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When to Use Lens Hood [Explained]

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Bret Leon
15 November, 2022 • Updated 21 days ago
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2 lenses with hood on glass
As a standard practice, lens manufacturers will typically throw in a complimentary lens hood with the purchase of a new camera lens. There is also a wide selection of aftermarket lens hoods available for use with various lenses. This useful accessory isn’t just for show, yet many photographers never give it a second thought.

A lens hood is just what it sounds like: a cover that protects your lens while shooting. And while we typically think of them as being just sort of decorative accessories, there are some good reasons why you might want to consider using a lens hood. They serve multiple purposes beyond just keeping your pricey lens free of dust and scratches.

So what exactly does a lens hood do? Well, let’s break it down.

What is а Lens Hood For?

DSLR camera with lens and hood in the hands of the photographer while taking a photo

When it comes to using a lens hood in their photography, many people have one main question: “why?”. Is it worth it to keep them mounted on your lens or to bring them along with you? The quick answer is yes, but before we get to it, let’s talk about the main benefits of using lens hoods.

1. Reduces Light Flare

reflection of the sun on the water

A hood serves as a visor for your lens, preventing unwanted reflections and glare from entering your camera and ruining your pictures. When you step out into the sunlight, a phenomenon known as flare or glare occurs when light enters the lens at an angle and obscures your view. This is particularly common when using an outdated or low-quality filter without modern anti-glare coatings.

Lens flares, while visually intriguing, can be a nuisance if they obscure your subject or the majority of the scene. Flares can make your photo look amateurish. If you’re shooting in bright conditions or close to a light source, a lens hood can help prevent unwanted flares. Each lens hood is specially designed to let in only the light that falls within the lens’s field of view while keeping out any stray rays that might come in from the sides or above or below.

2. Protection From Damage

DSLR camera with lens, hood and 
protective case in the hands of the photographer

Have you ever accidentally knocked into something while walking around with a camera slung over your shoulder? Or you brushed up against your lens unintentionally, leaving behind oily fingerprints.

A lens hood serves as an additional safeguard for your lens, which is an obvious advantage. Even though many photographers make do with a UV filter or even a lens cover to shield the lens from the elements, a lens hood adds an extra layer of defense against accidental drops, scratches, fingerprints, rain, snow, dust, and other debris.

Protecting your lens with a hood can prevent damage that might otherwise render it useless, such as a cracked glass element.

3. More Image Contrast

reindeer eye with photographer reflection

A flare striking the lens at the correct angle in an image can drastically wash out all of the detail and contrast. The image’s vibrant colors can become drastically subdued, rendering the photo undesirable. They dull the picture and may even introduce coloring artifacts, which detract from the image’s contrast and quality.

So, apart from just preventing flares as mentioned above, lens hoods do wonders for the contrast and clarity of your photos.

4. Protect From the Elements

bird on a branch in the jungle during the rain

Keeping your lens clean while taking images in the rain or snow is a challenge that any photographer can attest to. You can wipe your lens as much as you like, but the water and ice will return before you can snap another picture.

Lens hoods function as a built-in awning, providing a deep overhang that can protect your camera from rain and snow. They prevent raindrops from entering the lens, giving you more time to frame the perfect photo. If you’re going to shoot in adverse weather, a lens hood will cut down on the number of times you have to clean it.

5. Prevents Smudges On Your Lens

camera lens closeup

No matter how many different kinds of clever coatings are applied to lenses to prevent fingerprints and dirt from sticking to the front element, sticky fingers will always win. In this case, a lens hood is a straightforward solution. The hood provides a level of defense against grease smudges.

Types Of Lens Hoods

Lens hoods are one of those things you might think about buying once, and never again. But what if I told you there are two types of lens hoods out there? And that you could use each type depending on the situation. Let me elaborate…

Cylindrical Hoods

DSLR camera with lens and hood in the hands of the photographer

A cylindrical lens hood is an unaltered cylinder. As a rule, they do a good job of shielding your lens from unwanted light. They are designed for use with telephoto lenses and other lenses with a fixed focal length (prime lenses). While they are often somewhat lengthy, the reduced field of view at longer focal lengths makes it so that the hood is rarely visible in the shot.

Petal Hoods

Petal hood in the hands

Petal hoods, also known as tulip or flower hoods, provide a more intriguing appearance. Their resemblance to flower petals around the lens is what gives them their name, but this begs the question: why are they shaped the way they are? The short explanation is that they are made to completely block out natural light.

