They’re not especially glamorous, but lens hoods can make the difference between a successful photo and a flare-filled, blown-out mess.
A hood blocks ambient light—especially light generated by a strong light source such as the sun or a bright lamp—and keeps it from messing up your photos.
Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re shooting at something that’s around 20 degrees to the left of the sun. Depending on the lens you’re using, the sun might be just barely out of the picture, but its rays hit the front element of your lens. These rays are transmitted into the lens, where they bounce off the internal elements, creating areas of brightness that block the details of your photo and reduce the contrast. A hood will block these rays, and your picture is nice and contrasty, full of detail and accurate color.
Many lenses come with a hood, but some don’t. If you need to buy a lens hood, this is what you need to know:
1. What is your lens’s filter size? Some filters screw into a lens using the filter ring, others attach to the outside of the front of the lens using a built-in clamp mechanism. Either way, filter size is essential so you get the right sized hood.
2. What focal length are you using? A wide angle lens requires a shorter hood that points outward so it doesn’t block the angle of coverage. Some wide-angle lenses use “butterfly” shaped hoods, which are slightly longer on top and shorter on the sides, to accommodate the film or sensor’s horizontal dimensions. A longer lens uses a longer, narrower hood.
Hoods for zoom lenses: The rule of thumb is to get a hood that will allow for a zoom lens’s widest angle of coverage without blocking corners of the picture. To make it easier, many manufacturers make hoods for specific zoom lenses, such as the Canon EW-70D, which is designed specifically for the Canon 28-200mm and 18-200mm lenses.
Rubber lens hoods: Most lens hoods are solid and are therefore quite sturdy, but there are times when it makes sense to have a collapsible rubber lens hood. A rubber lens hood can be pushed down so the camera can be easily stowed in a tight camera bag. The disadvantage of rubber lens hoods is that they can tear relatively easily if handled carelessly. But they are also quite inexpensive, costing under eight dollars each. Adorama makes a complete line of rubber lens hoods, primarily for use with wide-angle lenses.