People often ask me ‘do you use filters’ on my images. Lets try having a go at photography filters explained.
However, another way of asking a similar question would be to phrase it as ‘do you use what is available in the marketplace to help your images look better?’ Why do I say that?
If we rewind many decades, filters were available in colours such as bright red, bright orange, bright yellow. What?!?!!? – I can hear you chirp as I type, ‘but that would give you just a red etc. image’. No – dear reader, these were early filters and they were used on Black and White images before colour came along. Those colour filters do Good Things on black and white images. They gave great dark colours to skies, separated out clouds, made foliage ‘sing’, among other things.
Fast forward a few years and a certain Frenchman, M. Cokin, came along and sold resin filters (Cokin Filters) that you put in front of lenses on your SLR. As such they were the forerunner of what we see today – coloured vignettes, coloured graduated, warming filters etc. etc. I used them, they weren’t cheap and they were in many cases not very subtle at all. However they could, and did, give your images a ‘WOW!’ factor at that time.
And to now… The world is full of all sorts of filter processing, both on-camera glass/resin and also software-based:-
- On-Camera Filters. You take an image with a fixed filter. You can’t change the look afterwards.
- Software filters such as Photoshop/Instagram. You use these filters afterwards – you can start again however many times you like. Sometimes they make your images look good, most times they just make it look like you used a filter. Not too different from using resin filters a couple of decades ago, really.
For me the real benefit of processing is to bring out the dynamic range of an image (it sounds technical but it just means you can see details in both the bright bits and the dull bits in your image). The real challenge has always been that when you look at an image with your eyes, you can see the bright sunny bits and mostly the dull shadowy bits. Cameras have yet to catch up with our eyes, in that respect. So I try to make the image appear as I saw it, without half the final image being in shadow with no detail.
So go for it – use what’s available if it makes your images look better, or more natural looking. If they end up looking false, or really over-coloured then maybe you overdid it, but give it a try. And what about the products that are released next year, and the year after? The world is changing! Give new products a try as they are released as well.
Thanks for reading this far
The Berowra Photographer
In this image of Berowra, I used graduated Neutral Density filters to ‘hold back’ the brightness of the sky, then added saturation overall in Photoshop. And a little salt and pepper as well, probably.