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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
One of the great things about doing these Lynda courses is the feedback that I get from you guys. You send in really good questions and you often catch me on things that are worth explaining. And one of those things I got a lot of questions about after the Desert Road Trip Course was the lens shade. You saw that I had a lens shade on my camera and wasn't ever really using it. I always had it turned this way instead of actually on my lens this way. So I want to talk about that. I want to talk about what a lens shade is for and why I have a completely irrational fear of them.
So, a lens shade is here to prevent lens flare. Now, you probably have an idea of lens flare. Lens flare are those circles of contrast or brightness or just changing light that can come across your frame when you are pointed into the sun. Lens flares are caused by light reflecting around inside the lens in a way that the lens is not meant optically to handle. So, if I'm looking towards the sun, you should be able to see the an actual glare coming across the front of my lens. What that appears like, in camera, can be those circles.
But, the really treacherous thing about lens flares, it's not always a visible artifact like that. Sometimes it's just a big washing out of the image. Your blacks will go really weak, and so you'll lose contrast overall. That can affect color saturation, and can certainly give you an image with less pop. So, the danger of lens flare is that you don't always know it's there and so you don't always know to try to take action. That's where a lens shade can really help you. If you were using the shade that, that is designed specifically for your lens. And see, this one has these cut-outs.
This is a Canon 24 to 105. So, that means that the engineers have figured out for a typical situation, this should be blocking the angles of light that would cause flare. So, why don't I use this all time? Why don't I always leave this on my lens? Couple of reasons. First of all, if I'm just carrying this like this I, there's no spot in my bag for it, and if I'm carrying it like this, my lens is bulkier. A lot of times, particularly when I'm doing landscape work, I'm trying to really travel light and compact.
And I just find that my lens shades gets in, get in the way. What's more, if I know that I'm shooting into a situation where there's flare, I have a built-in lens shade in the form of my hand. I can actually do this, and in some courses you may have seen me doing this to try and stop flare. So, I often feel like, well I don't need the shade, I've got my hand. I also have enough experience to know when I'm potentially in a risky lens flare potentiality. So, I'm, I'm often on the lookout for them, and so I'm pretty good at about getting my hand in place.
This is always much worse when the sun is down low. A lot of the times I'll even just give up on a shot if the sun is very low on the horizon. Doesn't matter where your hand is or what kind of lens shade you have, you're going to get flare. The risk of a lens shade is that it's possible that it will cause vignetting in your image. Vignetting, a darkening of the corners. I had some bad experiences in my youth with lens shades causing vignetting and it scarred me. It's left me paranoid about lens shades. That's why you saw me with it turned around the whole time during the desert landscape, of course. A lot of times I knew that it was on backwards and I didn't care, because I was facing this way.
I knew that I was not in a risky lens flare problem, because the sun was behind me. When I'm shooting this way, there's no reason to have this on there at all, and so in my opinion, why risk the vignetting? I just take it off and turn it around. Now, as I said, these were problems that I had a long time ago. I shoot with higher quality lenses now, so I could probably lose this, this prejudice against lens shades. it's a good idea though, for you to find out for yourself, about your own lenses. So, if you're wondering, especially if you do a lot of outdoor landscape shooting. If you're wondering about whether your lens shade should be left on and off Take your lenses out, go to when the sun is low, not right on the horizon, maybe a little lower than it is now, late afternoon.
And shoot some images, and you don't even have to take the pictures if you don't want. But shoot some images towards the sun. And try them at different focal lengths and different apertures. Shoot wide open, shoot at F16, shoot at about eight and 11, eight or 11. Because the tendency to vignette is going to change at different focal lengths and different apertures. And that's what you're looking for. You want to find out if your lens shade, on your particular lens, causes vignetting at any focal lengths or apertures that you might have. If it does, then you know that, well maybe you want to be careful using that shade.
If it doesn't, then by all means put it on your camera and leave it there and you'll have full protection from lens flare. This is something, that actually I need to go do with my lenses, to see if I can get over this kind of PTSD that I have about lens shades, and vignetting.
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