There are many dramatic effects you can obtain in your pictures by using filters and other lens attachments creatively. The use of color filters with color film can enhance or change the mood of a picture. You can use an orange or magenta filter to suggest rich, warm sunlight of late afternoon in your color pictures. With a blue filter you can portray the somber, cool effect of twilight or moonlight while the sun is still above the horizon. You can also use filters of other colors depending on the effect you want to create. Just look through the filter for a preview of how the scene will look in the picture.
Determining the exposure is easy when you use filters to give the picture an overall cast of color. Since you are altering the appearance of the original scene and orange and blue filters are suggesting early or late times of day, the exposure is not critical. Less exposure, which gives darker pictures, implies dimmer lighting while more exposure, which produces lighter pictures, implies brighter lighting. Usually you can just follow the exposure indicated by a meter reading made through the filter. You may want to bracket your exposures so that you have a choice of brightness in your pictures.
Dark-colored filters block a lot of light. These filters can interfere with the focusing of auto-focus cameras. If this is the case, you must switch to manual focusing when you use these filters.
Most filters produce only one color. But variable-color filters are available that let you adjust the intensity of the color from light to dark. Other variable color filters produce either of two colors or various shades in between-for example, yellow or red with shades of orange between the two extremes. Once you have a variable-color filter adjusted for the color you want, you can use it just like a conventional color filter.
You can obtain still other filters that are similar to conventional filters except that only half of the filter is colored while the other half is clear. This feature lets you change the color in only part of the scene, like the sky.
Rather than using color filters, you can use other kinds of filters over your camera lens for a different approach to creative pictures. These filters are constructed with various optical properties that produce effects such as diffusion, pointed-star images, and streaks of light with bands of color in them. It's easy to use these filters because you can see the effects you'll obtain when you view the scene through the filter. When you use the filter over the lens on a single-lens reflex camera, you can see the effect through the camera viewfinder. With a camera that has a direct optical viewfinder (non-single-lens reflex), you'll have to view the scene through the filter first before putting it on your camera.
A diffusion filter will give you a soft-focus, diffused image which portrays a subdued dreamlike effect. These filters come in various degrees of diffusion which produce effects ranging from a slight haziness to pronounced diffusion with a misty appearance, soft highlights, and merging colors. Diffusion filters do not usually require any change in exposure unless you want to produce a light, misty, or fog effect with a minimum of dark tones. Then you should try from 1/3 to 1-stop more exposure depending on the degree of diffusion in the filter. See the manufacturer's instructions for your filters.
Star-effect filters produce pointed star-like images of light sources and specular reflections that look like points of light in the original scene. These filters create streaks of light that radiate outward from the point of light. You can get 4-, 6-, and 8-pointed stars depending on the construction of the filter. By rotating the filter, you can change the direction of the streaks of light. Usually no exposure increase is required.
A diffraction filter is another filter you'll find useful for creating pictures that are out of the ordinary. Diffraction filters separate the light from light sources and specular reflections in the picture into a rainbow of colors in exotic patterns. Diffraction filters are available from your photo dealer that form multicolored linear streaks of light in two, four, or several directions. Other diffraction filters form different multicolor patterns, such as a circular one. These filters too are easy to use since you can see the optical effect when you look through the viewfinder of a single-lens-reflex camera with the filter over the lens. With non-reflex cameras, look at the scene through the filter while rotating the filter. When you see the effect you want, keep the filter oriented in that position as you put it on your camera. No exposure increase is required with diffraction filters.
For a different avenue to exciting and spectacular pictures, experiment with multi-image lenses. These lenses with multifaceted surfaces fit on the front of your camera lens. The facets produce multi-images of the scene repeated in a straight row or arranged in a circular pattern. The number of images transmitted to your film may be 3, 5, or 6. These variations in pattern and number of images produced depend on the construction of the multi-image lens. You can rotate these lenses to obtain the most pleasing arrangement of the images in the picture. Since details surrounding the subject are also repeated, multi-image lenses work best with subjects against plain backgrounds like the sky, water, or a dark background with little detail.
Also, if you are using an autofocus camera, keep in mind that since multiple-image or other optical-distortion filters distort the light entering the lens, they will probably interfere with the ability of the camera to focus correctly. Therefore, you may find that both the camera and the visual effect are more easily controlled if you switch to manual focusing.
Creative uses of filters and lens attachments to make intriguing pictures are limited only by your imagination. When you take creative pictures, there are no definite rules. Anything you find pleasing can be a rewarding picture. Many types of filters and lens attachments are available, so it's a good idea to explore the selection of this equipment at your photo store.
One addition to the world of creative filtering that you might want to investigate are filter systems. With these systems, you buy a screw-on adapter bracket that fits your lens and a filter holder that mounts on the adapter. The filters that go into these systems are usually acrylic squares that give a wide range of creative effects, including all of those mentioned and more. The big benefit of using these systems is that even if you have several lenses with different filter diameters, you need only an adapter for each lens. Since the filters themselves are all the same size, you can use them on any lens. This will save you a lot of money if you have a variety of lenses with different filter sizes.
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