Reducing lens flare and protecting your lens are two very important considerations in photography. A lens hood can accomplish both of these things, while at the same time improving your image quality.
What is a lens hood?
It’s that long, black, plastic piece that attaches to the end of the lens. When your lens hood is not in use, you’re usually able to attach it to your lens backward. This makes it easier to store and takes up less space.
There are two different types of lens hoods: round lens hoods and petal lens hoods. It’s easy to recognize the difference. A petal lens hood has a cut-out shape. A round lens hood is completely enclosed.
A round lens hood is usually used with a prime lens (one that does not zoom, but instead is a fixed length). A petal lens hood is commonly used with zoom lenses. These oddly shaped hoods are designed so that they do not appear in the corners of the frame. You are able to zoom in and out with your lens and still reap the benefits of the hood, without ruining your photos.
What does a lens hood do?
The purpose of a lens hood is to reduce glare and lens flare created by the sun. Lens flare can show up as colorful streaks, spots or haze from light reflecting into your shot. A lens hood extends out past your lens, in order to block reflections and flare caused by the light source.
Without a lens hood and especially in the middle of the day, bright sunlight can reduce contrast and color in your shots. Although it’s definitely possible to produce stunning images without a lens hood, using one can significantly increase the contrast and color saturation in your photos.
Another side benefit of using a lens hood is that your lens receives extra protection. The glass on your lens is set back from the lens hood, meaning it’s less likely to get bumped or scratched.
When should you use a lens hood?
If you are photographing the sun itself, it’s unlikely that a lens hood will help you. Otherwise, a lens hood should be used whenever possible for outdoor photography. With that being said, don’t panic if you forget to bring your lens hood on a shoot. You can simply use your hand or another object to block the flare from the light source, or take photos without a lens hood that day.
However, keep in mind that there are some lenses that don’t need a lens hood, since the plastic on the lens already extends out past the glass.
Where can you get a lens hood?
In some cases, you may receive one when you buy a new lens. Before you go and purchase your own, check to make sure that one didn’t come with your lens. If not, lens hoods are available at most of the major camera supply stores, or at some online retailers. They typically cost around $20 or $30, and are absolutely worth it.
Have you tried using a lens hood? Leave a comment below to share your experience.