Photography Filters: The Ultimate Guide to Camera Lens Filters

The Ultimate Guide to Camera Lens Filters: Raise Your Photography Game

If you’ve ever wondered how to take your photography to the next level, this comprehensive guide to camera lens filters is for you. From polarising filters to neutral density filters, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of what each filter does and how to use them effectively. Stick around to learn how to make your photos pop like never before.

Article Outline

  1. What is a Lens Filter?
  2. Why Use Filters in Photography?
  3. Types of Camera Lens Filters: An Overview
  4. What is a Polarising Filter and Why Use It?
  5. The Magic of Neutral Density Filters
  6. UV Filters: Necessary or Not?
  7. How Do Graduated ND Filters Work?
  8. Screw-in Filters vs. Drop-in Photography Filters
  9. The Role of Colour Filters
  10. Front of the Lens: Where Filters Live
  11. Can You Use Multiple Filters at the Same Time?
  12. Warming and Cooling Filters: What’s the Deal?
  13. Digital Photography vs. Film Photography: Filter Considerations
  14. Photoshop: A Digital Filter Alternative?
  15. What Filters Do Landscape Photographers Swear By?
  16. Wide-Angle Lens and Filters: A Special Case
  17. How to Protect Your Lens with Filters
  18. Special Effects Filters: Yay or Nay?
  19. How to Choose the Right Filter for Your Specific Lens
  20. Where to Buy Lens Filters: A Quick Guide

photography filters

What is a Lens Filter?

A lens filter is a piece of glass or plastic that attaches to the front of your camera lens. These photography filters serve various purposes, from reducing glare and reflections to protecting the lens surface. Filters are an essential tool in a photographer’s kit, offering a range of effects and corrections that can be hard to replicate in post-processing software like Photoshop.

Why Use Filters in Photography?

Filters are far more than just camera accessories; they’re essential tools that offer a wide range of advantages. Here’s a breakdown of why you should consider using filters in your photography:

  • Enhance Colours: Filters like polarising filters can make the sky bluer, the grass greener, and overall enhance the vibrancy of your photos. It’s like turning the saturation dial up, but in a classy way.
  • Reduce Reflections: Ever tried to photograph a lake but got more of the sky’s reflection than the lake itself? A polarising filter can cut through those reflections, giving you a clearer view of your subject.
  • Protect Your Lens: Think of UV filters as the bodyguards for your lens. They protect the lens from scratches, dust, and other potential hazards. It’s a small investment to protect a much larger one.
  • Improve Landscape Photography: Filters are a landscape photographer’s best friend. They can balance out the sky and the ground, reduce glare from water, and help you capture the natural beauty in the best light possible.
  • Inspire Creativity: Filters open up new avenues of creativity. Want to capture the motion of a waterfall? Use a neutral density filter. Want to make a cityscape pop? Try a colour filter. The possibilities are endless.
  • Get It Right In-Camera: While post-processing has its place, there’s a certain satisfaction in nailing the shot right in the camera. Filters help you achieve effects that are often impossible or time-consuming to replicate in editing software.
  • Fun to Use: Let’s not forget, photography is as much about enjoying the process as it is about the end result. Fiddling with filters, seeing their effects in real-time, and the joy of capturing that perfect shot makes using filters a fun part of the photography process.
  • Practical Applications: Beyond the creative aspects, filters have practical uses too. For instance, neutral density filters allow you to use slower shutter speeds in bright conditions, giving you more control over how your photos turn out.

So, whether you’re capturing the rugged landscapes of Lancashire or the bustling streets of Leeds, filters offer a multitude of ways to improve and enhance your photography. They’re not just tools; they’re a gateway to a more creative and effective photography experience.

