Tag Archives: filters

The filters you really need for digital photography

How important are filters in the digital age?

Which filters should you use in digital photography?

Photographic filters modify the light coming into your camera, thereby creating effects during image capture. Filters are used to increase contrast, change color balance, and compress the dynamic range of a scene. In traditional film photography,the use of filters was commonplace, as film offered limited color choices and modest dynamic range. If you were shooting slide film (transparencies), what you captured on the film was pretty much what you’d get. Even the masters of black and white photography often used filters to improve contrast in a scene.

Ring-mount filters screw into the front of your lens. Clockwise, from top: Polarizer, UV/haze filter, solid neutral density filter.

Photographic filters can be made of glass or resin, and are attached to the front of your camera lens either by a screw-in (ring) mount, or via a filter holder (square/rectangular filters). No matter what kind of filter you use, when you put a filter in front of your lens, you’re adding another glass/air interface for light to pass through. Low-quality filters can potentially degrade image quality by reducing sharpness, creating unwanted color casts, or introducing reflections or other artifacts into your photos. Your camera lens is designed to precise optical specifications; don’t ruin an image by using a cheap filter!

Filters have long been a major photographic accessory, and one question I’m frequently asked is, “what filter should I buy?” A lot has changed in the last 20 years, and digital cameras are much more forgiving than their film ancestors. When you couple the extreme dynamic range of modern digital cameras with the ability to post-process RAW images, a lot of “go-to filters” are no longer needed for most digital photography. Let’s take a quick look at the primary kinds of filters you can get, and whether they should take up space in your bag.

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A Homemade Solar Filter

The sun, photographed with my Nikon D500 and 200-500mm VR Nikkor lens.

I’m not a total die-hard when it comes to solar photography, but I’m going to be close enough to the 2017 solar eclipse event that I figured I’d at least try to get some photos. But first, I had to construct a solar filter. Here’s how I made mine for about $45.

First, decide on which lens you want to use for photographing the sun. I chose my Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens, because it’s versatile and I can shoot it hand-held if I want to. I also chose this lens because it has a front filter thread, which will allow me to easily mount the solar filter to it. Continue reading A Homemade Solar Filter

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Tested: Singh-Ray I-Ray 700nm Filter

Steam Shovel Nikon D810 with Singh-Ray I-Ray 590 filter.
Steam Shovel
Nikon D810 with Singh-Ray I-Ray 700 filter.

A while back, my friends at Singh-Ray filters asked me if I’d be willing to test a new infrared filter. Late last week, I got a sample copy of the new Singh-Ray I-Ray 700nm filter to test and review. Here are my findings.

Why should you choose an infrared filter?

First, let me start by asking why one would want to use an infrared filter instead of converting a digital camera to infrared. There are several reasons why you might want an infrared filter:

  • You don’t have an extra camera lying around to convert to IR
  • You don’t want to spend $275-$400 to convert a camera
  • Filters are easy to pack when traveling, and work with all your cameras
  • You have a full-spectrum or dual-spectrum camera which requires filters

Continue reading Tested: Singh-Ray I-Ray 700nm Filter

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Sensor Plane Podcast #13: Photographing Fall Colors

Photographing fall foliage is one of my favorite things to do.
Photographing fall foliage is one of my favorite things to do.

It’s time again to think about photographing fall foliage! In this episode of The Sensor Plane podcast, I’ll go over some tips and tricks for getting fall colors that really pop. Specifically, I’ll talk about some of the filters I use when photographing fall colors, including the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo.

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I pack all my filters into the Mindshift Gear Filter Hive.

Download an audio-only (MP3) version of this episode here

Shop for filters at B&H Photo and support The Sensor Plane Podcast.

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Creative Photography: Going Long

A 10-stop solid neutral density filter allowed me to capture this image with a 30-second exposure.

I recently purchased a Lee “Big Stopper” filter. This is a 4×4″ solid neutral density glass filter that delivers 10 stops of light reduction power. In other words, it’s like putting a piece of welder’s glass in front of your camera. Solid ND filters are used to permit long exposures in otherwise bright conditions. Why would you want to do this?

In the right conditions, long exposures deliver a creative look that can make your images stand out. This technique can be a creative boost when you’re photographing popular places. In order for long exposures to work, you need both good equipment and the right conditions. Continue reading Creative Photography: Going Long

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