Now let't talk about filters! No, i don't mean the Instagram or Snapchat filters. We will talk about camera filters (physical ones) and how we can use them for our photos.
Let't begin with categorising them and see the differences between them.
First you have screw on round filters that simply screw on the front of your lens. These are easy to use, they can stay on your lens all day and you can also use multiple of them by just screwing them on top of each other.
NOTE: Now for you to choose the one that fits your lens, you will need to check your lens' thread diameter. You can find this info usually in the front of the lens. Based on that you can choose the filter that will fit your lens.
Now some lenses do not have thread in front or they might have the lens hood permanently attached on them by factory, or like many wide angle lenses the from glass element might protrude, making it impossible to screw a filter on them.
Don't worry, there is a solution to that as well. It will be more expensive though and it will take more effort to set it up but in some cases it is the only way. These filter holders are available to fit all lenses with the proper adaptors. So let's take a look at that.
These type of filter holders are made for square filters like these:
So you basically slide them to the holder and they will do all the job filtering the light. The advantage of these filters is that they give you more flexibility to adjust them, stack them and utilise them. Especially when it comes to gradient filters ( the filters that are half dark and half clear to prevent overblown skies on high contrast frames). You might find decent round gradient filters but you wont be able to adjust the middle line, so you will be left with it at 50/50 at all times.
With the one on the left you can slide it up and down to adjust exactly how you want it based on your frame. You can also rotate it to any direction you wish. On the other hand with the one on the right, once it is screwed on the lens it will stay there, there is no room to move it up or down.
One more major point is that with the circular filters it becomes really hard to use a circular polariser filter together, since the CPL needs to go first on the lens to avoid heavy vignetting and so when you will try to screw the next filter it will become difficult to adjust the moving part on the CPL. For me that is a deal breaker, but this is just a personal opinion!
If you are just starting off, the circular option will be a better option, since they are easier to find and way cheaper. The only thing is that you will need to buy some adaptors to make sure they fit all your lenses. It is better to buy the filter that will fit your biggest lens and then the adaptors to step down to the smaller lenses.
If you are in for the long run and you want to invest in that then i would recommend the square filter system option. You get more flexibility, slightly better quality and less vignetting in the expense of some extra time and money!
Moving on let's see why would someone use a filter like these.
First you have ND filters, or Neutral Density filters. These are like sunglasses for you camera. What they do is to block the light in order to give you more flexibility to use longer shutter speeds, during daylight times. With these filters you can achieve long exposure shots, making the water look silky smooth.
Do you see the difference on how the water looks? That is because of the long shutter speed that captures the motion of the water, making it look like that.
Apart from ND filters you have also the gradient ND filters, which basically are like 50/50 filter. One part is dark and one is clear. These filters can be really useful when shooting against the sun and the sky looks overexposed.
They can be really helpful and save the day when the sun is high and is ruining your sky details. But even on a cloudy day you will get more detail and contrast in the sky area. Theoretically you can recreate that effect in post processing but it won't be the same. It is always better to capture as much detail as possible, in order to have more information to work with in post processing.
Apart from ND filters we have polariser filters. Thankfully the technology has advanced and now we have CPL or Circular Polariser filters, which mean you can control the amount of polarisation in the filter. What the polariser filter does is simple. It polarises the light or horizontal surfaces. It means that it will block certain light waves that create the glare on a surfaces and yet allow enough light waves to pass, to create a clear image. They come pretty handy when shooting pictures that have water surfaces or glass.
They might give a feel of extra contrast as well , especially in the sky area. Not a must, but i really love using them. They come in both the circular system that you can screw them on the lens or in special version for the square filter systems.
Filters can be fun and you can get creative and re-discover a scene or even your photography game all along. For any questions don't hesitate to leave a comment or hit me up n socials.
I will drop some links of some filters bellow so you can search and compare them.