Select Page



MANUFACTURERS: Agfa, B+W, Cokin, Formatt Hitech, Fotodiox, Fujinon, Hasselblad, Heliopan, Hoya, Kodak, LEE, Leica, Marumi, Nikon, Nisi, Olympus, Pentax, PolarPro, Rodenstock, Rosco, Schneider, Sigma, Singh-Ray, Tiffen, Vivitar, Zeiss, Zone VI, (and unknowns).

FILTER TYPES: Black & White Contrast, Center ND Filters, Close-up Lens Filters, Color Compensating, Color Conversion Filters, Enhancing & Warming, Fluorescent Correction, Graduated Color, Graduated Neutral Density, IR Control, IR Photography, Light Balancing, Neutral Density (Solid), Other Optical Effects, Polarizing, Skylight, Soft Focus & Diffusion, Solid Color Effects, Star & Streak Effects, UV, Variable Neutral Density, Viewing Filters.

FILTER MATERIALS: Gels, Glass, Plastic, Polyester.
FILTER SYSTEM TYPES: Circular Screw On, Rectangle/Square Into Holders, Sheets Clamps-On or In-Holders.
ACCESSORIES: Filter Holders, Adapter Rings & Frames, Filter Pouches & Cases, and Step-Up/Down Rings.

If you have been in photography for a while or are a commercial photographer with film and digital, you have more than likely used filters. Filters are used for various reasons, and there are different ways of attaching filters to a camera or a scene to obtain the effect you are looking for. Some of the different types of filters include: colored filters for Kelvin temperature balancing, neutral density (ND) filters for darkening the foreground, or more commonly used for darkening the sky to match the foreground; polarizers for eliminating or controlling reflections in glass and shiny objects, diffusion or softness filters to smooth skin or simulate a mood in an environment; creative filters for “creative effects,” and graduated hard or soft ND or color filters to enhance the sky or background, or to add areas of color that did not originally exist.

Filters come in glass, plastic, and gel sheets and are not just for changing the light in front of the lens but also for changing the light at its source, be it artificial or daylight. Circular filters can be attached to the lens thread in the front or the rear when available. A holder can also be attached to the lens’ front thread, which will accept square or rectangle filters that slide into rails. A good reason to go with the holder route versus the screw-on-the-lens route is the ability to purchase less expensive holder adapter rings and not individual filters with unique thread sizes for different lenses. Another filter system uses magnets to attach filters to the lens. I have no experience with the magnet system or a system designed to place filters over the digital sensor, but they are available. Filter tools have changed over the years, but the need to adjust exposure and color temperature remains under certain circumstances.

Professional and amateur film photographers use filters, whereas some digital shooters may or may not use filters when photographing, opting instead to apply filter-like effects during post-processing. Today when I shoot digitally, I find it much easier to shoot ‘plain vanilla’ and adjust in post-processing unless I need a polarizer or ND during shooting. All my film photography gets digitized and is treated similarly to digital files. Still, we cannot add the effects of polarizing, ND, and how some filters can affect the light and color at exposure time. Sure, we can lighten or darken our files in post-processing, but being able to refract/bend light or change things up, as some creative filters can do at the time of photographing, is something we cannot replicate in post-processing.

If you need your images to have a consistent look, whether through lighting or a particular color palette, understanding what filters can offer is an important aspect of photography. When we explore all available tools to develop a technique for consistency, we can find what works and what does not for the look we aim for. For example, when I have shot weddings, the bride and groom prepaid for a beautiful album that tells their wedding day story. The bridesmaids’ gowns would have to color match throughout the 100+ photos. In the film days, we purchased film with the same color batch number for an entire shoot, so we had consistency at the film end. Then we made sure wherever we had to photograph during the event, be it in a church, an outside gazebo, or a hotel ballroom, etc., the light there was balanced with the light we used for picture taking. Whether we used studio strobe or on-camera flash, we had to balance the color for color matching. If the bridesmaids’ dresses were teal in color, they would need to be the same teal color in all the photos when placed next to each other throughout the wedding album; if not, we did not do our job properly because the consistency was missing. We could not have done any of this correctly without color-balancing filters.




If I had been asked about filters before the advent of digital capture, I would have said they could be a lifesaver in specific situations. Filters are a must if you are shooting the film in a mix-lighting situation and will not have digital tools to help with color correction or exposure differentials. I have used filters on lenses, lights, and other light sources, making the final image as perfect as possible. I knew architectural photographers that used sheets of filtration on windows to balance the window light with the ambient light. Even with digital capture today, I know landscape photographers who use neutral density filters like they are shooting transparency films, and I can understand why. Some things that need to be captured during shooting cannot be added or replicated later in post-processing. Balancing or adding control for color or density during shooting is a positive attribute filters can offer film shooters. When I shot Hasselblads for portraits, the expense of hiring a retouch artist for complexion enhancement was unnecessary because I could select from different degrees of softness that the Hasselblad Softars offered. What was unique about the Softars was their ability to add softness without blurring the catchlights in the eyes. They were an economic lifesaver in the portrait business during the film days.