Types of Camera Lens Filters: An Overview

Understanding the types of lens filters available can be a game-changer for your photography. Here’s a comprehensive list of the most common types, what they do, how they work, and when you might want to use them:

Polarising Filters

  • How They Work: These filters only allow light waves moving in a specific direction to pass through, reducing glare and reflections.
  • What They Do: They make skies bluer, grass greener, and eliminate reflections from water and glass.
  • Why Use Them: To enhance outdoor photography, especially landscapes and water scenes.
  • Genres: Landscape, Architectural, and Automotive Photography.

photography filters

Neutral Density (ND) Filters

  • How They Work: Think of them as sunglasses for your camera; they reduce the amount of light entering the lens.
  • What They Do: Allow for slower shutter speeds or wider apertures, useful for creating motion blur or reducing depth of field.
  • Why Use Them: To control exposure in bright conditions and create artistic effects.
  • Genres: Landscape, Long-Exposure, and Portrait Photography.

photography filters

UV Filters

  • How They Work: They block ultraviolet light from entering the lens.
  • What They Do: Primarily used to protect the lens from scratches, dust, and other hazards.
  • Why Use Them: Lens protection, is especially useful for outdoor and adventure photography.
  • Genres: General Photography, especially outdoors.

photography filters

Graduated ND Filters

  • How They Work: These are darker at the top and gradually get lighter towards the bottom.
  • What They Do: Balance exposure between the sky and the ground, especially useful during sunrise and sunset.
  • Why Use Them: To avoid overexposed skies or underexposed landscapes.
  • Genres: Landscape and Seascape Photography.

photography filters

Colour Filters

  • How They Work: These filters enhance or mute specific colours in the frame.
  • What They Do: Used mainly in black and white photography to change how colours are converted to shades of grey.
  • Why Use Them: To enhance contrast and mood in black and white photos.
  • Genres: Black and White, Artistic, and Film Photography.

photography filters

Close-Up Filters

  • How They Work: These are like magnifying glasses for your lens.
  • What They Do: Allow for closer focusing distances, making small subjects appear larger.
  • Why Use Them: For macro photography when you don’t have a dedicated macro lens.
  • Genres: Macro, Nature, and Product Photography.

Special Effects Filters

  • How They Work: These filters create specific artistic effects like starbursts, soft focus, etc.
  • What They Do: Add a creative twist to your photos, such as making lights look like stars.
  • Why Use Them: When you’re feeling experimental or want to achieve a specific artistic vision.
  • Genres: Creative and Artistic Photography.

Warming/Cooling Filters

  • How They Work: These adjust the colour temperature of your photos.
  • What They Do: Warming filters add a yellowish tint; cooling filters add a bluish tint.
  • Why Use Them: To correct or enhance natural lighting conditions.
  • Genres: Portrait, Landscape, and Indoor Photography.

photography filters

So, whether you’re capturing the essence of a bustling city or the tranquillity of a countryside landscape, there’s a filter out there to elevate your work. Knowing which one to use and when can make all the difference.

What is a Polarising Filter and Why Use It?

A polarising filter is a bit like magic for your camera lens. It’s designed to reduce glare and reflections from non-metallic surfaces such as water, glass, and even leaves. This filter is a firm favourite among landscape photographers because it can make the sky look bluer and the grass look greener, giving your photos a more vibrant and dynamic look.

Versatility Across Genres

But don’t pigeonhole this filter into just landscape photography; it’s far more versatile than that.

  • Cars: If you’re into automotive photography, a polarising filter can reduce reflections on car windows and body, making the vehicle’s colour more vivid.
  • Food Photography: Ever tried to photograph a dish covered in sauce? A polarising filter can cut down the glare from the sauce, making the food look more appetising.
  • Flowers: In floral photography, a polarising filter can reduce the sheen on petals, making the colours more true to life.

How to Use a Polarising Filter

Most polarising filters are screw-in types, meaning they simply screw onto the front element of your lens. Once attached, you can rotate the filter to adjust the level of polarisation, allowing you to preview the effect in real time through your viewfinder or screen.

Why Post-Processing Can’t Fully Replicate It

Now, you might be thinking, “Can’t I just fix the glare and reflections in Photoshop?” Well, the short answer is no. While post-processing software has come a long way, the effects of a polarising filter are nearly impossible to replicate in post. This is because the filter physically changes the way light enters your lens, something software can’t retroactively achieve.

So, whether you’re capturing the rolling hills of the countryside or the sleek lines of a sports car, a polarising filter is an invaluable tool that offers effects you simply can’t achieve in post-processing. It’s not just an accessory; it’s a necessity for capturing the world in its best light.

