Tip #57: Use a Lens Hood

Macro Study - Saguaro National Park, AZ
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 100mm f2.8L IS
I’ll credit this tip to one of the most talented nature photographers and photo educators, John Shaw. Don’t buy a protective filter, buy the correct lens shade for of your lens. I do not own a single protective filter. In fact, I only own two filters ...a variable neutral density filter and a polarizer. These filters allow me to do things that the lens and camera can not do alone.

Chollo Sunset (Opuntia fulgida) - Saguaro National Park, AZ
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss 35mm f2.0 ZE @ f11
Lenses are designed by the manufacturer to a tight tolerance with a specific number of glass elements cemented in groups. This design is intended to optimize sharpness and contrast while minimizing distortion, aberrations, vignetting, and flare. The addition of a filter was not part of the original design and can ultimately reduce the overall image quality.
Desert Lupine (Lupinus arizonicus) - Saguaro National Park, AZ
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 100mm f2.8L IS
As a nature photographer who shoots in damp and dusty locations, I recognize the importance of protecting my expensive optics. Yet rather than use a filter, I use a lens hood. These plastic tubes that attach to the barrel of my lenses do more to protect and enhance my images than any UV filter could dream of doing.  In addition to deflecting abrasions from routine bumps and bruises, a proper lens hood blocks extraneous light and reduces flare. By controlling how the light strikes the front optical element, I am able to increase contrast and detail while preventing ghosts and hotspots from creeping onto my pictures.

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