Last, but certainly not least, filters are one of the most basic camera accessories. The most common use for filters is as lens protectors. Keeping a filter on a lens can save you from having to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace that lens.
There are five basic types of filters: protective filters, black and white filters, polarizers, color correction, and special effects filters.
Protective Filters – These are clear or nearly clear filters whose main job is to protect the front element of your lens from dust and damage. Sometimes they are slightly warm (Skylight) or cut glare a tiny bit (Haze).
Black and White Filters – Black and white filters come in a bunch of colors. They are used in black and white photography to control contrast and tonal values. A red filter makes blues darker and adds contrast. Yellow and orange do the same thing but to a lesser degree. Red, yellow, and orange filters are most commonly used to darken and add drama to skies. A green filter will bring out reds and neutralize greens and yellows. It’s useful to add the appearance of color to skin tones, and lighten foliage.
Polarizers – Polarizing filters are used in color photography to increase contrast, deepen color saturation, and to reduce glare and reflections. There are two types of polarizing filters: linear and circular. They both have two layers of polarized glass that can be rotated in relation to each other. Rotating the outer element of the filter controls the amount of polarization. Linear polarizers are used for manual focus lenses and circular polarizers can be used with any type of camera. Linear polarizers may result in metering or focus errors with some autofocus cameras.
Color Correction Filters – Color correction filters help photographers balance the color of their images in special lighting circumstances. Normal indoor lighting is tungsten based and much warmer than daylight. Regular film is “daylight-balanced” and using it with indoor lighting results in photos with a very red/yellow cast. Using an 80A, blue filter will neutralize the tungsten light and make it appear normal with daylight film. Similarly, fluorescent light is very yellow/green. Using the correct magenta, fluorescent-balancing filter, makes images taken under fluorescent light look much better with daylight-balanced film.
Special Effects Filters – There are lots of special effects filters for lots of different effects. The most recognizable are probably the soft-focus and star filters that make all light sources look like stars. There are more useful special effects filters like split neutral density which have a dark side and a clear side. Those are used by to hold detail in the sky when it’s much brighter than the foreground. There are also colored polarizers, filters that are darker in the middle, filters that make multiple images, mist and fog filters, and even close-up filters that act as inexpensive macro accessories.
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