The Magic of the Neutral Density Camera Filter

Neutral Density (ND) filters are the unsung heroes of the photography world. Think of them as sunglasses for your camera, but far more versatile. They control the amount of light entering the lens, giving you the freedom to use slower shutter speeds or wider apertures. This is a godsend when you’re aiming for that silky smooth motion blur in subjects like waterfalls, rivers, or even fast-moving clouds.

photography filters

The Power of Stops: 6-Stop, 10-Stop, and 15-Stop ND Filters

ND filters come in various strengths, measured in ‘stops,’ which indicate how much light they block.

  • 6-Stop ND Filters: These are great for slightly extending exposure times, useful for adding a bit of blur to flowing water or softening cloud movement.
  • 10-Stop ND Filters: Also known as the “Big Stopper,” this filter took the landscape photography world by storm. It allows for much longer exposures, making it possible to turn choppy seas into misty wonderlands.
  • 15-Stop ND Filters: This is the heavy artillery of ND filters. With a 15-stop, you can achieve ultra-long exposures even in bright daylight. Imagine capturing a 5-minute exposure at noon without overexposing your image; it’s a game-changer.

The “Big Stopper” Phenomenon

The 10-stop ND filter, often referred to as the “Big Stopper,” revolutionised landscape photography. Before its advent, capturing long-exposure shots during the day was a tricky business. The Big Stopper made it not only possible but also straightforward, turning daytime landscapes into ethereal scenes straight out of a fantasy novel.

The Art of Making Busy Places Look Empty

One of the most intriguing uses of ultra-long exposures with ND filters is the ability to make bustling places appear deserted. Imagine you’re in a busy market square; people are moving, and there’s a general buzz. A long exposure shot will capture the stationary objects clearly while blurring the moving people, essentially making them ‘disappear’ from the photo. It’s a fantastic way to capture popular landmarks without the crowds, giving your photos a unique and surreal quality.

So, whether you’re a landscape enthusiast looking to capture the Yorkshire Dales in all their glory or a city photographer wanting to make Leeds city centre look like a ghost town, ND filters offer endless creative possibilities. They’re not just tools; they’re your gateway to a whole new world of photographic potential.

UV Filters: Necessary or Not?

UV filters are often used to protect the front element of the lens from scratches, dust, and other potential hazards. While they were initially designed to reduce the haze caused by ultraviolet light, most digital cameras already have built-in UV protection. So, the primary function of a UV filter in digital photography is lens protection.

How Do Graduated ND Filters Work?


Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters are the unsung heroes in the realm of landscape photography. They’re a bit like ND filters but with a gradient, darker at the top and gradually becoming lighter towards the bottom. This unique design allows them to balance the exposure between the sky and the land, making them indispensable during sunrise and sunset when the sky can be much brighter than the landscape.

Choosing the Right GND for the Light

Selecting the right GND filter for the lighting conditions is crucial. The strength of the filter is usually indicated by its “stop” value, similar to ND filters. The higher the stop value, the darker the filter. You’ll need to consider the difference in brightness between the sky and the landscape to choose the right one. For example, during a particularly bright sunset, you might opt for a stronger GND filter to balance the exposure adequately.

The Inspirational Aspect

GND filters can be a source of inspiration for landscape photographers. They allow you to capture scenes in a way that would be challenging to achieve otherwise. The ability to balance exposure in-camera can inspire you to tackle more complex lighting situations, broadening your creative horizons. 

For me, seeing that sky darken and give that wow-factor is one of the best bits of photography!

A More Satisfying Process

There’s something incredibly satisfying about getting the shot right in camera, and GND filters help you do just that. They enable you to capture the grandeur of a landscape without having to compromise on the sky or the land. This makes the entire process of landscape photography more rewarding.

Sure, you can bracket and blend in Photoshop pretty easily now, but getting it done in the field… it’s just more enjoyable

Different Sizes and Brands

When it comes to GND filters, there are several brands and sizes to choose from. For instance, Cokin offers various series like A, P, Z, and X, each designed to fit different lens diameters.

