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Ev­ery­thing you need to know about choos­ing op­ti­cal fil­ters – in a nutshell

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

We re­veal ev­ery­thing you need to know about fil­ters

Spe­cial-ef­fects fil­ters have now largely taken a back seat

Dig­i­tal cam­eras have largely done away with the need for car­ry­ing a stack of op­ti­cal fil­ters around. In the hey­day of film pho­tog­ra­phy, you might have re­quired a set of colour cor­rec­tion fil­ters to warm up or cool down the light, de­pend­ing on what type of film you had loaded in the cam­era. But a dig­i­tal cam­era’s white bal­ance con­trol lets you change the cam­era’s colour re­sponse from shot to shot. Spe­cial­ef­fects fil­ters – such as dif­fusers to cre­ate a soft-fo­cus look, or star fil­ters to add a star­burst ef­fect to light sources – have largely taken a back seat thanks to photo-ed­i­tors such as Pho­to­shop.

But there are still some op­ti­cal fil­ters worth con­sid­er­ing adding to your kit, whether that’s be­cause their ef­fects are time-con­sum­ing to repli­cate in soft­ware, or they per­form a tech­ni­cal or cre­ative func­tion that has to be achieved in-cam­era.

On the right, you’ll see our pick of fil­ters for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers. Even the in­clu­sion of one of those is slightly de­bat­able. Grad­u­ated fil­ters have tra­di­tion­ally been used to bal­ance a bright sky with a dark fore­ground, but these days you can sim­ply take a cor­rectly ex­posed shot of the sky and a cor­rectly ex­posed shot of the fore­ground, then blend the best bits of each in soft­ware. It’s a good tech­nique when you’re shoot­ing with no ob­vi­ous hori­zon line. That be­ing said, get­ting it right in-cam­era in a sin­gle take can save you time, par­tic­u­larly when you’re shoot­ing long ex­po­sures.

There are some fil­ters that open up cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties be­yond the scope of your cam­era’s con­trols. Close-up diopters are worth con­sid­er­ing if you want to take a first step into the world of macro pho­tog­ra­phy. These act like a mag­ni­fy­ing glass in front of the lens, with var­i­ous strengths of mag­ni­fi­ca­tion avail­able. While the qual­ity and con­ve­nience may not be up there with a ded­i­cated macro lens, it’s a more af­ford­able way to fill the frame with small de­tails.

If you’re keen on flash pho­tog­ra­phy, a set of colour fil­ters (for your lens) and colour gels (for your flash) will al­low you to use con­trast­ing colours on the lens and flash in order to cre­ate eye-pop­ping ef­fects. You can achieve a sim­i­lar ef­fect while edit­ing your pic­tures – but if you can do it all in-cam­era, why not?

Live View You can pre­view the ef­fect of a fil­ter on the rear dis­play. It’s par­tic­u­larly handy for po­si­tion­ing the tran­si­tion in a grad­u­ated fil­ter: press­ing your cam­era’s depth-of-field pre­view but­ton can make it eas­ier to see where the line runs through the im­age. If you’re us­ing a ro­tat­ing fil­ter, turn the fil­ter slowly as you look at the screen un­til you’re happy with the ef­fect, as it can be easy to go too far.

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