Lens Filters: An Introduction to Pushing Your Still Images | Indeana Underhill | Skillshare

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Lens Filters: An Introduction to Pushing Your Still Images

teacher avatar Indeana Underhill, Cinematographer & Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (33m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Round vs Square

    • 4. Ultraviolet

    • 5. Neutral Density

    • 6. Polarizer

    • 7. Close Up

    • 8. SFX

    • 9. Getting Creative with DIY Filters

    • 10. Wrap Up

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About This Class

Filters 101: An Introduction

This class is designed to help any photographer or videographer that is ready to take the next step in their creative skillset and take them one step further. Filters are a must have in any camera bag with their brilliance to up your game and allow you to shoot in any scenario, whenever you want. Wether its a close focusing issue or you want to bring out a bit more saturation and texture in a landscape- a filter is the best solution.

Allow me to help you develop your understanding of how you could better incorporate filters into your portfolio to make you a better artist. Once we unravel the secrets to using filters, you now have the possibilities to go above and beyond in your photos. After this class you will begin to see that filters aren't just a random accessory but a necessary tool in your artistry.

Be creative, daring and take great photos!

For more of my photography classes ranging from beginner principles to intermediate development: 


Automatic to Manual Mode: The 3 Things You Need to Know


Amateur to Freelance: How to Develop a Portfolio


The Travelling Photographer: Choosing the Right Gear for Your Journey



Lens Choice: A Beginner's Guide


Lenses 101: Shooting with Primes


Lenses 101: Creativity with Vintage Lenses & DIY Filters



Advanced Lens Choice: Editing In-Camera


For more of my work, you can check out my instagram or website.




For this photo, I used a soft focus filter to give it a misty haze.

Meet Your Teacher

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Indeana Underhill

Cinematographer & Photographer


Indeana is a Canadian cinematographer based in Los Angeles. She is an Associate Member of the CSC, a member of the ASC MITC Lens Committee and a graduate of American Film Institute's Cinematography Conservatory Class of 2020. 

With over 35 credits, she has worked professionally in South Korea, Greece, Spain, Scotland, Argentina, Qatar, Egypt, Canada & the US. Her background in photography has enabled her to continue to tell diverse stories through her lens.





