Week 9 – Filters.

Tweet Over the course of this video series, I’ve mentioned a few filters from time to time and promised to discuss them in more detail in a later video. Well, here it is! In the video, I talk about the three filters I regularly use (and they’re the only filters I use): 1) I use […]

A polarizer reduces glare on reflective surfaces, saturating colors and adding contrast.

Over the course of this video series, I’ve mentioned a few filters from time to time and promised to discuss them in more detail in a later video. Well, here it is! In the video, I talk about the three filters I regularly use (and they’re the only filters I use):

1) I use a polarizer to reduce glare on reflective surfaces like water, wet surfaces, and way leaves. These surfaces are usually reflecting white or blue light from the sky. There reflections can be distracting and they reduce the amount of color that shows through, whether it is the earth tones of a stream bed or the brilliant color of fall foliage. Using a polarizer will let these colors come out, so that your photos have more saturated colors and better contrast.

2) A neutral density filter darkens the whole scene without adding a color cast to your photos. As I mentioned in last week’s video, these are needed to slow down your shutter speed when there is too much light to get a slow enough shutter speed to blur motion in a photo. You can get ND filters in various strengths, but I prefer to use a variable neutral density filter which lets you dial in a darkening amount, from 2 stops to 8.

3) A graduated split neutral density filter is often needed during golden hour light when the low angle of the sun causes your foreground to be in shadow, while your background and the sky are in direct light. In these situations, your camera’s sensor can’t always capture adequate detail in both your highlights and your shadows. By using a graduated split neutral density filter, you can balance your exposure by darkening your highlights without effecting exposure in your shadows. In the video, I talk about the different styles of this filter and the techniques you need to use it effectively. Of the three filters I use, this is the only one that can be simulated well in post processing. I previously explained how to do this in Photoshop here: http://monkmanphoto.com/archives/773.

One thing I don’t mention in the video is that you should purchase the highest quality filters you can afford. Adding another piece of glass (or plastic, in some cases) in front of your lens can degrade image quality, so you don’t want to scrimp on filters and take away from the quality of your image sensor and lenses. For polarizers, I prefer those made by B +W. For the grad filters and vari-ND, I like the Singh-Ray filters. If you need to save a few bucks, I recommend getting Tiffen filters. (By the way, I don’t receive any freebies or special deals from any of these companies.)

Here’s your assignment for the week:

1) Watch the video to learn how to use each of the filters.

2) Get out and shoot. If you need to borrow a filter or two, now’s the time to call in some favors. Try some waterfall or forest scenes in overcast light, with and without a polarizer – you’ll love the difference. Slow down moving water with a neutral density filter, and try to get out in golden hour light and try some shots with and without a grad filter.

3) Post at least one photo you shot with a filter to our on-line Flickr Group before Wednesday, April 18th. If you can mention the filter used in the image description, that would be appreciated.

On Thursday, April 19th, I’ll select one photo to critique and mail a copy of The AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography to the photographer.

On a side note, the hotel deadlines for my May 18-20 Vermont workshop, and my May 26-28 Acadia workshop, are April 18th and April 26th respectively. If you plan to join me on those, you’ll want to make your reservations soon. Also, there are only three spots left for the Acadia workshop.

Thanks for watching, and have fun!


This post was written by

Jerry MonkmanJerry Monkman – who has written posts on Photo Tips from Jerry Monkman and friends.
Known for his conservation photography work in New England’s wild places, Jerry Monkman has spent the last 15 years artfully documenting the mountains, forests, and coastlines that define the region. Staying true to his mission of “promoting ecological awareness through creative photography,” his images have contributed to raising awareness and funds to protect a diverse collection of wild places, from a small Connecticut trout stream not far from New York City, to New Hampshire’s Great Bay, to Maine’s Katahdin Lake near Baxter State Park. His work has appeared in magazines, books, and calendars around the world, including Outdoor Photographer, National Geographic Adventure, Audubon, and the New York Times. With his wife Marcy, Jerry has co-author several books about the region, and recently released his first book on photography instruction, The AMC Guide to Outdoor Digital Photography. Jerry also leads several photo workshops annually in Vermont, New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Acadia National Park, and the Cape Cod National Seashore. He is currently the president-elect of the North American Nature Photography Association. To see more of Jerry’s work, visit his website: www.ecophotography.com.


2 Responses to “Week 9 – Filters.”

  1. joe roscillo says:

    Whet to your presentation at Nashua photoforum club on mon. Really enjoyed your tips!!

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