photo by leonid_tit via iStock
Digital photography is different from film photography in several major ways, the really big ones all of you most likely already know if you are taking the time to educate yourself in photography by following instructional websites like ours. By the way, thank you for being here, we enjoy the company.
A significant difference with digital photography that some may not realize unless you started out in film photography is learning how to use lens filters. With digital sensors, we no longer have to use a lens filter to change color balance for various color films and lighting conditions or enhance contrast in B&W film with Kodak wratten colors, we do all that from our camera menu or in post processing programs.
There are 3 very useful lens filters that we have kept using in digital photography, the circular polariser (C-POL), neutral density (ND), and graduated neutral density (GND) lens filters. These lens filters do work that we need done that our sensors and programs can’t, but we still need to watch out for common lens filter errors.
photo by BraunS via iStock
Lens filter mistakes are annoying and can ruin our images, but we can easily fix them before they ever happen. What are the lens filter mistakes we are likely to see and how do we avoid them?
Wrong Size Lens Filter
photo by 66North via iStock
Imagine trying to hike to a great vantage point for a landscape photo and your shoes are the wrong size, too big or too small. That is how your image feels when you try to use a wrong size lens filter. You could use a stepping ring to correct the situation but beware that if you step down to a smaller filter size than the lens filter diameter, you could cause vignetting which makes it seems like you’re peering through a keyhole.
After a while, many photographers end up with lenses that have differing lens filter diameters. You could spend a lot of money duplicating lens filters for each lens size or you could buy just one filter in the largest size you need and adapt it to the other lenses in your kit bag.
Instead of buying and trying to keep track of multiple rings, the newest product from H&Y Filters, the Revo Ring, is a wonderful tool for digital photographers. Read all about the Revo Ring and why you should use one in our previous articles about the H&Y Filters Kickstarter.
Poor Positioning of GND Lens Filter
The graduated neutral density (GND) lens filter is an extremely useful tool for balancing out the extremes of exposure values that can exist in scenes, especially outdoors. They work by having color neutral (hence the moniker “neutral”) density on one side of the filter and none on the other side with a transition area in the middle.
photo by valio84sl via iStock
In use, you place the density side of the GND lens filter over the part of the image area that you wish to tone down, such as the sky in a landscape. The transition area is where we can get tripped up. Especially with a hard edge transition, if we aren’t precise in where we put the transition, we will get a failed image.
A lot of photographers use the soft edge transition GND lens filters to avoid this issue, but it can still be seen even then with sloppy positioning. Besides where to put the line, we also should make sure it’s lined up properly and not tilted awkwardly.
Not Adjusting Polarizer
photo by BasieB via iStock
A polarizer is one of the most useful lens filters a photographer of any type can have, but they don’t work automatically. You have to twist the filter to get the effect you want. Simply mounting it on your lens won’t accomplish much in sky darkening or reflection removal if you don’t adjust it so that it actually polarizes.
Also, take it off when you’re not needing it. It’s not a protection filter like a UV lens filter and it adds about 1 ½ to 2 stops of density, requiring exposure adjustment.
Using Polarizer On Ultra Wide Lenses
photo by Different_Brian via iStock
I know why we want to use a polarizer on our ultra wide landscape images, we want that dark sky and puffy clouds. But, since a polarizer works by adjusting the lightwaves coming into the lens, using one on a n ultra wide lens can result in uneven sky darkening. It’s just the nature of polarized light in our atmosphere.
We may still be able to use one, but it will require us to be on our toes, double checking in the viewfinder and then again on our viewscreen after exposing the image. If we really want that dark sky in an ultra wide view, perhaps a GND and some creative post processing might be a better method.
Forgetting AF May Twist Lens Barrel
photo by Helinek via iStock
All of that effort we made to line up the lines properly with our GND lens filter or adjusting the C-POL just right could be ruined if our lens barrel turns during focusing and our AF fine tunes right before exposure.
Check your lens, the barrel may not twist during focusing, many lenses considered pro style won’t. But if yours does, it’s a simple fix, turn off the AF. You will need to focus manually first, then adjust the lens filter for the effect you want.
Take a Little Time to Avoid Lens Filter Mistakes
photo by Bobby Coutu via iStock
You’re already making the effort to use a lens filter to improve your digital photography, take a little time to ensure you get great results from your good technique with ND, GND, and C-POL lens filters.