Lens hoods are one of the most important but often overlooked pieces of photography gear. A lens hood is a piece of plastic or metal that attaches to the front of your camera lens and helps protect it from scratches, debris, and other elements. But lens hoods offer more than just protection they can also help improve image quality. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using lens hoods to capture the best possible photos!
What is a Lens Hood For?
A lens hood is a shade that covers the front of your lens to protect it from stray light, which can cause flare and a washed-out low-contrast appearance. A lens hood protects the camera from light, resulting in a clear image without glare.
Lens flares may be beautiful and have interesting results in photographs, but they can also be distracting, especially if they end up covering your subject or the majority of your shot. A lens hood is necessary for great photos, such as headshots or school pictures.
It Filters Unwanted Light flare
The main goal of a hood is to act as a visor for your lens, thereby decreasing or blocking lens flare and reflection in your photographs. Flair and glare are forms of scattered light that strike your lens from an angle (outside the frame) and make it difficult to see, similar to stepping out in bright sunshine. This is more probable if you’re utilizing a low-quality filter or one that doesn’t have advanced anti-glare coatings.
A hood’s main goal is to minimize lens flare in a photo. If you’ve ever shot photos with strong lights, especially the sun, you’ve undoubtedly noticed lens flare before. Perhaps you’ve seen a J.J. Abrams film! When photographing the spaceship Enterprise, however, the lens flare may look excellent. It’s typically something you want to avoid in regular photography, though.
Unfortunately, flare is a big problem with sunscreens, since it may appear even when the light source is outside your shot. This is one of those issues that you wouldn’t notice in the field but discover on your computer after opening the image. That’s especially true if you’re using a low-quality filter, or if your lens features less advanced anti-glare coatings. Some lenses are more prone to flare than others.
Lens flares can be fascinating in photographs, but they may also be distracting, especially if they cover your subject or the bulk of your scene. Even when you intend to utilize a lens hood, too much flare may make your photo look amateurish, which is why many professional photographers avoid them in general by using a lens hood.
Lens hoods can add contrast to your photos
The addition of a lens hood can help reduce discoloration and flare, as well as enhance the contrast and color in a photograph.
This is why, in the majority of cases, I utilize lens hoods (once again, more on this below). They don’t harm your photograph quality if used correctly. This is true even when conditions aren’t ideal. Any stray sources of light that strike your front element may reduce contrast in an image.
Depending on the lens you’re using, these distinctions may become even more obvious. If you have older glasses or inferior coatings, it’s significantly important that you bring a lens hood with you. In the past, because I didn’t use one, I’ve taken several washed-out photographs. Don’t make the same mistake!
When flare and glare come into direct contact with your lens, they obstruct the view. They wash out your picture and, depending on their strength, may even cause discoloration.
You can block stray light from reaching the lens by using lens hoods, ensuring that it has a good view of a situation. You may try this at home, but keep in mind that you should use the same exposure settings in your side-by-side comparisons.
It Helps Protect the Lens
A lens hood also protects the front lens element, which is useful because a scratched or dented surface on the lens can affect its performance. Many photographers rely on camera filters or even a cap to protect the outer lens. Lens hoods, on the other hand, offer more comprehensive protection against damaging falls and snow particles because of their external placement and material.
Even if a lens hood can’t guarantee that your lens won’t be damaged when you drop it, there’s still a very good chance it will absorb the majority of the shock. Any shooter would prefer a cracked lens hood to a shattered front glass component. This is why many professionals advocate keeping it on even if you’re not concerned about unwanted light.
Types of Lens Hoods
The shape of a lens hood is quite modest. They are available in two different forms: a cylindrical shape and a petal form.
Cylindrical Lens Hoods
Cylindrical lens hoods are effective in minimizing stray light and protecting your lens. They’re frequently paired with a prime or telephoto lens. Despite the fact that they are sometimes lengthy, there’s little danger of the hood showing up in your photograph since the Field of Vision widens when you start using longer focal lengths. When not in use, rubber lens hoods with cylindrical profiles that flatten towards the bottom are available.
Petal Lens Hoods
Petal (or tulip) lens hoods are made to be shorter and have curved notches that block light while yet maximizing the frame size available from a wide-angle lens and full-frame camera sensors. It usually has four petals, but you must rotate them properly so they don’t appear in your photograph.
Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about what type or style of the lens hood to get. Because each lens has its own lens hood—each designed for use with the lens’ focal length range—you may simply inquire or investigate about the right shape of lens hood for your camera.
When to Use a Lens Hood
When you’re shooting outside in bright light, a lens hood is beneficial at all times of day and in most situations. However, if you must pick, keep them on when:
- Backlighting, for example, in a backlit portrait
- You’re pointing your camera at or near strong light sources.
- You have an off-camera flash or any other bright, off-camera light source that produces a lens flare.
- You’ll be shooting in low light, with street lamps, automobiles with their lights on, and buildings.
- You’re shooting a long scene and don’t have time to store or remove your lens cap.
The bottom line is that unless you need to save room in your camera bag or store your lens hoods elsewhere, you should keep your lens hood attached to your camera at all times.
When Not to Use Lens Hoods
Despite the fact that you should always use a lens hood, there are some exceptions. Here are two examples of when it would be appropriate to take it off:
You want a flare effect
Flares and glimmers can help you come up with more unique photographs. It’s actually quite comparable to the “filtered” effect that many people are attempting to achieve using photo editing software and applications. Shoot hood-less if this is what you’re after!
