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Using filters when shooting images, not after…

Last week was a busy week for me, but for a change it didn’t involve sports of any kind. Instead, I spent some time scouting some new locations and revisiting a favourite spot for a potential new service I am working on offering, more details to come soon for that…..

Since I was not working with “models” or shooting on the clock, I was able to go slow and be a bit more thoughtful about the images I was creating. I also dusted off some of my filters, and I am not referring to post processing tools… I am talking about the little pieces of glass photographers used to always put in front of their lenses to create certain effects.

Before photography went digital and everyone with a smart phone could edit their photos with “vintage” filters with apps like Instagram or snapseed or get even more creative with Lightroom and Photoshop, photographers had to cart around a large wallet with a range of filters that helped them create those effects in camera when they pressed the shutter. There were red, green, yellow filters to use when shooting B&W film, there were split neutral density filters when shooting landscape images (the gradient filter in Lightroom), polarising filter to enhance blue skies and cut glare off shiny surfaces, colour correcting filters when shooting under various light sources (colour temp adjustment when shooting RAW), and other special effect filters like soft focus, star burst, and various infrared filters to use with special infrared film.

The death of filters in photography is good since you don’t have to decide what effect you want when you press the shutter and can experiment with different effects/looks when processing your images. But for all the control digital allows in post processing, there are some effects that are either just easier or only achievable by putting a filter on your camera.

The filters that I still carry with me are:

    81A warming filter. Yes, I can just adjust the colour temperature when editing the images, but I find that images shot with a warming filter just look better.
    Circular polarising filter. You can enhance the blue of the sky or the sea digitally, but even the best photoshop guru can’t recreate the effect of a polarising filter on shiny surfaces like water, metal
    Variable ND filter. There are two reasons for digital photographers to keep a variable ND filter in their bag, particularly if they are into shooting video as well. ND filters are neutral density filters that a designed to cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor with out altering the colours in the images. For still images, this is useful when you want to use a slower shutter speed to either balance ambient exposure with flash or to show movement in the image. For photographers untested in shooting video with their DSLR, the filter can be used to adjust the exposure so that the shutter speed doesn’t change between shots, which helps keep the video looking smooth.
    87 IR filter. This filter is an interesting one, since when you put it on your lens, you will not be able to actually see anything in your viewfinder. It is an infrared filter that is designed to block out all visible light and only allow infrared light to pass through the filter. A lot of digital cameras actually have an infrared blocking filter on the sensor, these filters don’t block all the infrared light from getting through, so you can get infrared images with long enough exposures. On a sunny day, I usually start with 30 second exposures and have done exposures up to 5 minutes… Photographers who really like shooting infrared images can get the infrared filters removed from their cameras, which cuts down on the exposure time and helps with focusing, but that makes the cameras only useful for shooting infrared images.

The only other filter that I use is a UV filter. I have one on all my lenses, it is to protect the front element from damage more than for the effect it creates.

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