Definition: Filters; (non-photographic and Photographic Filters)

Definition: Filters (photographic filters) | Glossary entry

About non-photographic and Photographic Filters

Filters in general

While filters are used in photography they are also used elsewhere. The general use of the term is for a thing that modifies something else. Light, water and other things can be filtered. This article clarifies the use of the term in general photography and with respect to light.

In photography, filters are light modifiers. In general, they act in one of two ways. They can be:

  1. In front of the camera lens filters are used to modify/colour the light entering the camera (photographic filters).
  2. In front of a light source filters modify or colour the light projected onto the scene (non-photographic filters).
Photographic Filters

These are used in front of a photographic lens. Photographic filters are items of equipment specifically used to modify the light entering the lens. The filtering medium can be made of a variety of materials. They are normally translucent. They can be transparent. They may be coloured.

Photographic filters can act to:

  1. Modify the light in specific ways creating effects (e.g. diffusion; softening; creating star bursts; colour the light; etc.);
  2. Change the quality of the light (e.g. change the polarity of the light; lower light levels).
Non-photographic filters

There are two types of equipment placed in front of a light with a filtration effect:

  1. Gels: They filter particular wavelengths of light out of the light beam. This leaves the colour of the light changed.
  2. Lenses: A glass or other material used to modify the light, focus it or change its quality.

Both of these types of equipment filter light. However, such equipment is not referred to as photographic filters.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
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