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Need Help with Filters?

Travel Forums Travel Photography Need Help with Filters?

1. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru, 114 posts) 15 Nov '07 14:50

I have a Sony Cybershot digital camera that takes really great pictures most of the time. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I also purchased some filters for it before I left home, a Polorizing lens, a UV filter, and some sort of a 'soft' filter (they came in a set of 3, and this was just in the set).

I thought the UV would help reduce haze, but tried taking the same shot of some distant mountians without a filter, then with each of the three in turn and don't see much difference. I also thought the 'circular polarizer' would help reduce glare from windows or through glass (I take pictures of signs to help me remember things), again it doesn't see to help much (I always shut off the flash for this, which does help).

Anybody got some abbreviated advice to using filters for dummies?

2. Posted by kymar1 (Full Member, 12 posts) 20 Nov '07 02:52

Hi there.
Firstly you are probably right in not noticing much difference when using a UV filter. UV and Skylight filters worked quite well back in the "old days" with film but don't seem to do much with digital. It might still be a good idea to leave it on as a sort of Protection filter. In this case make sure it is a good quality one as the cheaper ones can introduce unwanted lens flare.

Your circular polariser should by rights cut out glare and reflections on glass or shiny objects but they are really dependant on the angle at which the light is coming from and how you have it rotated on the front of the lens. Next time try moving to a different angle or view point and try to see the difference. Also in the "old days" of film, many photographers used polarising filters to help saturate colours in their landscape shots. Once again I've found this isn't the case with digital. Colours seem to be very saturated already so it's one less filter I carry.

These days I just tend to take my photos as they are and then play around in Photoshop later to get any particular effects.

What sort of photography are you mainly into?

Cheers, Markus.

3. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru, 114 posts) 20 Nov '07 16:54

Thanks! I didn't realize there was that much of difference between digital & film in how the camera's handle light, but it makes sense. I just remember my father trying to teach me about filters (back when film was the only option) and I didn't pay very much attention. Maybe that's OK now that I'm all digital.

I am on a planned 8 month trip to circumnavigate the country by RV. I take a lot of pictures just about every day of whatever looks interesting, then try to pick the best ones to upload for my blog (to show where we've been, what we've seen, etc.). I always ask, a lot of places don't allow photography indoors unfortunately.

A lot of my pictures are scenery, birds, etc. I also take pictures in Museums (when it's allowed) or historic places we might visit. Museums put a lot of stuff behind glass of course. I'm pretty good about switching the flash off, but sometimes that's not enough. Today I wanted to take a couple of photo's of paintings of some colonial Delaware leaders, but no matter where I stood in relation to the paintings, I got glare. I'll try using the polorizing lens next time and rotate it, see if that helps.

Another place I've had trouble is with long distance scenery shots - the haze just blurs out the shot sometimes, such as for mountains. Maybe I'll just have to live with what I can get on those then (or play with my camera's settings more?)

Final area I'm not doing too good with is fall colors. I seem to do OK with a light overcast, but bright sun seems to wash out the colors too much. If we ever get sunshine again, I'll try the polarizing filter again (or more camera settings?)

Of course, you can see all 10 Million shots from the first 80 days of this trip in my Photo Album on Travellerspoint (just kidding about the quantity, slightly)

4. Posted by kymar1 (Full Member, 12 posts) 20 Nov '07 22:55

G'Day.
Paintings are notoriously difficult to photograph without glare as usually you look up at them and the main light source is coming from even higher. You may still find that with a polariser you'll have problems.

As far as fall colours go, bright sunny conditions are very difficult. Overcast is perfect because the light is very flat and even, and soft. Once again, try with a polariser, but you may find that the colours will be dulled by the filter. I use a Canon SLR and this is what I generally experience. The Sony Cybershot uses a different type of digital sensor so you may find you get good results. probably the best advice I can give is that if it's clear sunny weather, then try to do your shooting early in the day before the light becomes too harsh, or later in the day when you get that nice warm afternoon light.

Best of luck.

5. Posted by jl98584 (Travel Guru, 114 posts) 21 Nov '07 14:39

Thanks, I appreciate the advice. Looks like bright sunlight won't be much of a problem now, it's been awhile since we've had much.

6. Posted by snorklebum (Budding Member, 13 posts) 27 Nov '07 23:53

A tip with polarizers...they don;t work equally well at all angles. Use this rule of thumb. Imagine a line from the light source to the camera. Now imagine that line is an axle with a wheel on it. Your polarizer will work best shooting along the plane of the wheel.

So if it's high noon, the sun straight up...you will get your best polarity effect shooting towards the horizon. At sunrise, with light from the east, you will get your best effect shooting to the north, or south, or overhead.

Sometimes this means you plan shots for time of day. Sometimes it means you move lights. Sometimes it means you're just out of luck.

7. Posted by snorklebum (Budding Member, 13 posts) 27 Nov '07 23:54

BTW don't throw out those Skylights or 1As...they serve to protect the lens. I would never walk around with a camera without a filter like that over the lens.

8. Posted by Q' (Moderator, 1987 posts) 28 Nov '07 08:03

On the other hand I can introduce you to a guy who will give you an hour long lecture on why you SHOULDN'T put a UV or skylight filter over your lens. To summarize:

1) you loose light
2) degrades the image
3) shattered filters can actually cause more damage on the lens
4) modern lens front elements have been manufactured to be super strong (he let me scratch and toss around his minolta 300mm)
5) this practice is a leftover from "ancient times" when even vigorously cleaning the lens will destroy the front elements.

Your call. I personally have started taking off the UV filter whenever my body has been properly mounted on a tripod, like when I'm doing landscape or still-life. But I do keep some sort of filter on when I'm just kicking around town. Can't wait to get my second body....