  • Cokin A Series: Ideal for compact and mirrorless cameras.
  • Cokin P Series: Suited for DSLRs with mid-range lenses.
  • Cokin Z Series: Designed for prosumer and professional lenses.
  • Cokin X Series: For large diameter and cinema lenses.

Understanding the Darkness Levels

Different brands have different naming conventions for the darkness levels of their GND filters. For example, Cokin uses L (Light), M (Medium), and S (Strong) to indicate the gradient strength. On the other hand, Lee Filters use numerical values like 0.3, 0.6, and 0.9 to represent the same.

So, whether you’re capturing the serene landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales or the dramatic skies over Leeds, GND filters offer a level of control and creativity that’s hard to beat. They’re not just an accessory; they’re an essential tool for anyone serious about landscape photography.


Screw-in Filters vs. Drop-in (Square) Filters

photography filters

When it comes to lens filters, there are generally two types you’ll encounter: screw-in filters and drop-in filters. Each has its pros and cons, and the best choice often depends on your specific needs and shooting style.

What Are Screw-in Filters?

Screw-in filters are the most straightforward type of filter to use. As the name suggests, these filters screw directly onto the front of your lens. They come with threads that match those on your lens, making it a simple process to attach and detach them.

  • Pros:
    • Convenience: Just screw it on, and you’re good to go.
    • Portability: They’re generally smaller and easier to carry.
    • Protection: They offer an extra layer of protection for your lens.
  • Cons:
    • Limitations: You can’t easily use multiple screw-in filters at the same time without risking vignetting or cross-threading.
    • Compatibility: Each lens might have a different thread size, requiring different filters or step-up/step-down rings.

What Are Drop-in Filters?

Drop-in filters are a bit more complex but offer greater flexibility. These filters are usually square or rectangular and are placed into a holder that attaches to the lens. The holder often has multiple slots, allowing you to use more than one filter at a time.

  • Pros:
    • Flexibility: You can mix and match different types of filters, like a polarising filter with a graduated ND filter.
    • Quick Changes: Once the holder is set up, swapping out filters is quick and easy.
    • Universal Fit: One holder can fit multiple lenses, often requiring just a simple adapter ring.
  • Cons:
    • Setup Time: It takes longer to set up, especially if you’re new to it.
    • Bulk: The holder and multiple filters can take up more space in your camera bag.

Which One is Right for You?

  • Screw-in Filters: If you’re after simplicity and usually only need one type of filter, screw-in filters are your best bet. They’re also great for those who are new to using filters.
  • Drop-in Filters: If you’re a more advanced photographer or find yourself frequently needing to use multiple filters, drop-in filters offer the flexibility you’ll appreciate.

The Role of Colour Filters

Colour filters are used to enhance specific colours in black-and-white photography. They can also be used in colour photography to create special effects. For example, a red filter can make a blue sky appear darker in black-and-white photos. Colour filters were more prevalent in the days of film photography but are still used today for specific artistic effects.

photography filters

Front of the Lens: Where Filters Usually Reside

The vast majority of filters are designed to be attached to the front of a camera lens. This is the most convenient location for several reasons:

  • Ease of Access: It’s much easier to screw a filter onto the front of a lens than to fiddle around with the rear of the lens, especially when you’re in the field.
  • Compatibility: Front-of-the-lens filters are generally more versatile, fitting a wide range of lenses. This is particularly useful if you have a collection of lenses with different thread sizes.
  • Quick Changes: When you’re out and about capturing the beauty of the world, time is often of the essence. Being able to quickly swap filters on the front of the lens is a significant advantage.

The Rare Back-of-the-Lens Filters

While front-of-the-lens filters are the norm, there are some specialized exceptions. Some very long lenses, like the 500mm F4.5 L that you’ve got, come with a slot at the back, near the rear element of the lens. These slots are mainly designed for polarising filters.

  • Why the Back Slot? These lenses are often too large and heavy to make front-mounted filters practical. The rear slot offers a more manageable way to use filters on such hefty lenses.
  • Limited Use: These rear slots are generally not as versatile as front-mounted options. They’re often designed for specific types of filters, like polarisers, rather than a broad range of filter types.

