You have bought the digital SLR you have been dreaming about. You’ve also spent money on a variety of lenses, extra memory cards, a camera bag and maybe a tripod. Perhaps some other accessories. Now you find out about filters. What do they do? Do you need them? And finally, can’t you get the same effects by using the right software? Here, in brief, are the answers to these very legitimate questions.
Firstly, a digital camera filter is a translucent or transparent glass that fits on the front of a lens. Obviously, having and extra layer of glass will protect your lens from scratches and damage and replacing a filter is cheaper than replacing a lens. They also change the qualities of the light that enters the lens and can it to modify the look of the photo and the colors of an image.
As for needing them, you can take great photos without them, but they are useful when you need to control light effects either to improve the quality of the image or add special effects. There are literally hundreds of digital SLR filters available which can produce all kinds of effects like sun bursts, fog, kaleidoscope, soft focus and so on. Going into all the various types and the effects they create will require a fairly large book. Let’s just look at the four basic filter types. Once you understand these, you can decide if you need them and then go on to look at other filter options.
• Ultra Violet (UV) filters are basically meant to protect your lenses from getting scratched or cracked, getting dirty or smudged and for protecting them from dust and water entering. If they’re so good, why doesn’t everyone use them? The answer is that many professional photographers feel that adding an extra layer of glass, no matter how clear, will affect the quality of the photo. This makes sense, but so does protecting your valuable lenses. Look at it this way – if your photography is indoors, you don’t need a UV filter. But if you do a lot of outdoor work with the chance of lens damage, a UV filter is a good idea.
• Polarizing filters block out excess light reflected from shiny surfaces like car bodies or water that can cause patches of light in your photos.
• A warming filter reduces the amount of blue light that cause colors to look unnatural when shooting in snowy, overcast or shady conditions. When used in drab lighting conditions theses filters add warmth to colors like skin tones and give a more natural look.
• When shooting at slow shutter speeds to get a blurred effect in bright conditions, over exposure is a common problem. A neutral density filter will limit the amount of light entering the lens and prevent the photos from becoming too bright and losing contrast.
Finally, you can make a lot of changes and repairs to your photos with picture editing software and will be able to use it to get the same results that using various filter would have given you. But look at it this way, the better your original photo, the better results you can achieve with the software, when you do need to use it.
Do you need filters? Yes. Can you do without them? Again yes. Now you know the basics, you decide.