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1. Introduction: Hi, My name's India and I'm a lifestyle and travel photographer. In this class, filters born of one just like a university course. We're gonna be talking about the very basics of filters. Adding them to your photography and video are skill set. It is really helpful in order to produce the images or videos that you're really looking to put out there, we're gonna be talking about how you can add that next creative step to your photos and not be limited by your lens or camera capabilities. What you take away from this class is the inspiration to do something new to your photos, because now you know what the possibilities are. Filters that we're gonna be talking about. Are you the skylights, Andy? Straight Variable and graduated C P Els Diop tres or close up filters and special effect filters like Hughes and three and five star Point attacks. By the end of this class, you should have a really clear idea of what filters are gonna work for your tar or videography and what you might want to start playing around with. If you're looking for something to bring to your photos to challenge yourself, then filters is a great way to accessorize your camera and start doing that. If you're ready to advance your skill set and accessorize your camera and push paths its current limitations, then I invite you to learn about filters and join me and filters one on one. 2. Class Project: so the project for filters one. No one is going to be all about using your first filter, whether this be you using your first close up filter to get the details of a penny replicating conduct macro look, or whether it's using a classic neutral density filter to photograph in a scenario that you normally wouldn't be able to because it's too bright, we want to see what you've been able to do with filters and how you've taken the knowledge from hopefully this course and how you're going to apply it into real world scenarios and your own photographs. This project should challenge you to step out of your boundaries and take photos you normally wouldn't and be creative, so let's get started. 3. Round vs Square : They're two different lens systems that most people use, and those are round or square filters. Each are specific to what type of filter you're gonna be using and what scenario. Urine round filters Screw in. Teach individual lens through a threat size that varies dependent on what focal length or type of lens you're using. You'll often find the threat size on the front element of the lens. So to find the threat size for your specific lens, you're gonna find the diameter on the front element of the lens. So either right on the outside, where your focus for guests. So right here it's 50 millimeter or you're gonna find it with the same diameter sign on the inside of the actual element. So right before you look into the lens, you'll see your focal length. What make it is, and you also see the threat size. So wherever you can find the information on the front elemental ends. You'll also find the threat Size. Square filters enable you to use a Senate filters on every lens you have by slipping in a filter into a lens holder that is mounted onto the front of your lens through a ring adapter that is again through the thread sides of each lens. Each filter system is dependent on what you're shooting and where you're shooting. Square filters are great if you're mounted on a tripod and you're not in too much of a rush . However, screwing filters are great for if you're traveling and you just kind of want want to sit on the front of your lens and be applicable in this scenario that you're currently shooting it . However, some filters only work in one or the other. For instance, graduated neutral density filters, which we will talk about. I know it sounds scary now, but we will talk about that. Onley work in square filters because you're usually using it as a softer hard edge to create a contrast in exposure between the sky and the rest of your image. A filter that may work better with a screw on filter or round filter is a UV or skylight. Filter this because they are usually a permanent addition to the front of your lens, and you want to keep it there so you might find that you just screw it on and forget about it. So when looking for filters. You want to ask yourself what type of filter system may be better for you? Are you a portrait photographer? Are you always on the go? Are you shooting mostly landscape? And these questions will allow you to start investing in particular sets. Do you want to filter set that will only be used for one thread size, then Scarran filters might be the way to go. However, if you want a set of close up filters that can be used for any thread size you have, then you might want to use a square filter set. 4. Ultraviolet: the first filter that I wanted to talk about that you possibly are already using or heard about is called a UV filter that stands for ultra violet. It's mostly used as a protective filter toe. Add onto each additional lens. That's why I recommend using it as a circular or screwing filter. These filters are protective score on filters that allow you to protect the front element of your lenses from any debris or damage from the elements. When you're shooting, I recommend getting one for each of your lenses, screwing it on and then forgetting about it, unless you need to clean it or clean the lens itself. This allows you to prevent if the actual lens from getting scratched, and it allows you to be a lot more flexible with the type of weather that you're shooting in. Remember that these filters are specific to the thread size, which is the diameter of the lens in millimeters. Um, each filter is specific to that millimetre thread size, so when you're buying a filter you want first, check the front element of your lens to see what it says and then purchase one. There won't be a visual change in having one of these filters to the front of your lens. I would definitely invest in a good quality UV protective filter because it will really help in the long run, preserving the glass in your lens and that's what a UV filters. 