There is an unfortunate concept amongst photographers that the more “stuff” you have, the better your photographs will turn out. This is a furphy put into the collective subconscious by the manufacturers of said stuff.
In my days as a pro photographer, complete with Hasselblads (6×6) and even a Cambo (rail camera) as well as all the usual 35 mm work horses, I used to hire as much stuff as I could for any particular assignment.
For example, a client wanted a panorama of the river, complete with blue water. I took the assignment, even though I didn’t have a panorama lens and the river was brown.
The camera was easy, the photo processing outfit I used also had a hire section. The blue water was a little more difficult!
This I accomplished by making a half blue filter myself, and positioning it carefully in front of the panorama camera. It was a bit hit or miss, but you never show the client the “outs”. So there we were, pre-photoshop and no need for a huge box of “stuff”.
However, there are some things you should own, and here are a few of them.
By the way, before rushing out to get filters, you do need to standardize your equipment. The first thing I did with my new camera was to check the size of the lens diameter. It was 55 mm. The second thing I did was to find a stepping ring to bring the diameter up to 62 mm, the diameter of my filters.
Now, let’s look at filters. The first one is called simply 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, comparatively. (Getting photo filters can be difficult in Pattaya, but there is a camera shop on the second floor of TukCom which is well stocked and helpful.)
The second filter you need to buy is a polarizer. I have mentioned polarizers 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. Get one!
One of the nicest filter effects is what is called “center spot soft focus” filter. 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.
You can also use these filters with any compact point and shoot camera, but it is a little more hit and miss, as there’s no pre-view 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.
This romantic filter you can actually make yourself. Get a square of Perspex say 6cm x 6 cm and place a 2 baht coin in the center. Now wave some hairspray over it and when the spray is dry, flick the coin off with a sharp knife and you have your very own center spot filter.
Soft romantic effects can also be produced by gently breathing 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-focussed and ready to shoot.
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 impossible to get off without washing in hot soapy water, something you can do with a filter, but not with your lens.