The lens hood shows in your photos
Even if you’re using a lens hood that’s designed for the lens you’re using, it’s still possible to photograph it in your shot. This is typically the case when you’ve got a full-frame camera with a lens that was designed for a smaller camera sensor. Lens hoods for wide-angle lenses will also appear at the widest focal length, creating a black vignette around your photo.
When you notice them obstructing the view of your frame, simply remove them. It’s only a few seconds long, anyhow.
You can’t attach a lens hood
There may be times when you need to use specific filters or attachments (such as a ring light) on your lens that don’t have the necessary screw mounting feature for a lens hood. If the attachment is crucial for obtaining the picture you’re aiming for, then just skip the hood. You may also use your free hand or a black card to block the light manually if necessary. You can also stand next to anything that might provide shade for your lens.
The lens hood blocks your built-in flash
When using the camera’s built-in flash, there’s a danger that the lens hood will cast a shadow on your subject. Simply remove the hood in this situation. Alternatively, use a detachable camera flash without placing it too near to your lens and hood.
You want to shoot more discreetly
When you’re utilizing extremely long lenses, lens hoods may draw a lot of unwanted attention. It might be counter-productive if you want to take candid photographs on the street, at an event, or at family gatherings. Better with smaller cameras and a prime lens – without lens hoods
The lens hood is catching in the wind
Finally, if you’re shooting in a windy location and your lens hood catches the wind, the camera may shake and produce blurry pictures. When using a telephoto lens (even on a tripod), don’t use a lens hood since the entire thing could fall out of balance.
Despite all that, there are a few circumstances when you may not want to use a lens hood for your photography or where you just can’t. The three most common situations are:
- A flare effect is what you’re looking for – that’s simple enough.
- Because the lens is designed for a smaller sensor, you may see part of the hood in your pictures.
- You’re using certain attachments or accessories on your lens, preventing you from attaching a hood.
- The lens hood is caught in the wind, causing your photographs to be out of focus.
To begin, it will seldom be the case, but there may occasionally be a situation when your objective is to capture flare in a photograph.
You may need to remove the lens hood from time to time in order not to capture it in a photo. This is generally the case with a lens designed for smaller-sensor cameras, such as the Nikon DX on an FX camera. However, at the widest focal lengths, a few lenses – like the Nikon 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye – will include part of the lens hood, and you’ll need to take it off in order to get a full view of the image.
When utilizing a lens accessory, such as a filter kit or ring light, to conceal your lens rather than attach a hood in the first place, this is more typical. If the accessory is important for the shot you want to make, feel free to use it; if you’re careful, your images will probably not be harmed by flare. In my opinion, the graduated neutral density filter kit I sometimes use for landscape photography does not allow for the usage of a lens hood. (There are some extra hoods available for filter kits like this, but they tend to be rather costly — $200 for the one from Lee Filters, for example.)
Camera Lens Hood Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to filter and use a lens hood at the same time?
In certain circumstances, you can use a UV filter with a lens hood at the same time; however, this is not always the case. Some lenses, such as the Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM, function with a UV filter while also having an aperture hatch through which you may change it.
The lens hood’s compatibility with the filter you use can also be a factor. If you’re using a circular filter, you’ll have a better chance of it fitting with the lens hood. However, if you use a clamp-style UV filter, you won’t be able to utilize a lens hood.
Why do you use a square lens hood?
For shooting with ultra-wide-angle lenses, the most popular lens hoods are those with a long, thin shape. These lens hoods are usually shorter than other ones and curve to block any light that a normal wide-angle lens might let in. To function properly, these hoods must be positioned at a specific angle and will prevent vignetting when used correctly.
Using a lens hood will prevent lens flares and undesirable light from reaching your photo, resulting in a more dynamic and colorful composition. Lens hoods can also help to protect your glass from scratches, rain, or dust caused by the elements.
How do you measure for a lens hood?
It should be something as simple as measuring a lens hood. The majority, but not all, lenses have a label at the end of the hood, such as “62mm.” This is the ring size of the lens you’re buying and will help you select your lens hood correctly.
However, it isn’t only the hood’s diameter that matters. You should also ensure that the length of the hood does not obstruct your photographs. Confirm that the hood you choose does not cause any unwanted vignetting and that it is impossible to view through it in your picture. Camera manufacturers usually give you information about what kind of lens hood you’ll need for your camera lens.
Can you use a lens hood with flash?
With a flash, you should generally avoid using a lens hood. The lens hood might obstruct your flash’s ability to properly expose the lower half of your image. Especially if you have a wide-angle or a particularly prominent lens hood. In certain situations, you may get away with it indoors, where the light from the flash can be bounced off the walls to provide an even exposure. However, when utilizing a lens hood and flash at the same time, it is usually best to avoid it.
Can I use any lens hood?
If the hood fits your lens’ thread size and matches, you can use it. You should ensure that the lens hood does not cause any unnecessary vignetting and does not intrude on the frame.
Circular lens hoods are a safe bet in any scenario, and they’re a photographer’s must-have. Petal lens hoods aren’t as obtrusive on your photograph and are most likely to be used with wide-angle lenses. The square lens hood is another excellent alternative for an ultra-wide lens. The longer the focal length, the longer the lens hood; so keep that in mind when choosing one.