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Physical Filters Vs Photoshop

With so many pieces of editing software now available, are there still any advantages of using a physical filter?

| Portraits and People

With so many pieces of photo editing software now on offer, it's easy to say: 'it's ok, I'll just fix it in Photoshop' rather than getting it right in camera. However, there are still many reasons why you should aim to get it right in camera and use tools, such as filters, to help you achieve this. Some do say that filters are now redundant as the same effects they're used to create can be accomplished in post production, so here, we look at both sides of the argument to see why some still reach for physical filters while others simply rely on post.


Physical Filters Vs Photoshop : Waterfall


Advantages Of Using A Physical Filter


1. Saves Time

Editing images in post might be fun, but it can be very time-consuming, particularly if you don't do it very often, whereas putting a filter in front of your lens takes a matter of seconds. 


2. Easier To Achieve The Desired Effect In Complex Scenes 

If you're photographing a landscape, for example, and want to balance the exposure, you'd reach for an ND Grad and even though you can create the same effect in post production, it's not that straightforward when you have uneven shapes in the scene such as a tree or a mountain range. Why? Well, you have to darken the sky but leave the other parts of the image untouched which can leave a halo / line around the objects which are correctly exposed.  


3. Don't Have To Work With Multiple Layers / Images

It's pretty obvious that it's easier to manage one photography than the three or more you'll end up with if bracketing shots to bring together in your editing software. You then also have to know how layers work, something that's not all that straightforward should you have not worked with them before. 


4. The Results Look Better

Even though similar effects can be replicated in Photoshop, the overall finish just isn't as impressive. Of course, there are those who are extremely talented in the art of photo editing who will probably be able to produce awesome results but for most of us, it's just easier to use a filter while out with our camera than messing around in Photoshop. 


5. Can See The Effect The Filter Has On The Shot Live 

When you secure a filter in front of your lens out in the field you can see straight away if the effect works or not. If you wait until you get home, you just have to hope that the effect you want to create / apply will work on the image you've captured. 


Physical Filters Vs Photoshop : Waterfall

Waterfall captured with filter in place and light levels adjusted in post.


Physical Filters Vs Photoshop :

Waterfall shot and 'blur water' effect added in Photoshop.



Physical Filters Vs Photoshop :

The 'blurry water' effect looks better in the shot that was captured with an ND filter in place. 


Advantages Of Using Editing Software


1. Can Alter The Image Without Having To Retake The Shot

On the flip side of the above argument, there are a lot of techniques you can use on images during post to create effects without having to reshoot an image. If the sky's too bright, you can create a mask and darken it, you can use also use dodge & burn tools on specific sections of a shot to perfect it...the possibilities are vast when you have the right photo editing know-how. 


2. Can Add Multiple Effects To One Shot

When working in Photo editing software, If you want to add blur to water as well as darken a sky or lighten the foreground, you can. To achieve the same multiple effects in camera, you need to use two filters so you'll need to purchase more than one filter if you want to get it right in camera. Of course, this isn't an issue for most as photographers tend to have a collection of essential filters they invest in but it's worth remembering so you pack the right tools before leaving your front door. 

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