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How UV-Filters may Damage Your Photographs

Often UV-Filters and similar (Sky, 1A, KR1, etc) are used for pure protection purposes only. Whether a filter is capable of protecting a lens at all is questionable and heavily discussed in the web. This article, however, focusses on the cost of this questionable protection - the damage that filters can do to your actual photography.

This kind of arrebation is always there when you use an UV filter for whatever purpose, although it is significant and clearly visible on night shots and other situations with very high contrasts. While collecting these example photographs I got a studio photography with two women in front of an illuminated white background. The girl's silhouette was visible in each other's faces caused by the same phenomenon that I am presenting here. Unfortunately one of these ladies did not agree to publishing the photograph in this context. That I have to respect.

For a start I show you the effects that Axel observed when he photographed some firework with a filter as protection.

Feuerwerk mit Spiegelungen der Feuerwerkskörper am Himmel

Willy Brüchle's comparison of the same night shot with and without his filter is nearly a classic in the German forums.

Nachtaufnahme einer Industrieanlage am Rhein - Gegenüberstellung mit und ohne UV-Filter

It was kinda difficult when Clara Hase asked in the German forum of fotocommunity how these mysterious lights could come from some firework. Well, it was not the firework causing them.

Störende Lichter im Himmel beim Feuerwerk

It git a bit more obvious when we asked her to show the full frame.

Feuerwerk Gesamtbild

Just for demonstration purposes I turn the picture into its inverse. The lights are dark here and can clearly be seen and matched.

Negativ des Feuerwerksfotos

Mirrorings caused by filters are often mirrored symmetrical along the optical axis - the centre of the image. When you now link the mirrorings with their corresponding lights causing them then the lines will cross each other in the centre of the image.

Lichter und ihre Spiegelungen mit Linien verbunden 

Contrast and Brilliance

I did not even mention the impact of a filter on brilliance and contrast of the image for normal photographs. The reason for that may well be that people do not notice it because it is not that obvious and easily fixed in the age of digital post processing. And of course I don't have any of those examples myself because I do not use protection filters myself. Well, it is about time to produce some with- and without-example.

Other Filters

This topic is often discussed in the context of UV filters, but it must not be overlooked that the problem can occur with every filter. Every filter adds a pane of glass to the optical system that may have these unwanted effects.

The following image of the Yeldize in Dresden from Marcel Hermann shows exactly this effect. Marcel aimed to turn the lights into stars and therefore added some star effects filter but the filter did not just add the star shape but caused unwanted reflections too.

Yendize in Dresden bei Nacht mit Spiegelungen
 
Camera
DYNAX 5D
Focal Length
160mm
Aperture
f/7.1
Exposure
15s
ISO
100
 
Camera
DYNAX 5D
Focal Length
160mm
Aperture
f/7.1
Exposure
15s
ISO
100

Conclusion

If you really want to protect your lens with a filter instead of the lens hood and lens cap (the devices made for protection) then feel free doing so, but don't complain with me about the consequences.