5. Neutral Density: the second filter that we're gonna be talking about. It's much more of a technical filter. This is the ND filter, which stands for neutral density. This is a filter that pretty much add stops of light in front of the lens, so it's a darkened a sheet of glass that you screw on or you slide in. It comes in square and circular to the front of your lens, and it allows you to shooting conditions that you normally wouldn't be able to shoot him. This could be when you're shooting at wider apertures of one point for two, pointing 45.6 or if you're shooting at longer shutter speeds like anywhere from 1 to 36 seconds long. For example, here, some photos that I took a waterfall in Hamilton, Ontario, two years ago. Normally, this photo would be completely overexposed because I was shooting in 30 seconds at noon and I was on a aperture of probably 5.6. But adding an nd filter, I looked at the back of my live you once I composed it, and I just screwed it on, and I rotated the filter to check how darker, how bright it, Waas. And once I have proper exposure, I took the photo. Now let's go outside and put one of these and D filters to work so you can see how they work when you're shooting. Okay, so we're gonna deal. He and neutral density filters. I have a shot set up. My settings are one over 30th of a 2nd 1.4 f stop. And I s 0 200 We're on a 50 mil lens, So take that photo and you're gonna see it's completely over exposed. So if I really wanted to take a shot, these were the settings I was really stuck out and really wanted to shoot with. Then I would add an nd filter. And right here I have a variable Andy filter 58 millimeter threat size to fit my 50 millimeter lens. And so all right, so we screwed battle on. I'm just gonna according to video here, to show you what it looks like as you begin to screw it rotated around so you could really get all the details in the frame that you want. So when I take the photo now, you can see that the chimney and the tree are silhouetted against the blue sky, and we've brought out that detail. So that's one filter you can use. Teoh. Add darkened glass and front without compromising on the settings that you want to use. There are a variety of types of nd filters that you can use not just between the square and circular ones in that exercise, and most of the time I'm using a variable circular Andy filter. A variable filter allows you from to go from little adjustment on your lens for the amount of light coming in to almost completely pitch dark. I like it because it's quick and on the go on, and I could just screw it on and take my photo on the tripod and take it off and still get back into my photography bag. However, there are a few other systems that you can use that will do different things. They're also square and D filters that come in increments of 0.3, which is the equivalent to one stop of light. Thes once again could be added to a filter holder at the front of your lens, and they act in the same way. But variable and default tourists, but they are more precise because you're adding specific increments and you can stack these in one in front of the other as well. There are graduated neutral density filters, which are much more specific to the type of scenario you're shooting in thes Aaron, usually used for when you have a horizon. If you're shooting an ocean scape or you have your high up and you have greenery below and the sky above with clouds, you can add a graduated neutral density filter on the front of your lens, and it will only take away light from the brighter part of your image. This is helpful if you want to have the entire image exposed correctly, so you expose for the foreground or the greenery, and then you have have you graduated filter, and it decreases the amount of light and doesn't give you blown highlights that you normally would get without a closer. The's come in different types of graduated filters so you can get hard or soft edge and different increments a swell, hard and soft edge. Graduated filters are just how hard or soft the transition is between the horizon line, so if you have a hard edge line. You're probably shooting an ocean escapes, so you'll have, um, 50% of your image that is extremely bright and 50% That's the sea. And so you'll add a graduated hard edge filter, and it will allow you to expose your sky really well and properly exposed, while keeping your ocean exposed to a soft edge filter might be used for something. If you have greenery and you have a mountain interrupting that hard edged skyline that you normally would get so you'd add a soft edge transition so that you would be able to expose the mountain but not have a really dark mountain top and then a natural that's what Andy Filter is. 6. Polarizer: In addition to Andy Filters or neutral density filters, CPL. Or polarizing filters are one of the most popular tools you'll find in a photographer's bag . Polarising filters allow you to bring out the saturation and contrast and images thes folders air great cause. They really add another death to your photos that you will be able to play around with in post later on. They allow you to bring up the saturation and contrast in your images wherever you're shooting on, and also reduced the reflections you may have if you're shooting water or glass. But they do not work in mirrors or any metal subject. One warning before you go out and by seventies because you love them with one of your lenses is wide angle. Lenses can be a bit tricky with these filters, because you may find that there's some uneven been getting or just uneven color in the skies. When it brings out that saturation most of the time, these come in circular filters that screw onto the front of your lens and are variable. This is because when you turn it, the effect becomes greater. I recommend adding this filter once you've already composed your shot and you're ready to shoot. This will allow you to look at the live you on the back your camera