With the advancements in digital cameras and updates to Photoshop, there has been a tendency for photographers to move away from using filters on lenses to create effects. Currently the most popular filters seem to be clear MRC filters to protect the front element of a very expensive lens, or a polarizer to reduce the reflections in an image, darken a sky, or to increase contrast in a sky with clouds. But filters can do so much more.
Chapter One: The Past. It Was the Best of Times….
In black and white photography (as in using film), photographers used coloured filters to increase the contrast of an image or to accentuate or diminish how a colour such as a red, blue, or green would be rendered in a black and white print. Certain coloured filters were also used in portrait photography to improve skin tones or create an effect based on the model’s skin or makeup. Unfortunately, some of these coloured filters are no longer available, like yellow/ green, and filters with varied densities of yellow and orange. You may just find one of these treasures in our used filter drawers, so come by the shop and have a look if you’d like to try one. Red and dark red filters are still available, as are a range of different filters used in infrared, scientific, and forensic photography. Even the range of these filters are slowly being pared down and discontinued, but as long as infrared or near infrared film is available there will be a demand for the more poplar IR filters.
Ilford has a good article explaining the effects and uses of some of these filters, and some examples in the following links:
B+W has a great article that will allow you to see how certain colours are rendered in B&W with and without the use of a filter:
Chapter Two: The Present. It Was a Season of Light…
I can’t cover all the types of filters in one short article, but what I would like to do is explain the two types of filter formats. Screw-in filters and drop-in-filters. There are a plethora of screw-in filter manufactures, some creating unique filters that create special effects in-camera rather than in post. Some of these manufactures work to produce filters of highest quality and keep to exacting standards, and some, well… not so much. But I want to focus on drop in filters and why you may choose a drop in filter system over a screw in filter. Certainly, some screw-in-filters are less expensive, but drop in filters provide you with options for creativity that screw in filters can’t, as well as the ability to adapt the filter holder to different lens diameters on different lenses.
Movie and TV camera operators and Directors of Photography have not lost sight of the value of drop-in-filters, and while I’m sure there are some that rely on digital enhancements in post, it is hard to surpass the look of filters when captured in camera. Landscape photographers also share this appreciation for drop-in-filters for many reasons. One key reason is that when using a drop-in-filter, it allows the photographer to compose in the viewfinder and move the filter to exactly where the horizon will line up with the gradient. This careful placement of the drop-in-filter (or filters) by raising or lowering it gives the photographer more creative control, and produces images that are not only spectacular but unique to their vision. As an example, you could use a graduated neutral density filter to lower the exposure of a sky that would have been over-exposed, or you might use the same filter to add some contrast to a landscape that lacked definition, or a seascape you wanted to add some drama to. With a graduated or stripe colour filter, you could add a splash of colour to a sunset that you wanted to to enhance, and give it that warm sunset feeling that may have been lacking on that day.
Without using Lee graduated filter.
Using a Lee graduated filter to darken the sky.
Lee Filters 100mm Graduated filter set.
100mm filter holder
The Lee filter system is one of the drop-in-filter systems we carry here at Beau. They have an extensive line of filters and accessories for image creators. Lee filters are trusted and used by still and motion creatives all over the world.
Attaching the Lee Filter System to your lens is easy. First a lens adapter ring is screwed onto your lens. Then a filter holder clips onto the adapter ring. Finally, drop-in-filters slide into the holder system channels, kept snug by little pressure blades. This allows you to move filters up or down as you desire without them falling out. Some super wide-angle lenses don’t have front threads for filters, so these filter manufactures created specially designed holders for these specific lenses that attach to the lens hood.
Recently, Lee filters updated their LEE100 system holder but we still have a few of the original foundation holders left at clearance prices https://www.beauphoto.com/product/lee-filters-foundation-holder-system/
The Lee Camera system for photographers comes in three formats:
LEE85 System: A compact system designed for the smaller mirrorless camera market. You chose a smaller compact camera, and the Lee85 filter system fits it perfectly. We are not currently stocking the LEE85 system but we now have a demo LEE 85 Aspire kit for your to check out when you are at the store.
LEE100 system: The LEE100 Filter System combines all the best aspects of their previous full sized camera system with enhanced features that deliver a faster and more intuitive experience. Offering a vast choice of filters and filter combinations, there are no limits to your creative process. The system can be configured to hold up to four 100mm filters (their standard width) — and the wide selection of available adapter rings enables you to use this system with an enormous range of lenses.
Lee SW150: the popularity of ultrawide lenses produced by camera and lens manufacturers for landscape photographers creates a challenge as they often have a protruding front element and non removable hoods. Lee has answered that challenge and has specific mounts for these lenses.
More information about the range of filters and other Lee Products can be found on the Lee filter website here: https://leefilters.com/camera/system-match/
At Beau Photo we also carry Nisi filters – https://en.nisioptics.com/ We have quite a few used Nisi and Lee filters and holders at the moment as well so come by the store and ask us about them.