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3 of the most important filters for photography

In modern photography days, where the space of general photography has been taken over by smartphone cameras, a filter for photography is commonly misunderstood as an editing tool.

If you’re onto photography for a while, you may have known or at least heard about camera filters.

A filter is a transparent disk of plastic or some glass which is usually mounted on the lens of camera.

long exposure school filters

It filters out the light passing through it according to its nature or its type, which I’ll explain about.

Filters are used by photographers often to tweak the end light that hits the camera sensor.

That can be a filtered portion of light, reflections filtered out or even added contrast or color.

There are varieties of filters available. Every kind of filter is used to get certain result.

To dig more into it, here are some of the most common filters used in photography.

UV Filter

UV Filter

Before understanding what UV filter is, you need to understand what UV is.

UV ray or UltraViolet ray is a kind of radiation with wavelengths of 10nm to 750nm according to Wikipedia.

It is generally harmful because of its short wavelength.

And, UV filter is used to protect camera lens and sensor from the harmful UV ray coming mostly from the sun.

Unlike other filters like ND and Polarizer, it doesn’t make difference in photo quality ‘directly’ but, it is sometimes used to cut off the light flairs from the photograph.

And, that’s all about UV.

It is good if you keep UV mounted over your lens everytime which will ensure some level of protection for you lens.

And, if you’re using low quality UV filter, sometime it may decrease the sharpness of the image.

Better to take care about that and use a quality filter.

Here’s my recommendation for a good one.

ND Filter

ND Filter

Now, this is pretty fun.

ND or neutral density filter is one of my favorite kind of filter after polarizing filter which I’ll get to later.

This acts as a sunglasses to your camera sensor.

It cuts off a certain amount of light passing through it.

ND Filter comes with the stop rating which is calculated by the amount of shutter speed stops it drops.

That also means, if you use ND filter with slower shutter speed, you still get darker images.

This makes it useful for long exposure photography,

So useful that it has been listed in one of the must-have equipment for long exposure photography.

There are basically 2 kinds of ND filters, one with variable ND and other with fixed.

Usually, variable filter can drop multiple stops of shutter speed according to your need.

Here’s an article that explains everything you need to know about ND filter.

Polarizing Filter

As I already mentioned above, Polarizing filter is my favorite filter used for photography.

And, that’s for a reason.

Basically, a polarizing filter is used to cut off reflections, darken the highlights and to cut off glares from the photograph.

Think it as a dynamic ND filter.

ND filter completely cuts off a portion of light, whereas Polarizer cuts off only from the highlights or from the reflections.

If you know how polarized sunglasses work, the working principle of polarizing filter is pretty much the same.

The filter blocks off the light if it’s oriented correctly by rotating it.

To simplify, the light waves that hit the camera sensor come scattered in different directions.

The polarizing filter will not allow the lights that are not linear to the polarizing direction of the filter (which are mostly the highlights and reflections).

That means, reflections and highlights would be cut off if the lens is oriented in a certain way, which is usually oriented by rotating it.

Here’s an image from Wikipedia that will explain it better.

Unpolarized light passes through filter.
Light gets polarized as it is rotated.

And, that’s how it works.

You can get creative with Polarizing filter. Sky is the limit.

Here’re some perfect comparisons of using and not using polarizing filter from Nikon.


So, those were the three of the most used filters in photography.

Apart from those, other two most used filters are Graduated filter and Contrast filter.

Since this article is about only 3 most used filters, I didn’t include those.

But, another same article about filters including those two is on its way so, make sure you keep in tune with us.

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  1. Osaka

    Wowww its fabulous..polarizer has great role in photography.. I want to know more about others two filters in your next article..I will be tuning with you?

  2. Pingback:How to shoot Long Exposure in Daylight? - Long Exposure School

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