Do Professional Photographers Use Filters?

Do Professional Photographers Use Filters For Taking And Editing Photos?

Professional photographers use lens filters and photo editing filters, also known as presets, to help improve the look of their images. There are dozens of different filter options to choose from to help enhance your photo in-camera, while there are infinite options for creating presets. As a professional photographer, it’s their job to capture the best image possible; both lens and editing filters help to accomplish that.

Professional photographers use filters for both capturing and editing photos. While shooting, many professionals carry UV, polarizing, and neutral density filters to help enhance images in-camera. Meanwhile, photo editing filters, also known as presets, are used in post-processing to help speed up their workflow and create a more stylized image with the click of a button.

The types of filters used by professional photographers aren’t reserved for the most elite shooters. In fact, there are a few amazing filters that are worthwhile for even a beginner shooter to start experimenting with. In this post, you’ll learn the different types of filters used by professionals and which ones may provide value to your own photography. Let’s jump in!

Types Of Filters Used By Professional Photographers

freewell magnetic filter system review

When talking about filters, there are two different things you could be referencing. The first is a lens filter; the second is a photo filter or preset. Both offer very different uses but are still extremely valuable.

– Lens Filters

Lens filters are pieces of glass that mount to the front of a camera lens. They come in a variety of appearances, and all serve a unique purpose. As an overarching summary, all lens filters help to enhance the photos you take, without any photo editing required.

The main types of filters used by professional photographers are called UV filters, Polarizing filters, and ND (Neutral Density) Filters.

UV Filters

A UV filter is completely clear and doesn’t have any noticeable effects on your photos. It’s almost as if your camera is looking through a window while using this filter. Although there aren’t any image altering effects, a UV filter provides a valuable method of protection for your lens.

As a photographer, your camera will take a beating over the years, even if you’re extremely careful. After all, accidents happen. Rather than your lens taking a hit and suffering permanent damage to the glass, a UV filter acts as a barrier between your lens and the outside world. Since a UV filter costs around $50, it’s far more advantageous to get a scratch on this replaceable filter rather than your $1200 camera lens.


affordable polarizer filter

A Polarizer is a more specialized filter that helps to cut down glare and reflection in your photos. For example, you could eliminate the reflection on a lake or clearly see through a window with one of these filters. They are an essential filter used by many professionals that improve contrast, color, and exposure in ways that wouldn’t be possible with any other filter.

ND Filters

Lastly, an ND filter makes it far easier to capture long exposure images without having to worry about the lighting conditions. These filters are extremely dark and limit how much light can reach your sensor. To compensate for this extreme darkening, you can use a slower shutter speed to capture motion blur in your photos. For landscape photography, in particular, this is incredibly valuable. You can blur waterfalls, streak clouds, or calm a wavy ocean, all with the help of an ND filter.

Together, these three types of lens filters offer a lot of perks to professional photographers. It’s very common for a professional shooter to carry all three of these filters in their camera bags at any given time.

To see more advantages of each of these filters, check out this in-depth filter guide.

– Photo Editing Filters (Presets)

The other type of filters used by professional photographers is photo editing filters, otherwise known as presets.

A preset is a premade series of editing adjustments that help to give a particular look to your photo. For many photographers, they want a consistent feel to their images and presets help to accomplish that. By applying the same set of base adjustments to a photo, you can get a more cohesive look across an entire set.

The other reason professional photographers use photo filters is that it helps to speed up their workflow. Rather than having to make the same adjustments to every photo individually, a preset can apply a complex set of adjustments in one click. When you’re editing thousands of photos at once (like from a wedding or other events), this is a massive time saver.

Most professional photographers will create their own presets to match their style, but many people will buy presets from others to get started.

To give you an example of a preset in action, check out this post on creating the orange and teal look in Lightroom mobile.

Why Do Filters Make Photos Look Better?

Both lens filters and photo editing presets are a great way to make an image look more professional, but why is that? Let’s first discuss lens filters.

How Lens Filters Improve Photos

The types of effects each lens filter can create are hard to replicate in any other way. Without using lens filters, it’s nearly impossible to get the same balanced exposure, improved colors, added contrast, or lack of reflections that they can provide you. Since nobody can capture a photo without filters to match the same one taken with a lens filter, it automatically gives your image a more professional look.

The moment you use a slow shutter speed to capture a long exposure, a polarizer to cut out glare, or a graduated ND filter to balance your exposure, people will take notice. The image just looks different than it would if you didn’t take the time to set up and use those filters.

How Presets Enhance Images

As for photo editing filters, the changes in exposure, color, contrast, and more all help to enhance an image in ways that aren’t possible in-camera. For the more stylized looks and color grading you commonly see on social media, these types of filters help to the look you want, faster.

For example, you could transform the colors of a sunset to appear more vibrant and warm. With a few quick sliders, you can make a good photo look spectacular.

