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Quick and Dirty Guide to Camera Filters and their Uses
click on links to check our current stock of that type of filter ( ie - HAZE).

Welcome to the wonderful world of camera filters. There are much more than we have listed here. But here are some basics for quick reference:

Universal use:

UV - A UV filter absorbs Ultraviolet rays without changing the exposure. With most images, most people will not see a difference when a UV filter is used. Many prefer to use as lens protection.

SKY  Skylight filters absorb some ultra-violet, blue and green. Eliminates shadows turning out bluish or cold under skylight. Typical subjects are buildings, shades, snow scenes, portraitures, etc.
  • Sky 1A - Skylight filters can absorb UV light as well as providing a warm effect.
  • Sky 1B - Reduces the excessive bluishness that frequently occurs in outdoor color photography, especially in open shade under a clear, blue sky. The absorption peak is in the range which corresponds to the film's green spectrum. Also keeps skin tones free of colored reflections from nearby objects such as the shade of trees.
HAZE - Haze is caused by dust particles in the air. These particles reflect shorter wavelengths more than the longer ones. Haze 1 reduces excess blue and transmits 29% at 400mm wavelength.

Polarizers - A polarizing filter, used both in color and black and white photography, can be used to darken overly light skies. Because the clouds are relatively unchanged, the contrast between the clouds and the sky is increased.

Atmospheric haze and reflected sunlight are also reduced, and in color photographs overall color saturation is increased. Polarizers are often used to deal with situations involving reflections, such as those involving water or glass, including pictures taken through glass windows

There are two types of polarizing filters.
  • A linear polarizer filter transmits one of two states of linearly polarized light.
  • A circular polarizer (sometimes called a CPL filter) similarly selects a linear state but then converts it to circularly polarized light, by adding a birefringent layer (typically a quarter-wave plate) to the filter after the linear polarizer.
The metering and auto-focus sensors in certain cameras, including virtually all SLRs, will not work properly with linear polarizers, both because of the mirror and because of the beam-splitters used to split off the light for focusing and metering. Circular polarizers will work with all types of cameras.

The PL filter comprises a thin, neutral grey liner polarizing sheet sandwiched between two pieces of optical glass in a rotating frame. Eliminates undesirable reflections from glass or water surfaces and also increases contrast in distant scenes with both color and black and white films. Infrared effects can also be produced by using PL together with a red filter with B&W films.

To eliminate reflections, place the camera at about 30-40 degrees from surface. To darken the color of the sky, direct sunlight should always be at the back.

With SLR cameras the effect can be checked by looking through the viewfinder while rotating the filter. With other cameras, first determine the effect without the filter by looking through it and then attach the filter at the same angle to take the picture.

The filter factor is about 3-4 with either color or b&w film but may vary with the type of subject. With certain movie cameras the viewfinder may become excessively dark and cause the TTL meter to make a large error. In such cases use a Circular Polarizing filter instead.

The Circular Polarizing filter is made by sandwiching a linear polarizing sheet and a quarter wave retardation plate between two pieces of optical glass.

The effect is the same as with the PL filter but is for use for the cameras which cannot meter exposures properly due to a refracting prism, half-mirror or divider.

Special Effects Filters
Star or Cross Screen Filters These filters are made out of high quality optical glass in which the surface is etched with a fine grid pattern. Depending on the pattern and size of grid, point light sources and reflections create multi-beam stars. The twinkle of an eye, of a diamond necklace, rhinestone, street light, ocean's wave are all examples of common uses. Interesting variations are possible when combined with other special effects attachments. The orientation of the star patterns can be creatively chosen by rotating the filter mount while observing the image.

Close up lenses or Magnifying filtersClose up lenses are high quality optical magnifying lenses which shorten the close-focusing distance of the lens. It allows the lens to go closer to the subject than before and to achieve a larger image scale. An increase in the exposure time is NOT necessary. These lenses can be combined by adding their refractive powers. Do no combine more than two close up lenses because of the danger of mechanical vignetting. Often comes in sets of 3-4 filters.