Filters in the film days were necessary tools in a commercial photographer’s toolbox. I amassed a small fortune in filters during my film career. I honestly am happy I do not have to deal with most of them anymore because they are costly, need care, and, when used regularly, will need replacement eventually. Another issue with filters is the need to carry them on-location, install them correctly on the lens or matte box, add hoods or flags to prevent the sun or lights from hitting them, and, depending upon your shooting technique, make manual adjustments when necessary. If shooting digitally, we can use the camera’s Live View to determine what adjustments need to be made. Suppose you shoot a technical camera with a digital back. In that case, manual adjustments are the norm. With the advent of Live View, our job is made a little easier, as we do not need the expensive Polaroids of the past to see what effects using filters may have. Being able to shoot medium format digital for commercial work and having a good working knowledge of Photoshop is how commercial photographers work today. However, we still need to carry our favorite filters to the job.


One of the nice things about my walkaround camera, the Fujifilm X100V, is its built-in three-stop ND filter, which is a very convenient option. Digital cameras can be superb computers, and I am sure built-in filters will be added more and more to future cameras as manufacturers figure out how to implement them. When I switched from shooting infrared film photography to digital IR, it became much more enjoyable after I sent off a mirrorless camera to LifePixel to remove its IR-blocking filter from the sensor and install an IR 590nm filter. Digital has given me greater control over my photography endeavors. A lot of that control has been through software like Photoshop, where I can spot-correct instead of placing an entire filter over the lens and then spending too much time cleaning it up later. We might see a Photoshop-type program built into cameras in the future.





LEE Filters produces the camera filter systems I have used the most. For decades, I have used a LEE Filter Holder with built-in shade (pictured above) for black & white (BW) contrast filters (red, yellow, orange, not-so-much green) and Neutral Density (ND) 4×4 inch polyester filter sets for my 4×5 setup.

The LEE Seven 5 system (see below) is what I use for my medium format and APS-C systems today. Since I have settled on B&W film photography and left color film for digital, all I find I use the Seven 5 system for is the Stopper ND filters: Little, Big, and Super Stopper; 6, 10, and 15 stops, respectively. I use Amazon Basic cases for portable hard drives to stow and transport my LEE SEVEN 5 Filter kits. I like the SEVEN 5 system because it is small enough to carry but big enough to handle the lenses of my choice. The LEE Seven 5 filter sizes are 75 x 90mm.







LEE ND STOPPER filters are what I occasionally use when shooting landscape photography. Long-exposure photography can create a mood, unlike short-exposure photography, but you do have to have the right conditions and subject for it all to work together. The different strengths of the ND STOPPERS produce various effects of what adjusting your exposure time for a longer capture can look like. You can also combine them for even more time if desired. I have not been able to find a location that will afford me the picture I want to create in my mind, but above right is an image that was made with a two-minute exposure on film. I think the water was too still to begin with, although it is an interesting shot if you read on to see what makes it interesting.

You would have to of been there to see what the long exposure added to the image beside a somewhat surreal look. After I pressed the shutter cable, a couple walked into the picture while the shutter was opened. They walked to the end of the pier, looked out over the water, and then walked out of the picture and off the pier. You can’t see them in the image, but believe me; they were there. Once they saw me down and away on the shore with a ‘big camera on a tripod,’ they probably thought they walked into my shot and, courteously, walked out of it. Not the best image, as I am still looking for an image in my mind that speaks of silence, but this is an example of using a Big Stopper ND. Also, the third image in the gallery below is a Super Stopper image. It was about an eight-minute exposure and was shot around 5 pm, even though it looks much later in the day.

LEE no longer makes the SEVEN 5 system. Instead, they make the LEE 85 System. I have found some LEE SEVEN 5 components on eBay for reasonable prices, and they fit all my medium format and APS-C camera systems. I recommend trying an ND STOPPER if you have not already!





Recently I decided to play with turning BW film images into color using trichromatic filters during the film shooting. The three necessary filters (RED 25A, GREEN 58, BLUE 47) are built for the graphics arts industry and cost me $127.00! And that was just for playing around or my form of experimenting. It was not easy finding the BLUE 47, and I wanted them all in 67mm so I could use them with multiple cameras by employing step-up rings. I am still experimenting with using them, and the process fascinates me.

So here it is, for now, a small explanation about my experience with filters in glass, plastic, square, rectangle, or round, available in threaded frames, plastic frames, and sheets for camera and lighting holders—photographic tools of creative experimentation for some and necessities for others.