If you're new to photography or you mostly just point, shoot, and hope for the best then there's probably a whole bunch of photo equipment whose names you recognize but whose function you're not really sure of. Well, here at Photodoto we live to help you out so here's a few of those gadgets explained.
Lens Hoods: I mentioned printable lens hoods recently, which are free, but a sturdy plastic version will set you back anywhere from $10 to $500 depending on the lens you want it to fit. What do they do? Put simply, they eliminate glare and lens flare caused stray light. Sometimes lens flare can be desirable in a photo but more often than not you want to eliminate it. Lens hoods usually have a completely non-reflective inner surface (for example felt) which absorb that unwanted light and prevents the flares on your photo. They come in petal and round styles with petal styles usually being more effective. Another effect of lens hoods is a deeper saturation and therefore richer colours in photos. Who needs one? Anyone who's photographing outside, especially in sunny conditions will find a lens hood useful but they are especially useful on telephoto lenses because the smaller field of vision means the hood can be longer without obscuring the viewing angle. When should I use one? In bright, sunny conditions or to offer some protection in rain but a lot of people simply leave the lens hood on all the time. Any disadvantages? On wider lenses using a hood can cause vignetting, especially if you use a round shaped hood.
Lens Filters: There are a selection of different filters available including polarizers, UV, diffusion, colour correction, warming, and neutral density filters. They vary in price from $5 to $300 (although most cost less than $150). What do they do? Clear filters are simply glass or plastic discs in a ring frame that fit on the end of a lens and protect the lens from scratches, dirt, and other damage. All other filters are similar in construction but have a specific filtering effect, for example UV filters filter UV light and help reduce haziness. Polarizing filters increase colour saturation and enhance contrast between clouds and sky by darkening particularly light skies. They are therefore particularly useful for photographing reflections. Other filters, including diffusion, sepia, and star diffracter filters create specific effects in a photo. Who needs one? If you use a D-SLR/SLR then many people feel it's worth protecting the lens with either a clear or a UV filter. The idea is that damaging a $15 filter is preferable to damaging a $500 lens! Other filters are fun to play with but only really actually necessary for professional photographers who require specific filtering effects. When should I use one? All the time if you're using a clear or UV for protecting the lens (you can leave it on without any problems), other filters are for specific conditions for example polarizers are most useful for reflections or landscape shots with a lot of sky. Any disadvantages? Not really but make sure you keep the filter clean as you would the lens otherwise you'll get smudges and spots on your photos. Also be careful not to screw them on too tightly or it can be very tricky to remove the filter when you want to!
Remote Controls: These come either as wireless or cable and range from $2 to $100. What do they do? They allow you to take a shot without touching the camera, cable remotes attach to the camera via a cable and require you to stand only as far away as the cable permits, wireless remotes vary in how far away you can be from the camera, some allowing 2 metres others over 100 metres. Some even work through walls! Who needs one? These are a useful and fairly cheap gadget so it's worth having one but they are only really required for people who do a lot of self-portraits, macro or long exposure photography. When should I use one? For self portraits or to avoid camera shake, for example when shooting at night. Any disadvantages? Nope! These are small, relatively inexpensive, and a handy addition to a camera bag.
Diopters: These can be full diopters of split diopters and range from $10 to $400. What do they do? Like filters they are a discs in a ring that fit on the end of a lens. Split diopters have the same ring but only a semi-circle of glass so that only half the camera's lens is covered. Diopters allow objects very close to the lens to brought into focus and therefore are very useful for macro photography. They come in different ratings from +1 to +4. Split diopters allow half the lens to focus on close objects while the other half focuses on the background allowing a greater depth of field. Who needs one? Anyone wanting to have a go at macro photography. When should I use one? Only when you want to do macro photography so you can't leave this attached to the lens all the time. Any disadvantages? Split diopters require a bit of practice with composition to use effectively.
If you want to try out filters or remote controls before buying one Lens Rentals.com have them available to rent for 7-30 days. Let us know what other photography equipment terms leave you furrowing your brow in confusion in the comments!