Let's talk about filters - What do I use and why
Why I do use filters instead of Photoshop
I found filters to be one of the fundamental tools for my photography.
I know, I know. Using filters today is no longer needed as it was in the past. You can recreate the effect of long exposures and graduated ND filters in Photoshop, without spending a penny. So why do I use filters instead of Photoshop?
It may sound cheesy, but I really love the process of taking pictures using filters.
It’s a slow and methodical process, almost hand crafted. You need to take your time to find the right composition, the right filters, and, most important, the right moment. It does not happen often; however, when all these things come together, a perfect picture comes to life, a single image, only made possible by you being there, at that exact moment, with your filters and your camera, ready to shoot.
And yes, there might be occasions when you have to use Photoshop (in a photo where the horizon isn't straight, for example, where a graduated filter may not work properly) and others when, instead, you might need to use a filter (like a polarizer, to cut some reflections from the water).
Most of the times, anyway, it will be just a personal choice, that only depends on what you like and enjoy the most. As far as I'm concerned, I will always choose to use filters, whenever is possible.
I love the feeling of instant gratification when seeing a picture I just created in camera. I love being able to immediately check if everything is as I want it to be. And I even love the simple feeling of sliding the filters in, release the shutter and wait for the image to happen.
So yes, it’s true, Photoshop might give a similar look to my pictures, but it could never give me those feelings that, in the end, are the reason why I chose to be a photographer.
Why is important to use quality filters
So, once you decided you want to use them, is it important to invest in quality filters? I would definitively say yes.
If even the most expensive filter affects (just a little, fortunately) the quality of your images, imagine what a cheap filter might do to them.
You can’t do much about it. To have the best image quality you have to use the best filters.
Lee Filters are my filters of choice. They are reliable, easy to use, and I believe them to have the best overall quality. But there is even more.
I found myself being truly inspired by using them. Lee Filters is an historic brand, used everyday by thousands of photographers, helping them to create iconic and memorable pictures. Using such an inspiring brand really helps me pushing my boundaries and, then, creating better pictures.
LEE Little Stopper: The Little Stopper is an ND filter that blocks 6 stops of light. It could be my least used filter, but is essential for long exposures during that times of the day when the available light is already low, like sunrises and sunsets. It also comes in handy in full daylight, when you don't need an extremely long exposure time.
LEE Big Stopper: The Big Stopper is probably my favorite filter and, for sure, the one I use the most. It blocks 10 stops of light, allowing me to shoot exposures of several seconds, or minutes, even in the middle of the day. It's worth noting that, both the Little and Big Stopper, often add a blue color cast to the images. A really easy thing to fix in post, but I have to admit I kind of like it.
LEE Super Stopper: The Lee Super Stopper blocks 15 stops of light. It is absolutely essential for shooting very long exposures even at midday. The image quality is higher than it would be combining the Little and the Super Stopper and it will also take just one slot on your filter holher.
LEE 0.6 ND Soft Grad: Probably my second most used filter. It blocks 2 stops of light on a portion of the frame. I use it not only to darken the sky but also, mostly, to draw the viewer’s attention to a specific part of the image.
LEE 0.6 ND Hard Grad: Useful with longer focal lenghts and straight horizons.
LEE 0.9 ND Hard Grad: Particularly useful to balance the exposure of the sky and the foreground in seascapes or in compositions with a straight horizon.