The rectangular shape of camera sensors makes the petal hood shape particularly well-suited; the notches provide maximum room for the image’s four corners. The same precision is required while donning a tulip hood. In the event that it is rotated inappropriately, there is a good chance that you will wind up capturing a portion of the hood. These hoods are used on wide-angle and standard zoom lenses.

How to Buy a Lens Hood

If you don’t already have an included lens hood with your lens, it is important to know what type of lens hood works best for your specific lens. There are many different types of lens hoods out there, including clip-on, screw-in, and ring-type. They differ based on how they attach to the front of your lens, where the opening is located, and whether the hood extends beyond the end of the lens barrel.

To help you figure out which lens hood works best for you, we recommend typing the model name of your current lens along with “lens hood” into a search engine or camera shop website. This will show you exactly which lens hoods are compatible with your lens.

You will also want to check the description in each listing to confirm that the lens hood listed actually fits your lens. Some manufacturers include information about the length of the hood, while others simply state that the hood is suitable for use with their lenses.

When to Use a Lens Hood

You can use a lens hood anywhere you’d like. Here are some instances where you should consider having a lens hood on your camera.

Backlighting

If you take a picture of a person while they are standing in front of a really bright background, you will notice that the person looks washed out. The reason for this is that the camera’s sensor receives reflected light from the lens. Using a lens hood can assist in mitigating the severity of this impact.

human hand under sunlight

Sunlight

When light is beaming directly on your lens, a lens hood is more important than ever. In this very circumstance, light flares are most frequently observed. There are two solutions to this problem: getting further away from the subject or using a lens hood.

Crowds

Young people dancing in the open-air concert

A lens hood is useful for protecting your camera’s lens from accidental scratches or scrapes when shooting in crowded environments, such as at a festival, sporting event, or on a busy city street. Furthermore, if you hang your camera around your neck, you run the risk of accidentally bumping it or having it swung into something else. Lens hoods and lens caps serve the same purpose here.

Camera Flash оr When Near Strong Sources оf Light

DSLR camera with lens, hood and flash

Lens flares can occur when using an off-camera flash or any other strong light source that is not directly in front of the camera. As a result, the use of a lens hood is typically required for indoor flash photography/ studio photography. Furthermore, a lens hood is useful for night photography since many potential sources of strong light could induce lens flare. Some examples of these artificially brilliant lights are street lamps, car headlights, tree lights, building lights, and so on.

How Do You Use a Lens Hood?

Using a lens hood is straightforward, regardless of whether you have a petal or tube version. All you need to do is put it on the front of your camera lens and rotate it until you hear a clicking sound or until it comes to a stop and cannot rotate any further.

On your lens’s barrel and lens hood, there are typical markings that indicate where the two should line up before rotation.

Some lens hoods have locking systems that rely on screws or other elements to stop the lens hood from inadvertently coming loose, while others are simply held in place by friction.

If the lens hood comes off easily when you move it, it wasn’t secured properly; if not, you’re good to go with your camera.

Conclusion

Any serious photographer should have a lens hood in their bag. They guard the lens’s front element by avoiding flare and preventing dust from getting inside the lens. Additionally, they aid in keeping light away from the sensor, ensuring that your pictures are razor-sharp.

Using a lens hood is a simple decision that requires very little effort, but it makes such a big difference in the quality of your images. You might already have a lens hood lying around somewhere, but if you don’t, we highly recommend picking one up online.

Frequently Asked Questions

The use of a lens hood in conjunction with a flash is not recommended. The lens hood may block some of the light from the flash, making the bottom half of your image too dark. Using a wide-angle lens or a large lens hood will accentuate this effect. In a few situations, you can get away with it indoors, where the flash’s light can reflect off the walls and create a more even exposure. However, it is recommended that you don’t use a lens hood and a flash at the same time.

You can use any lens hood that has the same thread size as your lens. Check that the lens hood isn’t obstructing your view or adding unwanted vignetting.

You can use both a lens hood and a UV filter simultaneously, which is good to know if you’re still on the fence about which one to use. We suggest trying both out to find out which one you like more.

A lens hood’s dimensions shouldn’t be hard to determine. Some lenses may not have a label at the end of the hood, but the vast majority will. To ensure you buy the right lens hood, you’ll need to know the lens’s ring size.

You can get along just fine without resorting to the use of a lens hood in overcast conditions. Cloudy weather can either prevent reflection or generate a flare. Remove the lens hood to get the best results from your flash photography.

Bret Leon Avatar
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Bret Leon
Bret Leon is a photography enthusiast who indulges in all matters cameras, lenses, gears, themes, editing, trends, and the latest product releases. If he's not trying to freeze time by capturing moments during his grand ventures, you can bet he's looking for the next big content idea.
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