How to Use Camera Filters

Written by denise bertacchi
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How to Use Camera Filters (Lindsey T)

Camera filters are optical elements added to the front of your lens to create special effects or otherwise alter the lighting of a shot. Before digital cameras and computer photo tools were invented, filters were the primary special-effects tool for photographers.

Filters still have their uses for the digital photographer. UV filters that screw directly onto the lens are useful not only for filtering the sun's UV (ultra violet) rays, but for protecting the lens from scratches. And they can still exert great influence over the aesthetics of a shot.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Check your camera's manual to see how a filter can be attached to it. If the manual doesn't mention filter use, call a camera shop and ask for advice regarding your camera. Most filter systems are designed for SLR-style cameras; however, adaptors can be bought for some compact cameras. Even if your camera can't hold a filter, you can still experiment by holding the filter in place with your hand.

  2. 2

    Choose a camera filter to experiment with. A polarising filter, for example, is very useful for taking everyday outdoor photos. Like a pair of sunglasses, it reduces glare and reflections. Attach the filter to your lens or hold it in place in front of the lens (for a compact camera). Rotate the filter while looking through the viewfinder to see how it affects the light.

  3. 3

    Experiment with other filters. Colour filters add interesting hues to a photo--try a sunset filter to make any photo look like sunset. Try a diffusion filter to soften light, or a starburst filter to add sparkles. Close-up filters add magnification to your lens, eliminating the need for a macro lens.

  4. 4

    Take a few photos in different lighting situations, with the filter attached. Remember to take a comparison shot without the filter, too. Study the results to see how the filter changes your photographs.

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