The lowly lens shade might just be the least glamorous piece of gear in your camera bag. It’s that plastic ring that attaches to your lens and helps guard against flare—those bright circles that appear when your camera is pointed near the sun or another bright light source.
Most new lenses include shades. So why does Ben Long confess to rarely using them—indeed, to having a “completely irrational fear” of the things? That’s the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer.
Does your footage look too choppy? Are action scenes a streaky mess? It might be because your shutter speed isn’t set properly. The shutter in a camera is a lot like a pair of shutters on a window. It controls how much light comes through and hits the camera’s sensor.
This week, we continue to look at exposure. There are three critical pieces to achieving good exposure and creative control with your shots. Fortunately, shutter speed is the easiest to learn, with just a few simple rules.
How much light does your camera see? The aperture of your camera is its portal to the light in your scene (and without light, there are no pictures or video). Controlling the aperture is essential to getting the right amount of light on to your camera’s sensor to capture the best shots.
There’s another side to aperture as well. As you open the aperture wider, you can narrow the depth of field in your shot, blurring more of the frame outside of your immediate focus area. This is often a hallmark of the “DSLR video” look. Mastering aperture is critical to high-quality video and photos.
Expanding your collection of lens filters is a relatively inexpensive way to expand your creative options. A polarizer reduces glare and adds pop to clouds and skies. A neutral density filter reduces light so you can use slower shutter speeds to add blur to waterfalls and waves. An infrared filter lets you explore the surreal world of invisible light. And a close-up attachment lets you get closer without having to buy an expensive macro lens.
In the ideal world, you’d be able to buy each type of attachment and use it with all of your lenses. But that world doesn’t exist, at least not in this universe. The problem is that lenses often have different-sized threads for screwing filters into place. Some lenses have larger diameters than others, and that means they also have larger filter-thread diameters.
For example, my walk-around zoom lens has 72mm filter threads. My macro lens has a thread size of 62mm. My 50mm prime uses 52mm filters. And my ultra-wide zoom lens uses 77mm filters. So if I want the flexibility to shoot with a neutral density filter on each of the lenses I use most, I need to buy four ND filters—at about $75 apiece.