Using Camera Filters

  • It should be known clearly that all camera filters absorb some light. The important thing is the absorption of the light is not uniform across the entire spectrum with each filter absorbing or passing certain portions of light depending on light source (tungsten or daylight) and color and intensity of the particular camera filter that is used.

  • Bear in mind that using a camera filter other than one that is clear or nearly clear will alter the color and intensity of the specific camera filter being used. Also, remember that other than for clear or nearly clear filters (skylight and most UV filters), attaching a filter to a lens will require an exposure increase. Almost all the modern camera and through-the lens exposure meters will automatically compensate for light absorption, however, we still need to take account the exposure decrease caused by camera filters attached.

  • For example, if you attached a polarizer to your lens, the subsequent light loss will be about 1.5 f-stops. The practical effect is very important, a 1.5 f-stop loss translates into slower shutter speed, larger aperture required or some combination of the two. In marginal light, the new slower shutter speed might preclude handheld photography. Whereas when we open the lens aperture to a larger f-stop, it will diminish depth of field that important detail would be lost due to image blur.

  • There are several solutions to this scenario. You can opt for the use of a camera tripod, switch to a faster film or lower ISO, introduce some form of supplementary lighting, or split the loss between aperture and shutter speed. The point to consider is that if you plan to use camera filters at all you should anticipate their effect on exposure and what that means to the look of the final image.

More about film photography


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