You may have purchased a new lens and it came with this goofy looking plastic ring. You look at it and ask yourself do I really need this thing? This ring is to prevent unwanted light from reaching the lens when the ring is attached. This ring is a lens hood.
Importance of a lens hood
Reduce lens flare
Pictures, taken with a camera that has a lens hood, have richer colors and deeper saturation. This is because the lens hood blocks light that is not needed from hitting the lens element from the sides. Without a lens hood, the light is not blocked hence causing discolored spots or flare.
Protect the lens from damage
Lens are fragile and can break or get scratches because it is made of glass. A scratched, finger printed or broken lens can cause inconveniences while taking photos. Lens hoods are at the front of a camera lens. This creates a distance to protect the lens from accidental contact and scratches. The lens hood is made of metal or plastic. It is generally strong to ensure the lens does not break in case of an accident.
Types of lens hoods
These type of lens hood are also referred to as tulip or flower lens hood. They have with a wide angle zoom lens because they have extensions to maximize the coverage area. Camera sensors are rectangular in shape, so petal hoods block every bit of ambient light. They allow room for the four corners of an image. Petal hoods should be installed properly to avoid vignetting. Vignetting is darkening of the corners of an image caused by capturing part of the petal hood.
Cylinder tubular type
These type of lenses are generally used with a longer focal length lens. They have a simpler round design. With this type of lens, you do not have to worry about the dark corners when taking shots. This is the main difference between a petal and cylinder tubular lens is the extensions.
When to use a lens hood
Lens flare may look good on some context based pictures. But it is something you should avoid while taking your everyday shots. Lens hoods cut flare, especially for pictures taken with bright light like the sun. You may not realize the flares while taking the pictures until you view them later on your computer. Some lenses are prone to flares more than others. Flares are also as a result of low-quality filters or lens that have less anti-glare coatings.
Apart from reducing flare in pictures, the lens hood also adds contrast and color to pictures. Light rays from the sun or external sources can cause the image to have a reduced contrast. The hood blocks such light from hitting the front element of the lens. Does your lens have a low-quality filter? Or does it have less anti-glare coatings? It is important for you to use a hood to avoid having washed out looking images.
Protect lens from damage
The third main reason why you should use a lens hood is that it can protect your lens from damage. Taking pictures with a cracked, scratched, a finger-printed lens can be cumbersome. It can lead to poor shots. A hood ensures your lens is protected from all these damages. Apart from the main damages, a hood also protects the lens from debris such as dust, snow or rain.
When not to use a lens hood
Although lens hoods have major advantages, there are other times that you do not have to use it.
Capture flare effect
Despite the fact that flare is not good for your picture, there are times when capturing the flare is your goal. In this case, you do not want to use the hood.
Using smaller sensor cameras
While taking pictures with a camera that have smaller sensors, the hood may appear in the image. Other lenses also capture part of the hood when taking pictures with the widest focal length. To avoid capturing the hood, you should remove it.
While using filters or accessories
It is very hard to attach a hood while using some filters and accessories such as ring light or filter kit. If the accessory is important for the picture that you want, take the picture without the lens hood. Sometimes this happens with landscape pictures.
Some photographers also remove the lens hood for special occasions. While taking photos in the street, a photographer can remove the hood. It will reduce attention and intimidation. Other times, the flash can cause the shadow of the hood to appear in a picture, hence advisable to remove it. Other photographers remove the hood to reduce the amount of weight of the camera.
Storage and transportation
Although the lens hoods are lightweight, they can be bulky and hard to pack in your camera bag. To reduce the bulkiness of the lens hoods, you can remove them and fit them together. But, this may not be possible if the lens hoods are of different types and hard to stack them together. Another way is to attach the lens hood backward. Although this may cause the lens to be heavier than normal, it is efficient to store and transport the lens hood.
Not all lenses come with a hood on, you may need to buy one for your camera separately. The price of acquiring a hood ranges depending on the type of lens or the type of hood you want. You can take good pictures without a hood. But having one can improve the quality of your images and save your lens from damage and aging.