All The Camera Filters You Need

Here's how you can use filters to unleash your creativity and get more from your camera.

While they are regularly used by enthusiasts and professional photographers, casual shutterbugs tend to ignore the value of filters. The most common response I get when I recommend them is "I'll do it in Photoshop". While I completely support the use of Adobe's magical photo app to fine-tune your picture, a camera filter can make a lot of difference to the quality of your composition.

With filters, the biggest advantage is that you can get the desired effects without the loss in quality that comes with post processing. Filters are cheap compared to a lot of other camera accessories and they are easy to carry around. We shall make it easy for you to decide on the filters that you simply must own – and those that can wait.

Category 1: Must-have Filters
Here's a list of some of the filters that you simply must own as a photography enthusiast.

UV Filter
If you own a D-SLR or a superzoom camera, this filter is an absolute necessity. In these cameras the only protection your lens may have from scratches, fingerprints and other dirty, greasy smudges, is a pop-open lens cap. (The kind that's easy to misplace or forget to replace, leaving your lens open for long periods.)

The UV filter is a clear filter with a basic function of cutting out the ultra-violet interference that may be caused by sunlight in outdoor shots. Being a clear filter it's ideal to keep it on top of your lens at all times without losing out on quality or making a difference to the camera's performance.

All The Camera Filters You Need

If you have multiple lenses for your D-SLR, its recommended to have a separate UV filter screwed on to each of these lenses. UV filters are cheap (about Rs 100 a pop) and easily expendable, which is why these are considered compulsory to protect the fragile lenses.

Circular Polarizer
This dual-layered dark filter is an ideal companion for outdoor shots, primarily because of its nature. It's a dual-layered dark filter that cuts down the amount of light reflection that hits your lens. Because of this, the sky appears bluer, water reflection can be cut down to the extent that you can spot objects inside, and the overall colors appear a lot deeper and more real.

A Circular Polarizer is the best option for outdoor photography as that's where it is most effective. Be warned though: never use it for indoor or night shots, as it tends to darken everything without ample lighting.

Check out examples of shots you can take using this filter on the Flickr Polarizer group.

Neutral Density
Amateur photographers often struggle to use a low shutter speed with a wide aperture in bright outdoor conditions, to get that low depth of field or just a feel of motion. That's where the Neutral Density filter comes in handy.

The filter has a single function of reducing the overall light entering the camera lens. Cutting down the light allows you to treat your outdoor daylight shots – as you're shooting them in low-light, you can go crazy with low shutter speeds and high aperture sizes for cool effects like soft flowing water, among many others.

Check out examples of shots you can take using this filter on the Flickr Neutral Density group.

Category 2: Luxury Filters
Not luxury in the sense that they are expensive, but filters that you should look into only if you are really desperate to get new results from your camera. These are for select purposes only.

Ever seen those Hallmark cards where every point of light shoots off in multiple directions like a star? Yep, that's exactly what you can do with this filter.

Though the popularity of Starlight filters has been dwindling, there's still demand from some enthusiasts. It's perfect for taking pictures of kids against lights, as well as bright Diwali shots.

Soft Focus
This one's going make your girlfriend happy! The soft focus filter, as the name suggests, adds a very soft glow to the overall image. This works great on subjects with a good amount of bright light, making the composition look like it's out of a fairytale.

Of course, you can mimic the same effect using an imaging application, but the post-processed version loses out a bit when compared to the image you'll get straight off your camera.

Category 3: Obsolete Filters
These are filters that you can definitely do without in this day and age. Buy these only if you're obsessive about owning absolutely everything you can attach to your camera.

Color Tint Filters
During film camera days, filters that came in block colors like red, yellow, green and blue were popular with photographers.

These colors would completely overlay the subjects adding the right feel to the right situations. But these days you can get the same effect easily and painlessly using Photoshop and other imaging applications.

In fact, doing this digitally gives you a lot more control over the intensity, the saturation levels of the underlying colors, and just about everything else, with zero loss in image quality. Plus you have a lot more colors to play with without spending a single extra rupee. So you've got to be a major Photoshop hater to go in for such filters!

Gradual Tint Filters
Getting a slight color tint effect on the upper half (or any part, as you see fit) of the picture can be a very cool effect if done right. Once again, you can easily do it in an imaging application with minimum fuss, which totally makes this filter a relic for the dinosaurs.

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