In this beginner photography guide Digital Camera World explain everything you need to know about the optical filters that matter in digital photography (and motion picture).

What_are_optical_filters

Digital cameras and photo-editing software have pretty much put an end to the need to cart around an extensive and expensive range of glass or plastic filters.

For instance, being able to change the white balance from shot to shot, either in-camera or later when you process your images, means that you no longer have to use colour correction filters to warm up or cool down an image before you take it.

The effects created by traditional red, green or orange filters in black-and-white photography can easily be emulated in software.

And why bother with special-effect filters to add soft focus, starbursts and coloured tints when you can experiment endlessly in the digital darkroom?

That’s not to say that all filters are redundant in digital photography. For instance, a close-up filter, which essentially acts as a magnifying glass, offers a cheaper alternative to a dedicated macro lens.

And the addition of a UV or clear protective filter will protect the front element of a lens; they come in particularly handy when you’re shooting near water and in dusty locations.

But the truth is that you only really need two types of creative optical filter: a polariser and a neutral-density filter. The reason for this is that their effects are time-consuming, and sometimes near-impossible, to recreate authentically in post-production.

A polariser acts like a pair of polarising sunglasses, cutting through glare and reflections to give richer colours and stronger contrast.

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