This is a follow up post from yesterday’s post. After I wrote that post, I began thinking about protecting camera lenses and about lens hoods in general. As I mentioned in my previous post, the consensus is to use a lens hood to help avoid bumping the actual camera lens into things when you’re in the studio, field or where ever you take your photos. Personally, I probably do the most damage to my camera and lens while taking them out of the bag and replacing them later on. I fumble a lot and things get bumped around. Lens hoods are perfect for this type of thing. They help avoid smudges, scratches and breakage. For the few dollars they cost, they’re definitely worth it.
In today’s post, I primarily want to talk about light and how lens hoods can help with that light. There are a few key topics I’d like to address, but I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible.
What Is a Lens Hood?
I’m sure you’ve seen them. Lens hoods are plastic rings that attach to the end of a camera lens. I’ve had hoods that you need to push, twist and turn to attach to the lens and I’ve had hoods that you need to screw on. I think I like the screw on ones more. They’re elegant and they’re easy to deal with.
In general, lens hoods come in two different styles. For fixed (prime) lenses, they’re generally round and they look like tubes. Some have felt coating the inside to stop as much ambient light as possible. For zoom lenses, hoods are shaped like a flower. They’re sometimes called “tulip” lens hoods. By the way, hoods are also called light shields. There are multiple names for many pieces of equipment in photography.
What’s the Primary Purpose of a Lens Hood?
There is one primary purpose of a lens hood. That’s to block light that’s coming from funky angles and making its way into your camera. This light is unpredictable and can cause all sorts of problems. The light can cause flares, can lower the contrast of the resulting photo and can cause ghosting. Attaching and using a lens hood can block that light. It’s sort of like lowering the visor in your car on a sunny day. Without that visor, you can hardly see anything through the windshield. With the visor in place, all of the sudden things become clear again.
Don’t concern yourself with cutting out light that’s coming from the sides of your camera. You don’t need it. Cameras get all the light they need from right in front of them. Which brings up my next point. While light shields can stop unwanted light from coming in through the side angles of the lens, they can’t stop if from coming in from straight ahead. If you’re shooting into the sun, like I love to do, you’re most likely going to get those flares and ghosting in all their glory. Shields are great for when you’re not shooing into the light.
Lens Hoods Are Great at Night
I clearly remember my favorite photo shoot of all time. I was photographing the East Haddam Bridge in Connecticut from the Eagle Landing State Park. The bridge was lit up wonderfully and I was taking terrific shots of the Gelston House, across the Connecticut River. Things were working out great, until I noticed that the illumination from a nearby streetlight was washing out many of my photos. Once I attached my trusted lens hood, much of that ambient light disappeared from my shots. Again, well worth the few dollars it cost to purchase that hood.
Lens Hood Protect Your Lens
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but I do want to mention on thing. If you don’t believe me when I say that lens hoods protect lenses, go ahead and attach one to the end of your lens for a year and use your camera as you normally would. At the end of the year, take a good look at that hood. Take notice of any scratches and gouges. I’m sure you’ll see them. Then, imagine how many times the glass on your lens wasn’t struck or scratched. I think that’ll make a believer out of you. If you’d like to read more about how to protect a lens in general, you can click through and read my previous post.
I hope I clearly explained some of the more general reasons why photographers use lens hoods, light shields or whatever you want to call them. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment section below or in the photography discussion board. Thanks for reading!