Lens Filters for Night Photography

Night sky in a jar
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Night photography refers to capturing images outdoors at night, after dusk, and before dawn. It can be landscape, cityscape, sky photography, and many more, but all the shooting takes place under the night sky.

Nowadays, normally all digital cameras have night photography mode, auto-sets camera setting on a long shutter speed, and high ISO.

Night photography is art pursued by people curious to explore. It can be a challenging activity, not only for beginners but professionals as well.

Besides skills, the right choice of photography gadgets and night photography filters <- Affiliate Link 🙂 are equally important to get the optimum results. Night photography is a whole world on its own – a world that cannot be explored under the daylight sky.

Your odds of capturing a great night photograph will be improved if you take out some time and invest some effort in choosing the best night photography accessories.

Among all other accessories for night photography, lens filters especially come in handy. These filters aren’t costly, but they can create special artistic effects in your footages which built-in filters in digital cameras cannot.

Lens filters also provide additional protection to the lens, minimize glare, reduce unnecessary reflections, and enhance the image’s final look without changing manual settings. This article will talk about night photography’s different night filters and which filter works best in different types of situations.

Long exposure in the night

Filters for Night Photography:

Is it a Good Idea to use Lens Filters for Night Photography?

About using night filters for night photography, you might come across different contrasting opinions about using lens filters at night. Usually, you might hear that you should remove all filters while shooting at night.

The reasoning behind this is that filters on the lens cut some of the light reaching your camera sensor, thus making you need longer exposure time.

It is true that lens filters interfere with the amount of light reaching the sensor, but isn’t it its purpose? Any manual setting or built-in effect cannot achieve the effects and creativity in the footage added by night photography lens filters. As a photography enthusiast, you must-have lens filters in your photography kit.

Different types of lens filters:

The main reason for using a lens filter for night photography is the light pollution caused by artificial lights. To avoid the main problem, photographers now have the option of using lens filters. These glass filters suppress the emissions generated by the artificial lights.

The light pollution filters reduce the yellowish and greenish colors or flares caused by the city lights and give your image more clarity and natural colors.

urora Borealis in winter mountains landscape

Following are the lens filter for night photography:

Neutral Density Filters

ND filters are usually associated with daylight photography or as a tool to overcome overexposure. But Neutral Density filters can be useful for night photography, like convenience while shooting in the bright light.

If your digital camera has a wide-aperture lens, ND filters are the best for it; these filters allow shooting with wide-aperture lenses without overexposing.

It also allows nighttime shooting in long-duration shutter speeds without having to stop down your lens to minimum aperture settings.

Usually, photographers think that there is a less amount of light in the surroundings as in night photography. This means they can shoot at low shutter speed.

But in certainty, this isn’t the case. In night photography, longer exposures are required, more than the amount of light in the surroundings allows. In such shooting conditions, Night Density Filters of different intensities and effects can help achieve the desired results.

Adding Neutral Density filters to your photography kit is a worthy investment to uplift your night and day photography.

Didymium filter

The didymium filter, also known as ‘red intensifier,’ is used to make the red color more prominent in the pictures while keeping the white balance unchanged. For night photography, the didymium filter is known as a “poor man light pollution filter.” This is because it helps in mitigating the effects of light pollution.

Didymium filter is a good option for capturing moon shots at sunset or sunrise. It provides good color and enhances the photo contrast. Didymium filter also enhances the red nebulas if you are capturing deep sky images with long exposures.

Using this filter accurately, even the night light images can be made pretty vibrant, especially if you want to give your images a muddy tone.

We highly suggest using this filter to shoot under the sodium street light (gas discharge lamp with yellowish light and wavelength near 589 nanometres). It absorbs part of the light pollution and unwanted color casting caused by sodium street lights.

Long exposure with night traffic

Light Pollution Filters

If you visit mountainous regions, countryside, or someplace very less populated, did you ever feel like that sky is clearer than the urban areas? The more artificial lights in an environment, the more the lack of clarity.

This lack of clarity in the night environment because of artificial lights is referred to as Light Pollution. There is no way to eliminate light pollution, but Light Pollution Reduction Filters can reduce it to an extent.

These filters are specially designed to remove all unwanted light in the surrounding emitted by streetlights and other artificial light sources. As a result, images have more accurate colors than what you can see with the naked eye. There are 4 common types of light pollution filters:

  • Broadband Light pollution filters
  • Narrowband light pollution filters
  • Oxygen III filters
  • Hydrogen beta filters

Narrowband filters collect data in one wavelength of light, which automatically eliminates all unnecessary light pollution. These filters are a little aggressive in blocking light; if not used properly, it can dim results in your footages.