Diffuser - Diffusion filters are used to create soften images. The keywords are enchanting, romantic and dreamy. Basically, a diffusion filter diffuses strong light without affecting the sharpness and contrast of the image. Thus, it is different from the effect of out of focus. Diffusion filters are mainly used in portrait work. In general, small skin defects can be eliminated almost completely, and facial contrast and wrinkles are soften. To create a better result, aperture should be opened up so that the subject can stand out well against the background.

ND - Neutral Density
- The purpose of standard photographic neutral density filters is to allow the photographer greater flexibility to change the aperture or exposure time, allowing for more control, particularly in extreme circumstances.

ND filters appear grey and reduce the amount of light reaching the film, they have no affect on color balance.

They have four main uses:

  1. To enable slow shutter speeds to be used, especially with fast films, to record movement in subjects such as waterfalls, clouds, cars, seas etc.
  2. To decrease depth of field by allowing wider apertures to be used, which helps separate subjects from their background.
  3. To decrease the effective ISO of high speed film (ie:above ISO400) and allow it to be used outdoors in blight situations.
  4. To allow cine and video cameras (which have fixed shutter speeds) to film subjects such as snow, sand or other bright scenes which would normally cause over-exposure.

FOR Black and White photography and other creative uses.

You can dramatically alter the tones of a black & white photograph by placing colored filters over the camera lens. For example:

RED - Especially effective for increasing contrast in B & W photography. Often referred to as Ansel Adams filter. Ideal for dramatic cloud effects in landscapes. Can also be applied creatively in color and infrared photography.

GREEN - Reduces blue and red. Affects blue skies in almost the same way as the yellow filter but differentiates better between delicate hues of grass and foliage. Great for correcting skin tones, bringing out facial expressions in close-ups and emphasizing the feeling of liveliness. 11 is highly effective for indoor portraits under tungsten lighting.

YELLOW - Reduces background blue, accentuates the other colors.

Especially useful for clear contrast between blue sky with clouds and foreground. Provides a natural tonal rendition. For portraits, this filter reduces freckles and red spots on skin and darkens blue eyes. 
Often used for subjects at intermediate distances.

ORANGE - Increases contrast between reds and yellows. Particularly useful for distant outdoor shots taken with a telephoto lens. Also useful in color photography for spectacular sunsets, seascapes.

BLUE - makes reds and oranges become a touch darker and blues and greens slightly lighter. Blue is little used for black & white work and would mostly be considered as a contrast reducer which you can often do satisfactorily using a different paper grade.

Color Correction - Color Conversion - Light Balancing Filters

Cool Series Filters (80A,80B,80C,82A,82C) - These filters compensate for an excess of red, orange or yellow.

80A - These are color conversion filters for the use of daylight type color films with artificial light source. 80A increases the color temperature from 3200K to 5500K for the use with 3200K lamps.

80B - These are color conversion filters for the use of daylight type color films with artificial light source. 80B increases the color temperature from 3400K to 5500K for the use of photoflood lamps.

80C - These are color conversion filters for the use of daylight type color films with artificial light source. Increases the color temperature from 3800K to 5500K for the use of clear flash bulbs.

82 series This filter is a conversion filter for exposures made on daylight film, or with a digital WB of daylight, under tungsten light.  This will correct out the strong yellow-orange cast of the tungsten light.  This filter may also be used for a special effect when the strong blue color is desired.

82A - Reduces excessive red of the light, 3200K flood in early am or 3400K floods in late pm, daylight and daylight negative type films

82B - for cooler results

Warm Series Filters (81A, 81C, 85 series) - These filters compensate for an excess of blue or green.

81A - These are light balancing filters used to decrease the color temperature slightly for a warmer (redder) tone. Corrects the tendency toward bluish tones. For example, the 81A should be selected when using tungsten Type B color film (3200K) with photoflood lamps (3400K)

81B - These are light balancing filters used to decrease the color temperature slightly for a warmer (redder) tone. Corrects the tendency toward bluish tones.

85 - These are color conversion filters for the use of tungsten type color films in daylight. 85B  decreases the color temperature from 5500K to 3200K for the use of Type B color films 85C decreases the color temperature from 5500K to 3800K. The effect obtained is the same as with daylight type color films used in daylight.

FLA/FLB/ FLD Fluorescent light correction filters - Eliminates the deep blue cast resultant from shooting color film with fluorescent lights.