This photography article covers how you can add mood to your photos through the use of lens filters such as polarizers, neutral density and other creative filters.

Digital technology has changed the world. It’s changed the way we communicate, the way that we listen to music, and even changed the rules of photography. Nowadays, most of the pictures that you see on social media were taken with a smartphone. And plenty of those photos are altered with a digital filter.

For many, the use of lens filters may seem archaic considering the modern ability to edit photos with programs like Photoshop. Why would you devote much more time in the field working on a shot that can be replicated in post-production?

Well, that’s the thing. Filters can create effects and provide details that cannot be replicated at all in post.

With the right lens and a working knowledge of photography, you can create a mood unrivaled by digital filters. But what filters should you use? Here are a couple of filters that work well in many different environments and can add personality to your photography.

Polarizing Filters

Polarizers have several different impacts on a photograph. Firstly, a polarizing filter is going to block some light, which means that you’ll need to work with a slower shutter speed to compensate.

But that’s a small sacrifice to pay for what polarizers provide. The biggest thing that polarizers do is that they eliminate glare. Whether it’s water, plants, or simply a shiny surface, a polarizing filter can eliminate that glare which is essentially a form of overexposure.

With post-production filters, there’s no way to replicate this advantage.

They’re well known for creating breathtaking outdoor photography. Skies take on an intense blue and you can eliminate the glare on leaves and water – going so far as to even see into the water. Polarizers also increase contrast and helps colors to pop, so it’s an ideal filter choice on sunny days.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

If you’ve ever tried to photograph landscapes, you have probably run into the problem that the sky presents – it usually doesn’t photograph well.

The issue is in the lighting; the sky is usually much brighter than the landscapes underneath. As you calibrate your camera to handle the land, the sky gets blown out. If you compensate the opposite way, the details in the landscape are lost entirely.

A graduated neutral density filter helps to solve that by darkening the top of your image. By doing so, cloudy days will have detail instead of being a gray mass and sunny skies will pop with color. Replicating this in Photoshop or digital filters is difficult because the original photo is lacking detail.

Neutral density filters also allow you to shoot with a wider aperture. This creates those cool photos where the background becomes blurred. You can also shoot photos with a longer shutter speed without overexposing the shot. Neutral density filters allow you to play with aperture settings and get creative. And that’s the ultimate key to compelling photography: getting creative.

Creative Lens Filters

There are plenty more filters – intensifiers (which increase color saturation), star filters (which create a shiny, star-like halo around light sources), and even warming and cooling filters like the ones available in post-production. Lens filters provide a savvy photographer with the tools to go into a session with a mood in mind and to hit their mark before they ever snap a single photo.

Alex Briggs is a contributing author for Madison Hope Photography.