On the other hand, instead of blocking lights, broadband filters moderate light pollution by balancing the wanted and unwanted light. These filters allow almost all sorts of light to pass through them and work best for the objects with a visible light spectrum.

Hydrogen-alpha and beta filters

These filters are also associated with astronomical imaging, such as capturing celestial events, astronomical objects, et cetera.

One of the main components of astrophotography is capturing the night sky, stars, et cetera. If you are into this category of night photography, Hydrogen Alpha and Hydrogen-Beta are highly recommended.

Basically, these filters work by taking into account different wavelengths. We all know that the sun (a star) emits several wavelengths from which we can only see the visible one.

The same is the case with all other stars. In astrophotography, Ha-A and Ha-B filters allow us to see those wavelengths and patterns of the stars and other objects in the sky that we cannot explore with the naked eye.

Unlike other night filters, these filters allow capturing the most natural images possible of the light-polluted sky. You can also capture the moon perfectly in any phase, stars sharper, and add artistic details to the sky’s existing colors.

Close up with the moon

The H-alpha filter wavelength is typically 0.7Å (0.07 nm), which can be reduced to 0.5Å to enhance the contrast in details. It comes in three varieties:

  1. Cut-off filter. As the name shows, the cut-off filters cuts off the lights below the wavelength of 656.3mm and pass 90 percent of the light above this wavelength. The cut-off filter is good to use under light-polluted skies with hydrogen-alpha emission nebula.
  2. Wide, narrowband filter. This one is used to pass the wavelengths in a narrow band. The wide narrowband improves the contrast in the images. The wide, narrow band is recommended to be used with CCD cameras.
  3. Very narrow-band filter. These are used for solar work and are used with an energy rejection pre-filter.

The hydrogen beta is used in improving the contrast of the image and detail the light emission source. Many hydrogen beta filters are for visual observing only. These do not include the UV/IR blocking characteristic, so they are perfect for night photography.

Bonus Tip: For best results, consider H-Alpha filters with short focal lengths.

Fog filter

Fog filter is another option for night photography. It has more to do with adding creative and special effects in images than removing light pollution or enhancing it.

It is used for landscape photography to give it a foggy look. The main usage of this filter is on the stars and to shoot a landscape. The fog filter can make the stars more significant without defocusing them. It is a nice choice for constellation photos.

Milky way

This filter also helps the star not losing its color. It is a great tool to avoid saturation and capture the real colors of the stars. A good example of a fog filter is the Tiffen Double Fog filter.

These filters are the easiest to use compared to all other filters mentioned in this article. Want a fog effect? Use a fog filter. Simple is that.

Star filter

It is a simple yet artistic filter. It is called the star filter because it produces diffraction spikes on light sources. It can be used to make stars prominent. You can choose the variations of spikes from 4, 6, 8, and more.

A trick to use the star filter is to capture two shots, one with and the other without the filter. Combine both the shots using the stars from the filtered shot. This will make the rest of the background unaffected by the filter.

Night Sky Filter

The night sky filter from breakthrough photography has a high level of quality. With its high-end materials, heavy-duty construction, and upper-tier performance, the pictures’ quality remains high and impressive.

The work of the night sky filter is clearly visible in a reduction in haze and light pollution. The histogram shows that the results of the night sky filter not only work but work well.

If you are looking for a lens filter that can add a little punch to your night photography work or astrophotography, this is the best option.

Night photography with mountains and clear sky

Polarizing Filters

Polarizing filters are the most common type of filters used to enhance the contrast or lessen the unwanted glares/reflections and increase the color saturation.

It reduces the amount of light striking the lens sensor, visible in the end-results. But these polarizers can be of great use to add artistic touch and special effects in your footages, occasionally.

Conclusion

The best filters to intensify your night photography have been mentioned above. These lens filters allow selected wavelengths of light to pass or block, add creative effects, and block the night light pollution in the shooting environment.

Filters are used to improve the final result of your image by enhancing the details and contrast. The filters also help in sharpening the colors in the images.

Along with light pollution filters, there are color filters as well to improve your image. The color filters are best for capturing planets and deep-sky objects in the night sky.

The broadband filters reduce the light pollution caused by your image by the city lights. There are several other filters, too, depending upon your photography needs. To make your photography stand out<- Affiliate Link 🙂  and get the best results, we recommend trying the filters mentioned.

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