Nothing is more frustrating than taking pictures under bright sunlight. Besides being unable to see the LCD clearly, you also risk getting lens flare in your images. This effect can produce unpleasant artifacts and reduce contrast in the scene, so we recommend using a lens hood.
A lens hood is a camera accessory that mounts on the front of your camera lens. The best time to use it is when shooting into the sun or with a bright light.
However, you can also use lens hoods in different situations. This article will answer the question “when to use a lens hood.” But first, we will cover the types and benefits of this camera accessory.
What Is a Camera Lens Hood?
A lens hood, also called a lens shade, is a photography accessory that attaches to the front of your camera lens. It is usually made with plastic or metal. It makes your camera look more professional, but it has other benefits besides its looks.
For one, a camera lens hood can reduce the amount of sun and any bright light source entering the lens from an angle. It only permits light coming in front of the lens to hit the sensor. As such, it can prevent lens flares (more on this topic later) and other unwanted effects from appearing on your image.
What Are the Types of Camera Lens Hoods? And Which One Is Best for You?
Camera lens hoods are available in different types. Each is suited for a particular lens type and photography need.
Petal Lens Hood
It is one of the two main categories of a lens hood.
A petal lens hood, also known as a tulip lens hood, features a curved design with cutouts. These shorter edges can prevent vignettes from appearing at the corners of the image.
The unique design of petal lens hoods makes them suitable for zoom lenses and wide-angle lenses.
Round Lens Hood
As its name suggests, a round lens hood has a circular shape without cut-away edges. It completely blocks stray light.
A round or cylindrical lens hood is designed for a prime lens. Since this lens type has a fixed focal length, the lens shade is built to the exact point where it won’t appear as a black corner in your image.
Rectangular Lens Hood
Besides petal and cylindrical lens hoods, rectangular lens shades are also available. These feature a rectangular shape to prevent vignetting at the corners of the photo. They are common in wide-angle and fisheye lenses.
Collapsible Lens Hood
This type of lens hood uses a rubber material that makes it easy to store and transport. It is ideal for photographers who often travel.
Why Should You Use a Lens Hood?
There are many reasons to use a lens hood. Below, we will share the top four benefits of a lens hood.
Minimize Lens Flare
A lens hood can reduce the amount of light that hits the image sensor. It minimizes the lens flare effect on your images.
Now, you may wonder, “what is lens flare?” It describes a series of bright spots or streaks of light on your image. The scattered brightness is a result of direct or indirect light sources entering the lens.
To understand how lens hood works, imagine spending outdoors on a sunny day. The harsh light can make your eyes squint. As an instinct, you put your hand up over your eyes to block the light.
The lens shade functions the same way to prevent lens flares. It can ultimately limit the light entering from different angles on your lens.
Add Contrast to the Image
Besides preventing lens flare, a lens hood can also increase the contrast in the scene. It is one of the reasons why we always use a lens shade when shooting outdoors.
Stray light can wash out all the detail and contrast within a scene. As a result, the colors become faded and muted.
The lens hood blocks stray light from entering the sensor. It can bring more contrast and clarity to the photo, which also increases the overall image quality.
Prevent Lens Damage
Camera lenses can be expensive. Some high-end models can set you back thousands of dollars.
Use a lens hood to prevent accidental lens damage and protect your investment. It can keep the front glass element of your lens safe. This part is susceptible to scratches, especially when you often sling the camera over your shoulder.
If there is any damage to this front glass element, it can affect the image quality.
Protect the Lens from Different Elements
While some lenses are weather-sealed, you can add an extra layer of protection to be safe.
Use a lens hood to protect your lens from harsh outdoor elements. This camera accessory can prevent rain, snow, and dust from damaging the front part of your lens. It can also reduce the appearance of smudges from our fingertips on the front glass.
When Should You Use a Lens Hood?
After learning about the benefits of lens hoods, you might feel tempted to buy one for your camera. But when exactly should you use a lens shade?
Here are the different scenarios for using a lens hood.
In Very Bright Environments
Lighting is important in photography—it can make or break your images. However, too many light sources can ruin the photo and result in lens flare. We already told you what is lens flare above. To reiterate, it is scattered light that can prevent you from seeing all the details within a picture.
Lens hoods stop light from scattering and hitting the sensor from different angles. They eliminate the need to fix light issues during photo editing. These camera accessories also let you achieve higher-quality images.
When You Want High Contrast Images
Shooting into the sun or any bright light, like car headlights, can result in low-contrast images. They lack detail and color, which usually makes a photo look interesting.
Fortunately, keeping the lens hood on can prevent you from losing contrast and clarity. You can achieve high-contrast images without making drastic edits during post-production.
In Rough and Rugged Locations
Having a lens hood or shade is also recommended if you often travel and shoot in rough environments. Think of rocky terrains, small caves, and hard floors indoors. You are likely to drop your camera or bump the lens in these locations.
A lens hood can provide protection, albeit small, against these various scenarios.
When Not to Use a Lens Hood?
While lens hoods offer many benefits, they are unnecessary for certain situations.
Below are the instances when you should not use a lens hood.
On an Overcast Day
A lens hood can reduce the amount of light entering the lens. So if you use it on an overcast or cloudy day, you risk getting an underexposed image.
Take the lens shade off when taking photos in overcast weather. But keep it in your camera bag if the outdoor conditions eventually change.
In Windy Weather
Camera lens hoods act as sails in windy conditions. They can increase the risk of camera shaking and blurry shots.
Removing the lens hood is best when shooting outside in windy weather. You might also want to increase your shutter speed to prevent image blur.
When Using Other Camera Lens Accessories
Sometimes, having other camera accessories, such as a ring light or a filter kit, prevents you from using a lens hood.
If you really need to use the lens hood with other lens attachments, check if it fits the front glass element. Otherwise, take it off when you want to use different accessories.
When You Want Lens Flare
While others find lens flare unsightly, some photographers like the unique effect it brings to the photo. Think about golden hour, when the sunset’s rays are not that bright in the image.
Remove the lens hood if you want to try lens flare photography.
How To Choose the Best Lens Hood?
Before buying a lens hood, you must ensure it fits the front glass element. Determine the filter thread of your lens. The most common sizes include 52mm, 72mm, 77mm, and 82mm. The hood must match the filter thread size of your lens. If not, the hood cannot lock in place.
You must also consider the type of lens you have when choosing lens hoods. As previously mentioned, some lens hoods are suitable for specific lenses. Make sure they do not produce a vignette effect on your photos.
How to Use a Camera Lens Hood?
Using a camera lens hood is relatively easy.
First, find the indication markings on the lens shade and lens barrel. It teaches you where to align the accessory on the lens.
Next, attach the lens hood to the front of your camera lens.
Then, rotate the hood until you hear a clicking sound or if it cannot go any further. That is it—you have successfully connected the lens hood.
Note that some lens hoods come with screws and other locking mechanisms. Refer to the user manual on how to use it properly.
Finally, try moving the hood to ensure it is secure. If it falls, that means you did not mount it properly. Check if it is locked before you take photos with your camera.
A lens hood is a camera accessory that attaches to the front glass element of your lens. It offers several benefits, such as increased contrast and reduced lens flare on your images.
The best time to use a lens hood is when shooting under bright sunlight. It reduces the amount of light entering the lens. Other situations where a lens shade is beneficial are rough environments and scenes that require high contrast.
Do you have more questions about camera lens hoods? Visit our contact page to send your queries.