Updated: Aug 15
Hoya Filter: Ultra-Violet & Infra-Red Cut (UV&IR Cut)
Simple, straightforward, Genuine
Levels: Enthusiasts and Professionals
(Photos published in this article are print-screened from the UNCROPPED and UNPROCESSED files. Pixel quality of the photos was purposely degraded in order to allow faster page rendition. Copyrights applied. Photos were taken at recent, special portraiture session I had with a family, and meant to merely serve as a reference to exposure, clarity and colour rendition using the filter). Camera has a Full Spectrum filter on the sensor.
What do we want from our cameras, actually?
We (, and I mean “we - photographers”) seem to always look for the best, the faster, the clearer, and the fancier gear; all of that only for one pure reason: we want the best out of our camera. Well, photographs that are taken professionally through digital cameras these days and this era we live in have surpassed in uncountable grades the quality of the photographs that had been taken, say, 15 years ago, let alone in older days. Technology is truly a rat race and the magic that digital cameras posses is beyond compare to anything we had in the film era, or even in the early days of DSLR, such as the Nikon D1.
Sensors, if we talk about them, are much more advanced and yield splendid colours. The millions of dots that each and every photo is taken through them make the photographs look so natural and real, eliminate the laypeople’s ability to comprehend that they are actually only squares (many, many squares) sitting one close to the other, having different shades and colours. Those “squares” are called Pixels, of course.
Even in the dying market of point-and-shoot (the simple cameras that their lenses are not interchangeable), or in the lower quality of ‘iPhone-tography’ or ‘Samsung-tography’ the photographs seem to be so advanced compared to the older film days' cameras. But here it actually stops.
Professional photographers are eager to make a better job, yield better colour rendition, work in a faster turnaround, save time and money in the long-haul, and get the job done with the minimal (as possible) time to post-edit and retouch their work to their clients. This is why they choose their camera systems carefully, so the type of photography they do aligns with the cameras’ abilities. But despite the best choices we presume that we do, there are always more options to make our work much easier, much efficient, and even more enjoyable.
After we chose our camera bodies and paid enough money on the glass, and properties, we seem to forget that in some areas even with the so-called “best” gear we posses, there is something that’s very simple to apply in order to make our professionalism look much better compared to others. One of those simple things we can do to improve our work quality is adding lens filters in certain types of photography that we do.
What's on the menu, Sir?
I would like to present to you a simple yet amazing tool that eases the work in portraiture sessions. If to be even more precise, I mean having on-location portraiture sessions, especially when the sun is all around. So, yes, the average photographers, let alone spiced and more experienced blokes tend to prefer (sometimes justifiably) avoiding to take photos during the heat of the day. Oh, I do love the sunsets and the dawns; so romantic, so easy to get great shots, so please-just-crank-up-that-ISO moments...
But back to reality. We are the contractors who are actually working for changing clients. If they choose to (, despite our explanations to avoid) shooting during the midday-surrounded hours of the day, then we HAVE TO execute the work to the best that we possibly can, without sacrificing image quality, graining in the post-processing, colour bleaching or high key ruining the work.
The amount of gear that I personally take to my on-location sessions is “very impressive” if to quote one of my photography students, Amal, here in Auckland, New Zealand. I do all that I can to use those reflectors, diffusers, scrims, bands, lights, assistants, props and gadgets to fight the potential loss of colours or sunlight-related extreme highlights. But for many of the photographers, the ability to gain or even to mobilise such immense amount of gear in every session is not as simple. This is why using lens filters makes life much easier in order to combat the harsh daylight or combating the unflattering shades on the subjects’ faces/skin.
If to compare between bringing mountains of gear to sets of lens filters, I would certainly rather go with the latter. First, this is much easier to put them in one of my vest’s pockets instead of hoarding the aforementioned heavy gear in a trolly (although, sometimes I simply have to take some properties that are simply unreplaceable in photography, like strobes). Second, the way that lens filters help me to gain the results that I plan ahead of the sessions is much straightforward than building a whole scene with diffusers or reflectors. Third, using lens filters prompts me some sort of advantage; there is something that only filters can do, where other gear cannot. Two of those advantages are eliminating haze and improving skin colours.
These advantages can be easily gained by using this thin filter of Hoya, which I use: Ultra-Violet and Infra-Red cut (UV&IR Cut filter). And to be honest, as I usually prefer to, I will not bother you guys with the boring, scientific jargon and numbers behind the technology that lets the manufacturing of this special filter. If you would like to read about the science I am sure that Doctor “Google Scholar” can assist. I used it a lot in my research studies back in the universities, and I do recommend to use it if you have more time. The optics is truly a fascinating and engaging science!
