Take a look at the size of the lens diameter on your camera. What is it? Probably 55 mm, and that is not good enough.
The first thing I did with my new camera was to check the lens size. It was 55 mm too. The second thing I did was to rake through my collection of stepping rings to screw on to the end of the lens to bring the diameter up to 62 mm. Why? Many reasons.
The most obvious reason was to make the new camera lens compatible with my box of photographic filters, accumulated over the years. The vast majority of these are 62 mm, which is a good size as it is larger than most 35 mm camera lenses, so will not produce a vignetting effect if you stack a few of them together, such as a polarizer and a +1 magnifier.
The first filter to have is called a Skylight 1A. This filter does make the sky a little deeper, but the main reason to have it, is as a sacrificial piece of glass, so that your good, expensive lens does not get scratched. Skylight 1A’s are very cheap.
One of the nicest filter effects is what is called “center spot soft focus”. Now this just means the center is in focus and the edges are nicely soft and blurred. This effect is used by portrait and wedding photographers all over the world to produce that wonderful “romantic” photograph.
Now to use this filter. If you have an SLR (single lens reflex) film camera or a digital, you are actually looking through the lens when you are focusing and What You See Is What You Get (the WYSIWYG principle, mentioned many times in these columns). Set your lens on the largest aperture you can (around f 5.6 or f 4 is fine). Focus on your subject, keeping the face in the center of the screen. Now bring up your magic soft focus filter and place it over the lens and what do you see? The face is in focus and the edges are all blurred! Try some different f stops as well (it makes the center spot larger or smaller) and record the details in your trusty notebook … which you take with you at all times!
You can also use these filters with any compact point and shoot camera, but it is a little more hit and miss. The reason being there’s no WYSIWYG with compacts. What you have to do is position the center of the filter over the lens and, while keeping it there, bring the camera up to your eye, compose the shot and then shoot. Takes some fiddling and manual dexterity and take a few shots as you are really flying blind.
The next one is the polarizer. I have mentioned polarizers many times before, but the difference between polarized sunlit shots and unpolarized is incredible. The depth of color when you polarize is fantastic. As you rotate the polarizing filter, the reflections on any shiny surface, be that grass, trees, water or whatever, just disappear, leaving the undiluted bold color.
Soft romantic effects can be produced in many ways, and here are a few tried and true methods, and the first is super inexpensive as well. Just gently breathe on the Skylight 1A filter just before you take the shot. Your warm breath will impart a “mist” to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that early morning mist look for landscapes. Remember that the “misting” only lasts a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focused and ready to shoot. If you have control over the aperture, try around f 4 as well.
Another interesting result is by smearing Vaseline on the same Skylight 1A and seeing the different effects you get. Do not smear the Vaseline on the end of your lens. It is almost impossible to get off without washing in hot soapy water, something you can do with a filter, but not with your lens.
There are many more filters, colored effects, graduated effects, star cross and more. Photography should be fun. Try a filter or two this weekend.