Not everything can be simulated in Photoshop. While filters sometimes feel redundant in a digital age, they can also protect your lens, produce some masterfully cool effects, adapt to unsavory conditions, and help manage light. Take a look at these five filters to help build your accessory arsenal.
A polarizing filter reduces reflections and glare in the same way that polarized lenses reduce glare when you’re starring into sunlight. It absorbs the polarized light caused by electrons reflecting off of air molecules, which usually makes photographs appear ‘hazy.’ Hence, polarized filters work well for sunny day outdoor photography.
Another great sunny day filter is the UV. Usually, UV light creates a blue-ish tint in film photographs taken in bright conditions. While this isn’t so important for digital cameras, there is some evidence that UV lenses reduce the longitudinal chromatic aberration that causes purple fringing. Some people even use them for simple lens protection.
Neutral Density Filter
To prevent light from reaching your sensor, Neutral Density filters slow the shutter speed down slightly, or use a wider aperture than you would normally. It’s a great filter for photographing water because it creates a silky blur of movement.
Graduated Neutral Density Filter
There are two types of Graduated neutral density filters: hard and soft. While both feature dark glass on top and clear glass on the bottom, hard filters offer a sharp contrast. Soft filters transition between dark and clear more smoothly. For horizon shots, they work well to balance bright sky against less bright earth – like in a sunrise.
Warming and Cooling Filter
While most of these filters still serve a purpose in the digital age, warming and cooling filters – erm, don’t. They change the camera’s white balance to manipulate or correct color contrast for a new effect, but nowadays we just use Instagram.
Filters are a lot of fun. They’re a great a way to adapt the unnatural eye of your camera to the natural world. Though using multiple filters can compromise the quality of an image, using one at a time is pretty harmless.