Photography Notebook Photography Notebook: Filters


A lens filter fits over the camera lens and modifies the light. Filters are made for a variety of purposes. This page summarizes and shows the filters I use.

UV Filters

I bought UV filters for my lenses to protect the lens surface. I can subject the filter's surface to some dirt or other matter, and clean it off without touching the factory-made surface of the lens unit. When necessary, I can replace a UV filter for a fraction of the cost of replacing the lens. I prefer filters of a particular manufacturer, B&W--a German company that was the first to start making multi-layer coating systems filters. I prefer this brand because they are made of quality metal. I've never had one fail or mis-thread. They go on and off smoothly--no problems.

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Photos Using UV Filters

Ready for a Tomato Fight Tomato Fight

Comments For example, in this tomato fight, a good deal of the red stuff glopped on my lens filter (which I was able to clean off without a problem), but nothing got on the glass of the lens under the filter. Without this UV filter, I don't think I would have even tried to photograph this fun out of fear of damaging my lens surface.

Circular Polarizer Filter

I use a Circular Polarizer Filter on my lenses to lessen the harshness of intense sunlight. I also find that the CIR-PL filter deepens the colors and reduces the washed-out feel of bright sunlight. I prefer B&W Kaesemann CIR-PL filters.

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72 mm
82 mm

Circular Polarizer Photos Slideshow by Most Recent Comments

My tips for the CIR-PL filter are:

  • Put only the CIR-PL filter on the lense--don't put it on top of a UV filter (even though you can attach them together), as you will get small dark corners when the wide-angle lense is zoomed to its lowest setting.
  • The CIR-PL filter has an outermost ring that you rotate to get the darkest setting. I find that pointing the camera at the blue sky and rotating it until the sky seems deepest blue gets the best setting.

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Neutral Density Filter

An neutral density filter literally reduces the intensity of the light reaching your camera lens. Various strengths of these filters are used for different purposes.

Featured Equipment Purchase on Amazon B&W ND #110 ND Filter Photos Slideshow by Most Recent Comments This filter reduces the light intensity by ten stops! You need to use a tripod when using it.

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Infrared Filter

You can take photos of infrared light instead of visible light using a special infrared (IR) filter and time exposure.

While it is possible to convert a camera to take infrared photos by removing a protective covering over the sensor, I've not done that with my camera. As a result, I need to use more time eposure to get infrared to show up.

Featured Equipment Purchase on Amazon Infrared Filter Photos Slideshow by Most Recent Comments

My tips for making an IR photo are:

  • Use a tripod because you will need to take time exposures.
  • Be sure to use a lens that is known to work for IR photography; some lenses have "hotspots" in IR images.
  • Align the camera with the IR filter off first, because once you put the IR filter on, you will not be able to see anything through the viewfinder or through live view.
  • Practice first outside in full sunshine so that you can see results in 30 seconds.
  • Practice first in calm conditions (low wind) so as to avoid camera/tripod shaking, as you will be taking a time exposure.
  • Use a wireless (or wire) remote to snap the shutter so as to avoid touching the camera and shaking the tripod, even slightly.
  • Note that you can use the manual setting and the "bulb" setting for the time value so you can take as long of an exposure as you want.
  • Don't expect results from the interior of a building. I've tried again and again to get IR exposures inside buildings, but I have not gotten any results. The light is not hot enough.

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The scene at the left is shown in visible light and then shown at the right using an Opteka HD² 77mm R72 720nm Infrared X-Ray IR Filter with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM SLR Lens for EOS Digital SLRs wide-angle lens with 32 seconds time exposure. This Opteka IR filter is not the top-of-the-line filter for IR (see this Hoya IR filter), but I wanted to get an entry-level IR filter to see if I would like to continue in IR photography.

MAM in visible light MAM IR

Vegetation and intense sunlight registers very well with this IR filter. On the left is a photo with the CIR-PL filter on; on the right is the same scene with the IR filter and with just 15 seconds exposure:

CIR-PL Filter on Camera IR filter on Camera

Set Up Rings

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Filters are fitted based on the diameter of the lens covering--the same as the lens cover size. So, typically, a filter might be 77 mm or 72 mm or some other such number. You can buy specialized filters for these amounts or buy a filter step-Up adapter ring.

When you buy specialized filters (filters other than the UV filters such as IR (infrared) or ND (neutral density) or CIR-PL (circular polarizer)), you can consider buying just one set for your largest filter thread size, and then buying an adapter ring which will allow you to put the filters on lenses with smaller filter sizes. This is a big savings in money spent and equipment that you have to carry. Of course, if you find a filter you use often, you can buy the specific size for the lenses you use.

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2023-06-19 · John December · Terms ©