So, while the front of the lens is the go-to spot for most filters, there are those rare birds like the 500mm F4.5 L that offer a back slot. It’s a bit like having a secret compartment in a classic car—most people won’t need it, but it’s a nice option to have for those special occasions.

Can You Use Multiple Filters at the Same Time?

Yes, you can use multiple filters simultaneously, but it’s not always advisable.

Stacking filters can lead to issues like vignetting or colour cast. However, in some situations, using more than one filter can help achieve a specific effect that one filter alone cannot provide.

Warming and Cooling Filters: What’s the Deal?

Warming and cooling filters adjust the colour temperature of your photos. Warming filters add a yellowish tint, making the photo ‘warmer,’ while cooling filters add a bluish tint, making the photo ‘cooler.’ These filters are often used to correct or enhance the natural lighting conditions.

Digital Photography vs. Film Photography: Filter Considerations

In today’s digital age, it’s tempting to think that filters are a relic of the past, especially when you have powerful software like Photoshop at your fingertips. But hold your horses! While it’s true that many effects can be replicated in post-processing, there are some things that digital wizardry just can’t mimic.

The Curious Case of Linear Polarisers

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. You might have heard that linear polarisers don’t play well with digital cameras. Why, you ask? Well, it’s all down to the way digital cameras handle light. Digital sensors and the beam splitters in digital SLRs are designed to work with “circularly polarised” light. Linear polarisers, on the other hand, work with “linearly polarised” light. The mismatch can mess up your camera’s autofocus and exposure metering systems.

If that sounds like a physics lesson you’d rather skip, you’re not alone! Let’s just say it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole—technically fascinating but practically frustrating.

Why Some Effects Are Best Left to Physical Filters

Certain effects, like polarisation, are best achieved with physical filters. The software might be getting smarter by the day, but it still can’t replicate the way a polarising filter can cut through glare or make a blue sky pop. And let’s not forget long-exposure effects, which are nigh on impossible to mimic convincingly in post-processing.

So, while Photoshop is a powerful tool, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Sometimes, you’ve got to go old school and screw on a filter to get the shot you’re after. After all, there’s something satisfying about capturing the perfect image in-camera, isn’t there?

Photoshop: A Digital Filter Alternative?

Photoshop is a powerful tool, no doubt about it. But when it comes to mimicking the effects of physical filters, it has its limits. Let’s break down some common types of filters and see how they stack up against their digital counterparts.

Polarising Filter

  • Can it be faked? No.
  • Ease: N/A
  • How-to: A polarising filter cuts through glare and reflections in a way that simply can’t be replicated in Photoshop. If you’re shooting without one, there’s not much you can do in post to achieve the same effect.

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

  • Can it be faked? Partially.
  • Ease: Moderate to Difficult
  • How-to: You can mimic the effect of an ND filter by taking multiple shots at faster shutter speeds and then blending them together in Photoshop. However, this method is time-consuming and doesn’t work for all subjects.

Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filter

  • Can it be faked? Partially.
  • Ease: Moderate
  • How-to: You can simulate the effect by bracketing your shots and then blending the exposures in Photoshop. However, this requires extra work both in the field and in post-processing.

UV Filter

  • Can it be faked? Yes.
  • Ease: Easy
  • How-to: UV filters are mainly used to protect the lens, and their effects are easily replicated in Photoshop by adjusting the contrast and clarity.

Colour Filters

  • Can it be faked? Yes.
  • Ease: Easy
  • How-to: Colour filters are perhaps the easiest to replicate in Photoshop. Just play around with the hue and saturation settings to achieve the desired effect.

Special Effects Filters (e.g., Starburst, Soft Focus)

  • Can it be faked? Yes.
  • Ease: Moderate
  • How-to: While you can mimic these effects in Photoshop, it often requires a fair bit of skill and time to make them look natural.

So, while Photoshop offers a plethora of digital filters, it’s not a complete substitute for physical filters. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for the real thing. And let’s be honest, there’s something deeply satisfying about nailing the shot in-camera, isn’t there? It’s a bit like baking your own bread instead of buying it from the shop—sure, both will make a decent sandwich, but one is infinitely more rewarding.