and determine what effect you want with the filter on. Looking at the live you of your camera will also give you a really great idea of how the contrast in saturation is increasing as you turn the filter. For example, if you shot some rocks on the beach after you compose the shot, you would add the polarizing filter, and you would be able to see that you're adding texture and detail that you normally wouldn't be able to process and your images, and that you'll be able to have a lot more fun with later. However, one and you have had with see Palin polarizing filters is sometimes I can't tell what it's doing specifically with variable filters. So once I added to the lens, I will normally have to really play around with it back and forth until I can actually see a difference or will take a few shots of the same subject if you have the time and compare from one to the other to see what I like best. So let's take a look at what they do when you're outside shooting, we're gonna use a CPL or a circular polarizing filter. Now, to bring out some of the detail in the sky, increase the saturation blue in the sky as well as bring out some of the detail with bark about tree over there. So I'm gonna take one photo without the CPL filter Perfect. And then I'm going to take one with okay? And so you can immediately see the effects that it added. It brought out some of the blue so we can see that tent now. So take another photo spend. I'm going to Now, when we talked about it, I said, It's gonna be minuscule. The amount of change you're going to see so sometimes you're really gonna have to take multiple photos and then scroll through to see what difference it is. And if it really does acknowledge your photos. So I'm just rotating it ever so slightly and taking a few photos that weaken stack up to compare what it does as we rotate filter. I also find that it's really dependent on the effect you see, based on where the light is hitting. If you're shooting outside, I find that it works best if the sun's coming from the side of the camera and so that you are bringing out all that detail and shadow within the subjects that you're shooting and that is what a CPL or polarizing filter this. 7. Close Up: Another exciting filter that you might find is really useful is a die after our close focus filter. Thes are filters that you lead to the front of your lens, and they will almost replicate what a macro lens does. So it's a nice test to see. If you really like what macro is doing for you without going out and buying a whole new lens in either a square or circular filter system, you can stack them to increase the effect they have on your image. Normally, lenses have varying focal distances minimum focal distances, so as you get closer, you won't eventually be able to focus on the subject. But by adding a die after close focus, um, filter onto the front of your lens. You'll be able Teoh go right in as if you're a magnifying glass. You can think of close focus filters as a magnifying glass, and the more than you add to the front of your lens, the closer you're going to get to that mackerel. Look in your photos. The difference between having and owning a macro lens and owning a set of these filters is that you may find with the filters that you get some soft focus on the edges or the colors off a little, so you want to really try. If you have both, maybe you want to do a test between the two of them. When you buy, these filters will come in a set, and most sets will come in plus one plus two plus four plus 10. I'm obviously, the greater the number the closer you're getting in, the more detail you're getting in that image. When you stack thes, they add up. So plus one and plus four would equal plus five. And that's the degree that you would be able to go in closer to your image and get more detail. One tip that I would recommend when shooting with doctors and in addition macro lenses is to mount your camera on a tripod. Because as you get closer to an image, it'll be harder to focus because you're deaf. The field will also magnify so any camera shake that you may have because your hands or your body will change that focus. Here's a little test is toe what these filters conduce for you. Okay, so forth. E close that filter test. We're gonna be using the close up filters I got on sale of families on from Polaroid. They came nice and a little touch, and they came in 1 to 4 in 10. So happened, lined up here, we stuck a penny to the wall, and we're going to be looking at the difference between having a normal, which is a 50 mil lens. It's minimal focal dissents compared to when you screw on one of these filters and then start to stack them. So if we start to take a look, I love Teoh. Keep it on a trip on just because when you get, uh, this close in, your depth of field is gonna become really shallow, and this gives you a bit more stability in order to take your shot. So to start, we're gonna take a photo with just the 50 mil lens and a protective UV filter on it. So no close up filters yet. So So that's my minimal focal distance by trying going a little closer. So that's our minimum there. And that's a 0.45 meters. So now we're gonna dio is put on our plus one filter and you'll be able to tell because you can see close up plus one on side. Okay, make sure that's tight now on with only two of them to the legs of the tripod stable. I twist the other one so that I can go down and up and move a little closer and have more flexibility. So we get to the point where we looked through the viewfinder and it's in focus. This is when I switch my camera to manual focus, cause the lens itself is not built to focus that close, so it's more helpful to put on manual focus. And when you go to your minimal focal distance and you get the focus on the penny, take the shot. So now we got much closer, and it looks you can see a lot more detail in the writing on the penny. Now what we'll do is we'll stack. I close up number two. You could stack as many as you want on these, um, on a lens. It's, uh it's great. So now we're actually on a plus