By applying more appealing colors and exposure tones into your photo, photo editing filters stylize pictures in ways that aren’t possible in-camera. These types of adjustments can make people look more attractive, a landscape look more captivating, or a dark area in your photo show more details.

To learn how to use photo editing to enhance your images, check out these tutorials for editing pictures in Lightroom or Photoshop!

Is It Cheating To Use Presets For Photo Editing?

Using presets for editing photos isn’t considered cheating. Without first knowing how to capture a great photo, a preset won’t turn you into a professional photographer. A truly great image is created with a good composition, coupled with an aesthetic preset to enhance the image. Although presets can help to speed up the editing process, they don’t guarantee amazing photos.

Since it still requires a certain level of skill to capture a stunning photo, a preset only limits how much work is done in post. If you were to take a mediocre photo, a preset wouldn’t make it any better. After all, the composition would still be lacking.

That’s like trying to build a house without a good foundation. Sure, the house might look reasonable when you’re done, but there are obvious flaws in the sinking ground beneath.

It’s commonly misunderstood that with the help of a preset, you’re instantly matching the work of a professional shooter. Although the colors may look similar, the actual thought that went into making the image isn’t the same.

Using presets only helps to enhance the attributes that are already in a photo. A preset cannot fix an already bad photo. Therefore using a preset is not cheating since it still requires skill to capture a great picture to begin with.

Is Using Lens Filters Cheating?

Lens filters are not considered cheating since they aren’t altering your photo in artificial ways. Just as sunglasses help you to see better in bright conditions, lens filters alter how your camera deals with light. By changing how light enters your camera, you can leverage more creative in-camera effects. By using lens filters, you can capture different looks with the light that’s already available in a scene.

To give a different example, you wouldn’t consider a runner wearing running shoes as cheating. Although the shoes help support your feet and lessen the impacts, putting on a pair of runners doesn’t mean you can run 100 miles.

With lens filters, you get a certain set of advantages that wouldn’t be possible without the filters. Being able to eliminate reflections, blur moving objects, or balance your exposure are all ways lens filters can enhance your pictures. However, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a great picture.

Just as presets don’t guarantee a professional photo, neither do lens filters. You don’t automatically gain an advantage by using one lens filter over another. Just as you don’t gain an immediate artistic advantage from using a paintbrush over a pencil.

It still requires creative intent and skill to capture a professional-looking image using lens filters.

To help you learn how to use lens filters more professionally, check out this post.

Are Filters Worth Using In Your Photography?

So yes, professional photographers do use filters while taking and editing photos. Each type of filter or editing preset is used as a tool to enhance an image and offer more creative choices. Even for more beginner photographers, using filters can provide a lot of advantages.

So how can you tell if filters are worth using in your own photography?

The simplest answer is to just try them! You can get started with a few different lens filters for relatively cheap, or better yet, create your own editing presets for free! Assuming you already have an editing program to use, of course.

If you’re ready to start experimenting with lens filters yourself, be sure to check out this complete guide to lens filters for photographers.

If photo editing filters and presets are your things, then don’t miss some of the options available here, or learn how to make your own in Lightroom or Photoshop!

Filters are a fun way to spice up your photography, and there’s a good reason why professionals use them. So why not try them for yourself?

Happy Shooting!

– Brendan 🙂

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

Continue Reading:

How To Invert Colors In Photoshop

Learn how to quickly invert the colors of an image or a layer mask in Photoshop along with tips to selectively invert your colors instead!

How To Invert A Selection In Photoshop

Learn the importance of learning to invert a selection in Photoshop with the help of simple keyboard shortcuts and several other methods.

How To Use The Gradient Tool In Photoshop

Learn the ins and outs of how to use the gradient tool in Photoshop with useful tips to help make the most of this impressive tool!

Adobe Lightroom System Requirements For Mac & PC

Here's a breakdown of the system requirements for Adobe Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC to make sure it will run smoothly on your computer.

How To Add A Watermark In Lightroom Classic & CC

Learn how to add a text or graphic watermark to a photo in Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC to protect your photos from theft.

How To Use Dehaze In Lightroom

Learn how to use dehaze in Lightroom along with five different ways you can use the dehaze tool to improve your images in Lightroom.

35+ Best Fonts For Logos In Canva

Here's a list of the best fonts for logos in Canva to help give you inspiration in your next logo design!

How To Create Curved Text In Canva

Learn how to quickly create curved text in Canva desktop and mobile with just a few clicks to spruce up any design!

35 Best Fonts For Teachers In Canva

Discover the best fonts for teachers in Canva to help with your next worksheet or presentation for your class!

The 9 Best SD Cards For Sony

Discover the best SD cards for Sony to find the most reliable and best valued memory cards for your photo and video needs.

The Best Canon Lens For Low Light (10 Top Picks)

Get a complete view of the best Canon lenses for low light photography and video along with tips to make the right buying decision.

Affinity Photo VS Photoshop – Which Should You Choose?

Let's take a deep look at the similarities and differences between Affinity Photo and Photoshop to see which program you should pick.