do this if you have it in one of the auto modes.

A polarizer does a few things. The first thing it does is increase the saturation of things.  You can make your FiltersFilters blah skies turn bluer than blue. It will also increase the saturation in vegetation making leaves green.  It also knocks the glare and reflection off of things. Looking through a storefront window, if you see yourself in the reflection, using a polarizer will make the reflection disappear.  If you look at water and it's too shiny, when you use a polarizer it will let you see to the bottom of a clear lake.  It's just like wearing polarized sunglasses when you're driving. Not only do they darken, but they knock the glare off of the windshield so you can see clearly.  With a circular polarizer, you can adjust as you like by turning the ring. For best results, the sun should be 90 degrees from where you're pointing. So not behind or in front of you, but to the sides.  This filter is great whenever you shoot around water, say shooting waterfalls.  This is a must-have in any photographer's bag.  Price will vary on the quality of the filter. Generally, you get what you pay for.

The Neutral Density Filter.  These filters are used when you want to darken the scene to either do a long shutter release or you want to open up the aperture of your lens.  This filter is used quite a bit for video work.  But for photography, it's mainly for long shutter release or opening up your aperture to give that great bokeh in broad daylight. Say for example you wanted to take a portrait in bright sunlight but you wanted to use an open aperture of 2.8, which is pretty wide open.  You would have to crank up your shutter speed to the thousands to get it to work if your camera would even get that high.  But when you put on an ND filter which darkens the scene, the wide aperture would let in enough light and you could slow down your shutter speed. I mainly use these filters to show motion.  I can do a long exposure in daylight and still blur a waterfall or have motions of the clouds drift across the sky giving a cool effect. These filters come in different strengths.  They are measured in stops of light.  Usually 3,6,8,10.  You can double up and have a 6 and a 3 together to make a 9.   Or a 3 stop and a polarizer to give a 4 or 5 stop light reduction. This is the combo that I usually use for waterfalls.  These filters can come in either square or circular filters.  For the square ones, you will need a holder of some sort to attach to the front of your lens.  The circular ones just screw onto the front of your lens, so you need to know your filter thread size. (usually found on the front of your lens)

Graduated Neutral Density Filter.  This filter can be duplicated in Photoshop or Lightroom in post-production, so it is not widely used as when film was king.  This filter is usually a rectangular shape and goes from clear to dark.  Sometimes it's a quick transition, called a hard graduation, and other times it's a slow transition, called a soft graduation.  These filters are used for sunrise and sunset shots mainly, and you can hold them over the bright part of the sky with the dark part of the filter and the light part goes over the land.  The hard grads are used for like at the beach where you have a clear cut horizon line, and the soft ones are for hills or trees  where it is not as clear where the horizon is.  Like I said earlier, these filters are not used as much anymore because you can do the same thing in post-production.  These filters come in different strengths also, like the ND filters and by stops also.  I haven't used one in a while but thought I would share.  These can be handheld for the shot.

Well, there you go, Patricia.  There are the different types of filters I use and when I use them.  Until next week, keep shooting and get outside.


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