three close up because we have the one and the +21 So once again, we're gonna have to get a little closer, and once it's in focus, take the shop. Now you'll notice that as you increase the amount of close up filters you have, it will be so hard to focus because any breath you take or trying to stabilize it well, one millimeter can mess it up. So now we're gonna put a second plus four. So now we are at plus seven, and now the big guy plus 10. You'll notice, as you get as you picked these filters up they become or heavy is the number increases on them. And you also see that they start to go outwards as well. So they get a lot heavier. There's more glass, more coating, Um, and the way it is quite different compared Teoh plus one verses close time. So now we're at 17. So let's see how much detail we're gonna have to go from right in there. This is a time when you might have to boost your I have so little cause your lens getting so close, you might have some late loss, and that is so hard to focus on. It is millimeters, so that's stacking them. So now let's take a look at if we unscrew them all. This is what it looks like. Soccer pancakes right there. So that's in close that filters look like when you're sacking them or what they look like individually when they're screwed on to a camera. 8. SFX: another category of filters. I wanted to talk about our special effect filters, and those are the type of filters that are more for very specific type of photos you're using or very specific styles you're trying Teoh achieve in your look. Four of those that I recently got on sale are, um, with East are effects filter the fluorescent filter and warming as well as soft focus. So what each of these do are very specific and different to the other ones you've talked about. For instance, star effect. You can see it kind of looks like a grid. It allows any point of light when your cameras taking your photo. Maybe it was City Lights street light lamp at home. It allows it to give it the effect, as if you were taking a longer shutter speed without that light being led into the camera. So it breaks up the light on and creates four point star, and that's what that does. Um, fluorescent. Have it wrapped effective, but fluorescent. It's very odd. It changes the color temperature of your photo to get rid of any green tints that you may have left in your white balance or If you're filming in a factory doing a promotional video , you might want to add one of these to counter act. Whatever green hues you're getting. We're fluorescent lights. Soft focus is pretty interesting. I'm not a big fan of it, but it makes all of your photos look really romanticized like an old painting so you can actually in vote a shop. Just apply in soft focus effect. Kind of get the idea before purchasing one of these. It's a very particular look. It just gives anything in focus or anything in the background, this kind of haze over top of it. The soft focus could be related to like a promise, a really cheap version of a promise for video, which is what people use in order to make older people look more flattering and blow some other wrinkles and make their skin look softer. So you might like it for shooting portrait or just trying something new with your photos. Finally, for special effects filters warming, this creates its different column temperature in the way that it creates. Um, it doesn't alter the whole photo. Um adds a nice, warm glow to things without changing the actual color temperature. So special effect Filters like these are really interesting to use if you're experimenting or being creative, or want to just add a personal touch to your photos. But if you can find a really resourceful way of getting them into your photos white. 9. Getting Creative with DIY Filters: Okay, so there are three things that are really, really great to start being creative with in front of your lens if you can't afford to buy a lens or you can't afford to buy filters for that lens, and those three things are aluminum foil, Saran wrap and some good wax paper. And the reason we put these in front of the lenses, obviously, to give us some special effects. But let's see exactly what they can dio. I have a five D mark three with me with 100 millimeter lens on it. The longer the focal length, the more you won't be able to see that it's actually paper in front of your lens. On a wide angle, you will eso. I urge you to choose a longer lens in order to get these effects, but let's do some tests to see exactly what they're doing to our lens. The first thing we're gonna talk about ISS wax paper wax paper is really great because it allows you to give it ineffective, that there's this glare or white haze over your image without it looking completely distorted and just plain white and blown out. So what we do for this is you just take a considerably large amount of paper. Just rip that off. It doesn't need to be anything nice. And all you're gonna dio is put that on the front of your lens like so and tape it to the base. This I know looks horrible, but it's going to give you a pretty cool effect. So before you put it on, the first thing you want to do is make sure you get the right exposure settings so that you're not trying to do it through a piece of wax paper. Eso you're taking a look at what you want to focus on before putting on the front of the lens. Make sure there's a nice little rip. You could make it with a knife, or you can kind of just split it with your fingers a bit. Anything like that will do just like a pretty ugly hole, but it still covers, so, you know, ripping out of it, just ripping into Can you just rip in the center of it so that as you kind of pull it apart over it and push it together, it's giving you this nice glare as if either the sun's coming into frame or it's just this nice kind of flashback dreamy haze and because we're on the long telephoto lens and because we're on an aperture of to eight, which is blurring everything that's not in focus. So here's a with it on, and we're just kind of moving it around with our fingers, as you