What Filters Do Landscape Photographers Swear By?

photography filters

Landscape photographers often rely on polarising filters and ND filters. Polarising filters reduce reflections and make skies pop, while ND filters allow for longer exposure times, smoothing out moving elements like water and clouds.

Wide-Angle Lens and Filters: A Special Case

Using filters with a wide-angle lens can be a bit like playing a game of chess; you’ve got to think several moves ahead. Here’s why:

The Vignetting Issue

  • What is Vignetting? Vignetting is a phenomenon where the corners of your image appear darker than the centre. It’s like looking through a tunnel or a pair of binoculars.
  • Why Does it Happen? Wide-angle lenses have a broad field of view, and when you add a filter to the mix, especially a thick one, the filter can start to encroach into the frame. This is what causes the darkened corners.
  • How to Avoid it: Special thin filters are available that are designed to minimize this issue. Always test your setup before committing to a shot to make sure you’re not getting unwanted vignetting.

The Polariser’s Blue Sky Dilemma

  • What Happens? When using a polarising filter with a wide-angle lens, you might notice that the sky’s colour is uneven. One side might appear light blue, while the other side could be almost black.
  • Why Does it Happen? This occurs because a wide-angle lens covers a large swath of the sky, and the angle of polarised light changes across that expanse. The filter can’t polarise all angles of light evenly, leading to this uneven effect.
  • How to Mitigate: To avoid this, you can either use the polarising filter sparingly, turning it to a position where the effect is minimized, or opt for post-processing adjustments for the sky.

So, while wide-angle lenses offer a unique perspective that can make your photos stand out, they do require a bit more care when using filters. It’s a bit like pairing a fine wine with a meal—get it right, and it’s sublime; get it wrong, and you’ll know about it!

How to Protect Your Lens with Filters

Protection filters, often made of clear glass, serve the sole purpose of protecting your lens from scratches, dust, and other potential damage. They are a cheap insurance policy for your expensive lenses.

I’ve got a Canon 17-40mm with a big scratch on the front lens – a filter would have taken the blow!

Special Effects Filters: Yay or Nay?

Special effects filters, like starburst or soft focus filters, are generally considered gimmicky by most professionals. However, they can be fun to experiment with and might suit specific artistic visions.

If you break a plastic filter, maybe try scratching it by sweeping some wire wool or sand paper once over it – then see what happens. Shoot with it at night… what happens to the light? 

Choosing the Right Filter: It’s More Than Just Screw-On or Drop-In

photography filters

When it comes to filters, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. Here are some things to ponder:

Lens Diameter Matters

  • Why it’s Important: The diameter of your lens will dictate what size of filter you’ll need. Make sure to check this before making a purchase. Most beginners will be 58mm. Most Canon L are 77mm

Square Filter-Holder Systems: One Size Fits All (Almost)

  • The Benefit: One of the great advantages of square filter-holder systems is their versatility. You can use them across different lenses; all you need are different adaptor rings for each lens diameter.

Quality vs. Cost: You Get What You Pay For

  • The Rule of Thumb: While it might be tempting to go for cheaper options, remember that you often get what you pay for. Low-quality filters can degrade your image quality, so it’s worth investing in something decent. But maybe not the REALLY expensive systems… 

Ultra-Dark ND Filters: Landscape vs. Other Genres

  • For Landscape: If you’re into landscape photography, square ND filters are generally the best option. Why? Because you can stack them with a graduated ND filter to balance the sky and land exposure.
  • For Other Genres: If you’re not stacking filters, a screw-in might be more affordable and convenient.

Think About Your Subject

  • What Do You Need? The type of photography you’re doing will dictate the filters you need. For example, if you’re shooting a lot of landscapes, a good ND filter and a polarising filter are almost essential. On the other hand, if you’re into portrait photography, you might want to look into diffusion filters.

So, when choosing a filter, think of it as assembling your photography toolkit. Each job requires specific tools, and knowing which one to use can make all the difference. It’s a bit like cooking; you wouldn’t use a bread knife to chop vegetables, would you? Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be ideal!

