Benefits of Using Lens Filters

Benefits of Using Lens Filters

The benefits of lens filters for photography are sometimes very obvious, but they require thought and knowledge. Possibly one of the most common benefits of lens filters is taming difficult lighting situations.

Those difficult lighting situations are why we use some thought when considering why and how we use lens filters. The lighting conditions aren’t always worked out by exposure techniques and methods of post processing.

Why Use Lens Filters

Large differences of exposure value or reflective light are some conditions that explain why use of lens filters assist us photographically. Lens protection, color correction or enhancement, and special effects are some other reasons to use lens filters.

Lens Protection

We’ll get this out of the way first since there are two schools of thought here.

The school of thought reasons why lessen the capability of that fantastic lens with inferior glass or add another possible source of reflection. Rigid lens hoods are fantastic protection, too, besides eliminating glare. And some lens designs don’t allow for front filters at all.

Either thought is valid. Don’t use cheap, low quality filters, make use of a lens hood whenever appropriate, and treat your gear with care in use and in storage.

Control Reflections

Reflections are everywhere. Just the sky itself is full of reflective light due to scattering by dust particles and water vapor that can lower contrast. Reflective surfaces, too, affect our images for better or worse. Glass and concrete in cityscapes, lakes, oceans, and ponds in landscapes, or directional light in views of architecture or realty.

All of these conditions can be controlled to some extent by polarizer filters. A polarizer is one of the most important photography filters for landscapes, cityscapes, or scenes with sky and clouds.

With a polarizer filter, you can adjust the filter to reduce or get rid of reflections from glass  and water surfaces which  may be distracting or obscuring our view of subject elements. Sometimes, you can adjust enough to see right through the water to things below the surface.

Polarizer filters can be screw-in filters that attach directly to the front of the lens or they can be part of a filter holder system like the H&Y K-Series filter holder with circular polarizer (C-POL) seen here.

While both are attachment methods are good, I tend towards filter holder systems for much of my filter work because of the extreme versatility they have. Filter holder systems are fantastic photography filters for landscapes because of their ability to hold multiple filters at once and the wide range of control options.

Control Wide Ranging Exposure Values

A huge benefit of lens filters for photography of landscapes and cityscapes with wide ranging exposure values comes from graduated neutral density (GND) filters. A graduated ND filter lets you include large areas of light along with large areas of dark to be in the same image with neither side out.

Without a GND filter, either the highlights for us to capture shadow detail, or the dark values bunch up for us to have usable highlights. Using a GND filter balances out those extremes for us, allowing us to capture both in one exposure.

GND lens filters for photography are best utilized in a filter holder system. A large, magnetic filter like the soft edge H&Y graduated ND filter in the filter holder system gives us almost complete control of where to place the light, dark, and transitional area of the filter within our field of view.

There are several types of GND filters, soft-edge, hard-edge, and reverse, each of them with slightly different benefits of lens filters available for our use in diverse types of photographic scenes and lighting conditions.