can see. And then here's it with that, so there's on again and without. That's just kind of one thing you could do with wax paper. You could probably get pretty creative cut from different shapes into it, or you can scrunch it up to give it more crinkles, and the wax will be a bit more dynamic. So when you put it on, it's really moulding to the camera and you're getting different designs. So the next thing that we wanna take a look at his aluminum foil. Now aluminum foil obviously doesn't kind of have the same transparent effect that wax paper does because it's boiled. But one of the great things that it does have over wax paper is that you can mold it to pretty much anything and into any shape in the film industry. we have something called Black Rack, which we wrapped around lights, and it allows us to makes newts and other things. But in our case, we don't want to buy black graph, and we just want to use something around the house. Now. Aluminum foil is really interesting to have around your lens. I'm still in that 100 millimeter lens, but I want to show you exactly what it's doing. I've just wrapped it around The front element of the lens with a focal bring is so that when I do my focus, it kind of changes with it as well. So I can play around a bit and not have to worry about this changing too much eso we haven't kind of in a snoop formation. So it's going in a cone, which allows us to have our focal point in the center of the lens. And as we're focusing, it turns with us. So when we do a focus poll, it's giving us a really unique look. So, for instance, I'm gonna take a video now, so as you can see, because we are focusing on something further away and this is so close to the lens, were able to get, which almost looks like a lens flare. So we're faking a lens flare by just applying something as simple as aluminum foil. So we're adding bigger, kind of okay, hexagons to the sides of our frame. Now, you could definitely make the smaller you could make thes larger, But for the purpose of this, I've just kind of given it a loose wrapping around so that as we're kind of trying to shoot something, we have this cool glare coming in to our lens that we normally wouldn't be able to get. So the final thing I wanted to look at is kind of the opposite side of the spectrum from foil, and it's more transparent than her wax paper. But it gives a really interesting field. So this it's the same thing as the other two. You're just gonna pull a large piece off, and then you're gonna scrunch it up, and you can create it as a really taught soft piece, or you can create it with a bit more texture to it. And you're just gonna place it in front of the lens. So it's like that and you're gonna aim it at whatever your subject is and try shooting with it. So let's do a video so I can show you with him without so first we have our without on this plant. Now, when we add in front of the lens and we pull it, you can see it has a glaze over it, almost as if we've applied a soft focus filter onto the front of the lens. But the great thing about this is that you can double up, obviously. So if I wanted Teoh, I could fold this over once again. Four ways. Put it on front of the lens, and I look at how much texture I have now and now you're barely getting the image, and then, as you kind of pull it off, you're unveiling something now. My favorite thing to do with this is to get a bit of texture going where it's not taught, so that you can see parts of the image more clear than others. So I would do the center, the image where it has the lead in the least amount of texture, and you can see exactly how that's looking. So those air three practical components of being creative without spending a lot of money now. It might look a bit weird to put these in front of your lens, but it's a really great approach to practicing before you buy the real thing or just creating something new and experimental. But no one else has done so. I urge you to take things around the house, whether it be old, broken glass or different colored glass or fabrics that are transparent, and put them in front of a long telephoto lens and see what you can create. In the end, it comes down to you and your camera and your own personal photographic style, whether that be in the end, in still or in video. But those have been three things to get you going. 10. Wrap Up: So that's what filters are. That's a good, basic understanding. Filters. Wanna one what filters can do for you and your photography or videography skill set. I hope it's been helpful. I'm so now. What I recommend doing is getting out there, choosing a filter that you might be interested in and shooting with it and submitting that as your class project. When buying filters, I do have to recommendations. If it's special effects filters or filters that are for special use, I recommend buying ones. I love the ones from Polaroid. I got a large son of them on sale on Amazon, and they're not the best quality, but they really do the job. And so if you're really looking to experiment and not invest yet, then I would recommend starting with those UV felt tears I would invest in because it's not for a look. But it's protecting your lenses so you can use them for years and years and years as well. Remember to clean your filters often. It's gonna be the first thing that your finger's gonna touch, and so you always want to make sure that you're not finding fingerprints or dust and debris and post and that you're solving it before you even start shooting as well. Make sure when you're buying high quality filters that you're buying multi coated um, glass. And that's because it will give you the best quality image. And you won't get any ghosting or weird shadows or issues in the corners where vignettes eso make sure you're buying multi coated filters. For more of my classes, you can go to my teacher page and learn about from getting out of automatic to manual or learning how to market yourself in your portfolio. But this has been filters one on one, and if you have any questions, please let me know Thanks.