Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Filter Factor: Using Filters on Your Digital SLR

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner

Bookmark and Share

Whether you’re new to SLR photography, or you're a seasoned professional, people generally put a lot of thought into what type of lenses to use. Wide-angle or telephoto? Prime or macro? What many people don't consider, and often miss entirely, is the importance of filters for all of these lenses. Lenses can be large investments, while filters are relatively inexpensive, and can serve to both protect your investment, as well as improve the quality of your pictures.

With the huge popularity of today's high-end image editing software programs, the need for many traditional filters has been virtually eliminated. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Apple's Aperture, and others include tools or offer plug-ins that can create specific filter effects easily, without the need for extra equipment. However, there are a couple of filters that no photographer (or lens) should go without. These filters can not only help you get the best out of your photos, but also can save your lens from dirt, scratches, and even protect against impact.

There is one type of filter that should be on every lens, film or digital, even video. A UV filter, or even a clear protective filter, is an essential item for any lens. UV filters serve a dual purpose; first, they protect the lens both indoors and out, preventing dirt, dust, and scratches from reaching the front of the lens. Most lenses have special coatings, and the best way to preserve lens quality is to keep that lens untouched. The second benefit to a UV filter is that when taking photographs outdoors, UV light is filtered out. This is great for landscape photography, as distance usually causes a haze effect from UV light. A UV filter cuts through this haze, giving your photograph a sharper look. Clear protective filters, like Skylight filters, will provide protection but will not filter UV light.

The second must have filter is a Circular Polarizer. The best way to think of it is as sunglasses for your camera. Polarizing filters have two major advantages. When shooting outdoors, a polarizer will add depth and contrast to the sky, making the clouds pop out in detail against a deeper blue sky. This is a great effect for landscapes, cityscapes, or beach photos. A polarizing filter also removes reflections from non-metallic surfaces. Reflections from glass or water can be controlled and eliminated with a polarizing filter. This feature alone has a huge number of benefits in everyday photography.

So there you have it. Two must-have filters for every lens that can both protect your equipment, and improve your photos. This is true for video as well. Most camcorders are compatible with certain size filters. Some high-end point-and-shoot cameras even have filter options, usually with adapters. If you want the best photos and videos, make sure you have your bases, and your lenses, covered.

Visit Brendan for more information about choosing filters at our Tysons Corner store.