The filters you really need for digital photography

How important are filters in the digital age?

Which filters should you use in digital photography?

Photographic filters modify the light coming into your camera, thereby creating effects during image capture. Filters are used to increase contrast, change color balance, and compress the dynamic range of a scene. In traditional film photography,the use of filters was commonplace, as film offered limited color choices and modest dynamic range. If you were shooting slide film (transparencies), what you captured on the film was pretty much what you’d get. Even the masters of black and white photography often used filters to improve contrast in a scene.

Ring-mount filters screw into the front of your lens. Clockwise, from top: Polarizer, UV/haze filter, solid neutral density filter.

Photographic filters can be made of glass or resin, and are attached to the front of your camera lens either by a screw-in (ring) mount, or via a filter holder (square/rectangular filters). No matter what kind of filter you use, when you put a filter in front of your lens, you’re adding another glass/air interface for light to pass through. Low-quality filters can potentially degrade image quality by reducing sharpness, creating unwanted color casts, or introducing reflections or other artifacts into your photos. Your camera lens is designed to precise optical specifications; don’t ruin an image by using a cheap filter!

Filters have long been a major photographic accessory, and one question I’m frequently asked is, “what filter should I buy?” A lot has changed in the last 20 years, and digital cameras are much more forgiving than their film ancestors. When you couple the extreme dynamic range of modern digital cameras with the ability to post-process RAW images, a lot of “go-to filters” are no longer needed for most digital photography. Let’s take a quick look at the primary kinds of filters you can get, and whether they should take up space in your bag.

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POTD: Yucca Blooms

Yucca blooms in Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs, CO

After a cold, wet spring, things are finally getting green around here in Colorado. This is the greenest I’ve ever seen Garden of the Gods, and it’s downright lush! The yucca blooms are something I look forward to every year, and they are just about at their peak right now.

Shooting Specs

POTD: Fisher Tower Nightscape

Night Sky Photography with the Nikon Z7

Fisher Towers at night
Fisher Towers under moonlight, Moab, UT
Nikon Z7 with 20mm f/1.8 AFS G Nikkor and FTZ adaptor, 20s f/2.0 ISO 3200

I recently got the Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera, and I decided to make a quick trip over to Utah to do a little test shooting. For this shot, I set up the camera on my tripod and used my Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AFS G lens via the Nikon FTZ mount adaptor. Much to my surprise, the Z7 was able to focus on the towers in near total darkness (the viewfinder image was completely black).

I must say that I was impressed with the overall image quality from the Z7 for night photography. I’ll be posting more about my experiences with this Nikon mirrorless camera over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back!

Get my complete guide to night sky photography here

Jason Odell’s 2020 International photo Tour Schedule

Wander the World with Your Camera

Join Jason Odell on an international photo tour in 2020

I’m offering three international photo tours for 2020, and they are going to be really fun! My 2020 travel photography workshop destinations include Croatia, Ireland, and Panama. I design each of these tours with your comfort in mind, and my goal is to make sure that you return home with incredible photos. Group sizes are generally capped at 12 or fewer photographers, and when land tours are involved, we’ll have a private driver and excess seating capacity so that everyone has room for their camera bags. My international tours are a great opportunity to learn mobile workflow and creative travel photography techniques, including long exposure, infrared, and creative composition.

What makes Jason’s Photo Tours Unique?

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