When the light outside is less than perfect, the right photographic filter can help you get the colors you want. There are filters for just about any shooting situation you can imagine, from sunsets to mid-afternoon, and everything in between. If you’re just getting started, and you want to learn more about the photographic filters most professionals use, you’ve come to the right place.
Thanks to Kain Kalju for the use of his photo above. The filter being shown is a graduated neutral density filter that makes it easier for your camera to see the more colorful light in the background.]
The Cokin Sunset Filter
Sometimes you want a little extra orange in your sunset photos to truly make them pop. The Cokin Sunset Filter, or any orange filter, can help you bring out the warm colors while toning down the blues and greens. It’s not perfect for every sunset photo you take, but it certainly can create an image unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Just take a look at this beauty.
You can go as crazy as you want with these filters. I’ve seen images created using more than one Cokin Sunset filter (or some combination of two filters), and it’s been pretty interesting. The idea is to bump up the oranges and reds as much as you can. It makes the image glow red hot.
The Warm 81B Filter
This filter is like the Cokin Sunset filter, but it only warms the photo slightly. It should be used when you want to add a slight orange hue to your portrait pictures -a great way to make them look like they were taken at sunset. The Warm 81B filter also de-emphasizes the blue colors in a scene, so if you want tone down the cooler colors and increase the warmer colors, it’s the perfect filter.
The “81B” name for this filter comes from the Wratten number system, which is a way of classifying the colors of light the filters let in as well as the colors they block. It is the exact opposite of the “82B” filter, which slightly cools the colors in the scene. The list of filters that fit into the Wratten number system is enormous. The Wikipedia article on Wratten numbers is an excellent resource if you want to learn more.
The A830 Filter
The Cokin A830 is a diffusion filter you can use to create a soft-focus effect in your images. This effect is reminiscent of an era long gone, back in the early to mid twentieth century. You can use this filter to give your images a certain kind of “old-timey” feeling to them. From my own experience, it tends to work really well with sepia-toned photography.
And guess what! I’ve got a secret for those of you who don’t want to shell out the money to purchase this kind of filter. You can easily make one by taking a U.V. filter and smearing some petroleum jelly onto it (not a lot. just a little). The result you get is nearly the same.
I find myself using my A830 filter the most when I’m doing wedding photography for my clients. It’s nice for those close-up shots of the bride as she’s preparing for her big day. It adds a certain level of femininity to the image, and women love it.
The Varicolor Red Blue Filter
This one is interesting. One half of the filter is red and the other half is blue. It’s hard to think of a good use for this filter outright, but it certainly can make those lake and ocean sunsets more interesting. The following image is a good example.
This filter fits into the “I’m not sure what it’s for, but someone will probably find something awesome to do with it” category. The world is your oyster, so send me your shots taken using one of these things.
The Gradual B2 Filter
This filter is half blue and half clear. It’s perfect for giving the sky an extra blue hue when it’s grey or overcast outside. You can also use the filter on a murky looking lake to make the water appear more fresh and clear. My favorite use is at the beach. The contrast this filter creates between the sky and the sand below is just sublime. You feel like you’re in paradise already.
Circular Polarizing Filters
Every photographer should own a polarizing filter. These filters are like sunglasses for your camera. They cut out the harsh glare from the bright sunlight, keeping your skies nice and dark blue like they should be. If you’re ever taking a picture of the water, the polarizer will be a godsend. It gets rid of all those stray light rays so the water will look crystal clear.
Oh, and if you're in a pickle, you can use your polarized sunglasses!
Don’t tolerate the drab. Get some filters!
If your images aren’t quite turning out the way you want them to, if they don’t have enough color, I highly suggest getting one of these filters and fixing it. Don’t worry about whether your pictures match what you see in real life. This is about creating art! In my mind, the more color the better.
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