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Creative Camera Filters
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Creative Camera Filters

If you've done any digital-image editing, you know that there is an endless number of creative effects that can be applied to images during processing, like changing the colors of an image or applying effects to make the photo look like a watercolor painting. Some photographers, however, still prefer to apply creative effects in-camera during the actual shooting. If you don't do your own image editing, then in-camera filtering is a good way to add creative twists to your digital images. Here are some of the more common lens filters used for creative effect:

Soft-focus or diffusion filters give a misty quality to images and can impart a romantic mood to scenes and flower close-ups. They're also good for portraits; they soften wrinkles and skin blemishes, so your vainer travel companions will think you're a brilliant photographer. These filters come in various levels of intensity, but stick with milder ones. Diffusion filters work best at wide apertures; too small an f/stop increases depth of field and defeats the softening effect.

Colored filters come in almost every color you can imagine (and some you can't). Think of the fun of turning the canals of Venice tangerine or capturing a friend's face in a lovely shade of magenta. Colored filters are interesting to play with but have little useful value.

Split-field-density filters have a graduated area of color (or density) across the surface of the filter. Neutral filters are good for holding back bright areas of sky so you can expose properly for a darker foreground; they typically come in one-, two-, and three-stop densities. Colored graduates do the same thing but add a tinge of color to the sky—you often see this effect in magazine advertisements. The best split-field filters are rectangular ones that slip into a lens-mounted frame so you can position the area of density.

Star filters create pretty patterns from point-light sources, such as light bulbs, candles, or sparkles on water. Typically they come in four-, six-, and eight-point configurations.

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