Basically, if to describe it in a martial-arts language, this UV&IR filter gives a deadly hit to two certain wavelength ranges or types of light. Both of those types of light our eyes are unable to see as real colours, but our magnificent cameras can. Sometimes you may indeed find yourself wanting to allow those types of lights to get into the camera sensor, but in portraiture, especially in on-location sessions, you probably can do much better without!!
To elaborate just a tiny bit more about the effect that this filter achieves, I give you right here and right now some instances. First, when you shoot that beautiful lady (, for instance,) in a brilliant, scenic location, and you happen to want to get the environment into the frame, too. In order to do this, you will most likely find out that the horizon line and the quarter of the frame above the horizon are hazy and blurry at times. Typical on-location shots like the aforementioned are meant to seamlessly connect the model/subject to an environmental story or mood you want to show to the beholder. Letting such hazy looks or details, sometimes too bright ones will definitely distort the composition and the entire feel of the shot. This is not news: to get such unwanted (some will argue unprofessionally done) effect in the shots, that beautiful model neither really needs you nor the cameras you hold; rather, she can use "iPhono-graphy". Same results but she won’t pay the photographer’s fees…
Second, sunlight, especially on water or distant areas can be so unpleasing that one finds it a bit tricky to properly set up the exposure in the camera. Sometimes, you’d want to crank down the ISO, sometimes to shrink the aperture. Both the former and the latter have their issues (too dark and/or a wrong depth-of-field). Will this solve the high-key problem that you face with the sunlight? Not necessarily.
I find the filter in question as a WONDERFUL element to shield my shots against the unwanted results mentioned above. No, do not get me wrong please; using the filter is not a trick brought just out of the sleeve that will solve the issue when one is not being proficient in photography. Photographing a client in an efficient way and gaining results take time and experience. However, the Ultra-Violet cut in this filter will allow you to get rid of that hazy-crazy illumination at the horizon. It will beautifully improve the background and show you the natural colours of the far to medium distance area being shot.
The Infra-Red cut in the filter will add to the effect and tone down those unflattering high-key reds and reflections, make an absolutely peaceful, gradual transition between the model/subject and the forefront area of the scene. I find it as a brilliant feature to shoot in an open shade of course, where the client is actually guarded by the trees/buildings/environmental-features while the closer and farther backgrounds look more relaxed and gain more subtle transition that connects to the subject.
Is it a sort of CPL?
Now, I see it as an obligation to advise that if you do shoot under the harsh sunlight, where there is no shade whatsoever, this filter will not get the best effect that you may seek. Why is that? Well, shooting an object under the open sunlight means harsh play with light-shadows. The effect that one wants to make from such shot is probably and purposely a dramatic one! Using the filter in such conditions will most probably not change much of the meaning of the shot.
Therefore, to tone down the effect of the sun you may find it a better bet to use a different filter of Hoya – the CPL. (There will soon be a dedicated article to the CPL filter). Basically, just a quick off subject note, the CPL filter works the same way that the pair of your sunglasses works: it allows to certain angles of light to reach into the sensor whereas preventing other light angles to penetrate. The effect of the CPL will change the shades of the sky and water, and any reflective surface such as glass, tree leaves and more.
Back to the UV&IR Cut filter, for those who are new to portraiture, using an overhead diffuser while in full sunlight can make the trick. The strong sunlight becomes subtle. That way, the light goes through the fabric and scattered all around the face. This, in effect, caresses the model's skin beautifully and almost uniformly. All you have to do is to put on the UV&IR cut filter to adjust the background to the model. Amazing!
This filter has other different uses, one of them is in the nighttime. An additional article in this regard will be presented soon.
Similar to a situation at which you ask me whether purchasing a light strobe is worth or not, I have two different answers. And this is genuinely related to where YOU want to place yourself in the profession. Whether as a hobbyist or an advanced, professional level.
As a hobbyist, beginner or "junior" enthusiast photographer, if you lived by now without that filter while having a Full Spectrum filter on your sensor, and you decided that average JPEG (Yuck!!) or RAW files results are good enough for you, then you may pass on purchasing the filter, or basically any other filter. You may find it better to use post-processing software and long minutes to hours on the session’s shots as an alternative to using such a special filter. To note, results are going to be different, though. The filter does screen-out all unseen and interfering light wavelengths (UV and IR) directly through the lens, so replicating that effect in post-processing app/software may not be as effective.
Now, as an advanced photographer, if you choose to step up the photography game and weigh-up the goods and bads in using (or not using) this filter, then I believe that you may want to go on improving your photos for your clients directly and optically, right through the lens, rather than sitting on your buttock doing it on the computer and hoping to get the same results. Some effects of using this specific filter include a better 3D view. As a professional, I tend to look further away in regard to the time consumption of my workload and the required results. Based on those arguments I would warmly recommend for this filter to live almost permanently on your lens if you do not take UV or IR artistic shots. It simply turns your camera to what it was prior the sensor modification, and to me it looks that the colours it renders even surpass the original Hot Mirror.
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