Where to Buy Lens Filters: A Quick Guide

High Street Camera Stores

  • Pros: You can physically see and touch the filters, and often try them out. Staff are usually knowledgeable and can offer advice.
  • Cons: Prices can be higher than online.
  • Names to Know: Jessops, Wex Photo Video, and London Camera Exchange are some of the big players in the UK.

Online Retailers

  • Pros: Often cheaper than physical stores, and you can shop from the comfort of your own home.
  • Cons: You can’t see or touch the product before buying.
  • Names to Know: B&H Photo, Adorama, and Park Cameras are reputable online stores.


  • Pros: Wide variety, often cheaper, and excellent for reading customer reviews.
  • Cons: Risk of counterfeit products, especially if not sold directly by Amazon or a known retailer.

eBay and Other Auction Sites

  • Pros: Potential for bargains, especially for used filters.
  • Cons: Risk of buying damaged or poor-quality items. Always check the seller’s ratings and reviews.

Things to Consider

  • Quality Over Price: If you can afford it, go for named brands like Hoya, Tiffen, or Lee Filters. They’re often more reliable and offer better image quality.
  • Read Reviews: Amazon is particularly good for this. Real-world reviews can offer insights that product descriptions and specs can’t.
  • Beware of Counterfeits: Especially on sites like eBay and even sometimes Amazon, counterfeit products can be a problem. Always buy from reputable sellers and, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So, whether you’re a ‘try before you buy’ kind of person or a ‘click and hope for the best’ online shopper, there are plenty of options out there. Just remember, a good lens filter is like a good cup of tea—it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure you get it just right. Cheers!


  • Lens filters are essential tools for photographers, offering a range of effects and corrections.
  • Polarising and ND filters are particularly useful for landscape photography.
  • UV filters are primarily used to protect your lens.
  • You can use multiple filters, but be cautious of potential issues like vignetting.
  • Physical filters offer effects that can’t be fully replicated in digital post-processing.

So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to camera lens filters. Now go out there and make your photos pop!



Frequently Asked Questions: Quick reference

What is a Neutral Density Filter and How is it Used in Photography?

A Neutral Density (ND) filter is a versatile piece of glass that you attach to the front of your lens. It serves as sunglasses for your camera, reducing the amount of light entering the lens. This type of filter is particularly useful in landscape photography, where controlling exposure can make or break your shot. ND filters come in various strengths, allowing you to achieve effects like motion blur in waterfalls or clouds. They are also used in digital photography to enable slower shutter speeds, which can be beneficial for capturing movement in a creative way. ND filters are one of the filters used most frequently by photographers to enhance their shots.

How Do Photographers Use Filters for Photography?

Photographers use a variety of filters attached to the front of their lenses to achieve specific effects. These range from polarising filters that reduce glare and enhance colours, to UV filters that protect the lens. Filters are used in different types of photography, from landscape to portrait, and even macro photography. In digital photography, filters can help you get effects that are difficult or impossible to replicate in post-processing software like Photoshop. Learning how to use these filters effectively can significantly elevate the quality of your photos.

What is a Screw-in Filter?

A screw-in filter is a circular piece of glass that screws directly into the threads on the front of your lens. These are convenient and quick to use, making them popular for many types of photography. However, they can be limiting if you want to use multiple filters at the same time, as stacking them can lead to issues like vignetting. Screw-in filters are commonly used for effects like polarisation and UV protection. They are one of the most readily available types of filters in the market.

What are Graduated Neutral Density Filters?

Graduated Neutral Density Filters, often abbreviated as GND filters, are a subtype of ND filters. They are darker at the top and gradually become lighter towards the bottom. These filters are especially useful in landscape photography for balancing the exposure between a bright sky and a darker foreground. GND filters can be rectangular and used in a filter holder, or they can be screw-in types. They are an essential tool for landscape photographers and are often used in conjunction with other filters like polarisers.

What Filters are Available in the Market?

The market is flooded with a variety of filters, each serving a specific purpose. From polarising filters that enhance colours and reduce glare, to UV filters that protect the front element of your lens, the options are vast. There are also specialised filters like colour filters for black and white photography, and variable ND filters that allow you to adjust the amount of light entering the lens. When choosing a filter, it’s essential to consider the type of photography you’ll be doing and the specific effects you want to achieve.


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