Filters – Which Filters Work Best

The truth is, there aren’t any filters that will make your portraits insanely great. The tool is your skill. But that doesn’t mean filters can’t really make things interesting. The point of using filters is to gain a certain advantage over a certain situation.

For example, in landscape and waterscape photography, ND filters can be used to darken the image in order to be able to take long-exposure shots of flowing waters in the middle of the day. The waterfall effect is quite well-known in photography and it’s one thing that you can’t simply do later in Photoshop. However, it’s important to note that most filters can be later added in Photoshop or Lightroom (or whatever post-processing software you might be using) if you know your way around the application for a little bit.


Meanwhile, let’s take a look at your options:

  • Colored Filters – These can be used to add a different color to your image. The only problem is it changes the entire outlook of the image, and if you don’t plan a photo session with those colors in mind, the result might not be quite what you were looking for in the end. Take a look at the snapshot above – imagine using the blue filter throughout an entire session. If you don’t plan for it, the results won’t be quite as pleasing as you might like them.
  • Gradual Filters – Whether we’re discussing gradual ND filters or gradual colored filters, it’s important to note that these can be used for a cinematic effect. For example, if you want to take wide portrait shots in an outdoor environment, all you have to do is set a Gradual Blue filter on your lens and add a bit more punch to the sky. It goes the same for gradual ND (neutral density) filters. It will help you compensate for bright skies while still allowing you to use your Speedlight on your model.
  • Soft Focus Filters – These particular type of filters were quite popular during the 70s and the 80s however the effect they create can be quite hard to work with. In other words, if you’re not sure why you would want to use it, it’s a problem using soft area in portraits. As we have already mentioned in the book – it’s important to have sharp areas in your portraits, especially on the facial area. Not to mention that if you end up de-focusing the central part of your image, that might your biggest problem in the end. Soft focus filters can be compensated for in Photoshop with enough ease, therefore it would be wiser if you would steer away from them most of the time.
  • Close-up Filters – Here there might be an interesting twist. Let’s assume for a moment your current finances do not allow you to acquire all the necessary equipment, but you would like to add a few millimeters to your 50mm lens. A close-up filter might do just that, give you a larger maneuvering space while getting you closer to your subject. The problem with close-up filters is that they can be quite expensive in the end, and the cheap one have serious issues with image quality. Make sure you choose your filter wisely.