Making red roses blue

Camera filters are a lot handier and a lot cheaper than most amateur photographers realise, writes Gagan Gupta.

| Updated on: Jun 02 2008, 20:32 IST

While they are regularly used by enthusiasts and professional photogra phers, filters tend to be ignored by casual shutterbugs. 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 application to fine-tune your pictures, a camera filter can make a lot of difference to the quality of your compositions. With filters, the biggest advantage is that you can get your desired effect 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'll make it easy for you to decide on the filters that you simply must own - and those that can wait.

UV filter
If you own a D-SLR or a superzoom camera, this filter is an absolute necessity With these cameras, . the only protection your lens may have from scratches, fingerprints and other 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 the basic function of cutting out ultra-violet interference from sunlight on outdoor shoots. Being a clear filter it's ideal to mount on your lens at all times without losing quality or affecting the camera's performance.

If you have multiple lenses for your D-SLR, it's recommended you get a separate UV filter screwed onto each of these lenses. UV filters are cheap (about 100 each) and expendable, which is why they are considered mandatory to protect fragile lenses.

Circular polariser
This dual-layered dark filter is ideal for outdoor shots, primarily because 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 overall, colours appear a lot deeper and more real.

A circular polariser is the best option for outdoor photography since that is where it is most effective. Be warned though: never use it for indoor or night shots, as it tends to darken everything in the absence of 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 .

This filter has a single function: reducing the overall amount of light entering the camera lens. Cutting down the light allows you to treat your outdoor daylight shots like you're shooting them in lowlight - 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 3:
Obsolete filters
These are filters that you can definitely do without in these times. Buy these only if you're obsessive about owning absolutely everything you can attach to your camera.

Colour tint filters
In the days when cameras used film, filters in block colours like red, yellow, green and blue were popular. These colours would completely overlay the subjects, giving moods that matched the situations. Now, you can get the same effect easily with imaging applications like Photoshop. In fact, going digital gives you a lot more control over intensity and saturation levels of underlying colours, with zero loss in image quality .

Gradual tint filters
Getting a slight colour tint effect on the upper half (or any part you fancy actually) of the picture can look pretty cool if done right. Again, you can easily do this in an imaging application with minimum fuss, which pretty much makes this filter a relic for the museum.

Category 2:
Luxury filters These are luxury not in the sense that they're expensive, but that they're filters you should consider only if you're really desperate for fresh results from your camera. They are meant for select applications only .

Star Ever seen those Hallmark cards where every point of light shoots off in multiple directions like a star? 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 should 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 come out of a fairy tale.

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

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First Published Date: 02 Jun, 20:28 IST