Using Lens Filters

Updated: 22 Feb 2024

Lens filters are indispensable tools in any photographer’s kit, as they offer a multitude of creative possibilities and practical advantages.


From the subtle enhancement of colours to the dramatic transformation of an entire scene, filters empower photographers to express their artistic vision and overcome challenges in various shooting conditions.


This tutorial explores the diverse applications of lens filters and provides insights into making the best use of these essential accessories.


Here are some common types of lens filters and tips on making the best use of them-


UV Filters

One of the simplest yet crucial uses of lens filters is protection. UV filters, originally designed to reduce ultraviolet light in film photography, have evolved into indispensable tools for safeguarding the front element of a lens.

By acting as a sacrificial layer, UV filters shield against scratches, dust, and moisture without compromising the image quality. Photographers can confidently navigate challenging environments, knowing their lenses are shielded, allowing for greater creative freedom.

Purpose: UV filters were originally designed to reduce ultraviolet light, which could cause haziness in film photography. However, in digital photography, their main purpose is to protect the front element of the lens.

Tip: Keep a UV filter on your lens at all times to protect against scratches, dust, and moisture. Ensure you invest in a high-quality, multi-coated UV filter to minimise impact on image quality.


Polarising Filters

Polarising filters stand out as powerful tools for enhancing colour saturation and contrast in outdoor photography. By reducing glare and reflections from surfaces like water and glass, these filters reveal vibrant colours and richer details. Properly adjusting the filter’s orientation in relation to the light source allows photographers to control reflections and produce captivating images with heightened visual impact.

Purpose: Reduces glare and reflections from surfaces like water and glass, enhances colour saturation and improves contrast.

Tip: Rotate the filter to achieve the desired effect. Be mindful of the angle to the light source for the most effective results.


Polarising Filter


Neutral Density (ND) Filter

Neutral density (ND) filters play a pivotal role in managing light exposure. Whether capturing the smooth flow of water in a long exposure or achieving a shallow depth of field in bright conditions, ND filters provide photographers with the flexibility to control exposure settings. Experimenting with different filter strengths opens up creative possibilities, allowing photographers to capture scenes in unique and visually compelling ways.

Purpose: Reduces the amount of light entering the lens, allowing for longer exposure times or wider apertures in bright conditions.

Tip: Useful for capturing motion in water or blurring moving subjects. Experiment with different ND filter strengths for various lighting conditions.


Graduated ND Filter

Graduated ND filters address the challenge of scenes with significant contrast between the sky and the foreground. By gradually reducing light from one side to the other, these filters balance exposure and ensure detail is retained in both highlights and shadows. Photographers can employ graduated ND filters to capture stunning landscapes with even lighting and dynamic range, creating images that are both visually striking and true to the scene.

Purpose: Gradually reduces light from one side of the filter to the other, helpful for balancing exposure in scenes with a significant contrast between the sky and the foreground.


Tip: Position the transition line of the filter along the horizon for a natural-looking result. Experiment with different filter strengths based on the scene’s contrast.


Colour Correction Filters

Colour correction filters play a significant role in photography, serving as essential tools for adjusting and fine-tuning the color balance in different lighting conditions. These filters are particularly valuable when shooting under diverse light sources, such as daylight, tungsten, or fluorescent lighting, where color temperatures vary.

Purpose: Adjusts colour temperature and corrects colour casts in specific lighting conditions.

Tip: Choose the appropriate filter based on the lighting conditions. For example, use a warming filter in cool, overcast conditions or a cooling filter in warm, tungsten lighting.


Close-Up Filters (Macro Filters)

Close-up filters, also known as macro filters, provide an affordable entry point into the world of macro photography. By allowing lenses to focus at closer distances, these filters enable photographers to capture intricate details in small subjects. While dedicated macro lenses offer superior image quality, close-up filters provide a practical and budget-friendly alternative for those exploring the realm of close-up photography.

Purpose: Allows you to focus on subjects at a closer distance than your lens minimum focusing distance.

Tip: Stack close-up filters for increased magnification. Be aware of potential loss of image quality and consider using a dedicated macro lens for higher-quality results.


Special Effects Filters

Special effects filters, such as starbursts, soft focus and diffusion filters, offer photographers the chance to infuse their images with a distinct and artistic touch. While these filters should be used thoughtfully and sparingly, they can add a touch of magic to portraits, landscapes, or other genres. Experimentation with these filters allows photographers to discover new dimensions of creativity and self-expression.

Purpose: Create unique effects such as starbursts, soft focus or diffusion.

Tip: Use these filters sparingly and thoughtfully, as they can significantly alter the appearance of your images. Experiment in different scenarios to understand their impact.


Infrared Filters

Infrared (IR) filters are specialised optical filters used in photography to selectively allow infrared light to pass through while blocking or reducing visible light. This unique characteristic enables photographers to capture images in the infrared spectrum, revealing a surreal and often otherworldly appearance of scenes.

Purpose: Blocks visible light while allowing infrared light to pass through, creating unique and surreal images.

Tip: Requires specialised infrared-sensitive camera modifications. Experiment with long exposure times and different scenes to explore the creative possibilities.



Remember to invest in high-quality filters to minimize any negative impact on image quality. Additionally, regularly clean and inspect your filters to ensure they don’t introduce unwanted artifacts into your photos.

In conclusion, lens filters serve as invaluable tools for photographers, offering a wide range of applications that enhance both the technical and artistic aspects of their work. Whether protecting lenses, controlling exposure, or adding creative effects, filters provide photographers with the means to push the boundaries of their creativity and produce images that resonate with viewers.


As technology advances, and new filters continue to emerge, the creative possibilities for photographers are limitless, making lens filters an indispensable and dynamic component of any photographer’s toolkit.



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